Latest findings give optimistic picture of breast cancer survival odds

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Breast cancer that has spread to the chest wall has typically been classified as stage III cancer, indicating a low survival rate, but researchers from the Fox Chase Cancer Center have recently challenged that assumption.

The authors of this study examined data from the SEER-Medicare Linked Database, turning their attention to patients, age 65 or older, who had been diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. All participants had had surgery to remove their breast cancer tumors or reduce their size. The researchers then separated the participants into two groups: those with extensive skin involvement and those without. They next used the TNM Staging System to subgroup the cancers by stage, based of established parameters. 

Researchers compared 924 individuals that had skin involvement (all of whom were previously classified as stage III) to 66,185 others whose tumors had not metastasized in that fashion and found that, based on factors such as tumor size and nodal involvement, 43 percent could be reclassified to earlier breast cancer stages. Survival for stage III cancer typically fall in the 41 to 67 percent range (for 5 years), but many of the reclassified patients had survival odds that were determined to be far higher. Based on these findings, the study authors recommend the addition of a new staging classification for cases with skin involvement that will employ additional criteria such as nodal involvement and tumor size.

Latest findings give optimistic picture of breast cancer survival odds
Latest findings give optimistic picture of breast cancer survival odds

New findings from Fox Chase Cancer Center paint a relatively optimistic picture of women's chances of surviving a subset of breast cancers that have spread to the chest wall or skin, but not beyond.

Tumors that grow into the skin, regardless of size and whether they have involvedlymph nodes, are automatically classified as stage III - and called "locally advanced" tumors, suggesting that they are a relatively serious form of cancer, often with poor survival. Locally advanced breast cancers of this and other types account for five to ten percent of new breast cancer diagnoses in the United States, and sixty to seventy percent of cases worldwide. Now, in a recent issue of the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, Fox Chase scientists cast doubt on that standard classification, by showing that women with breast cancers involving the skin have widely varied survival rates which differ by tumor size and nodal involvement.

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