Detecting breast cancers when they are small still impacts survival despite the various effective therapies, a study published in The BMJ has shown.
Because breast cancer survival rates have significantly improved over the last few decades, mostly due to earlier diagnosis and more effective treatment options, traditional prognostic factors such as tumor size and number of positive lymph nodes are thought to no longer affect survival.
Therefore, researchers in the Netherlands sought to compare survival by tumor size and nodal status in patients with breast cancer during 1995 to 2005 with 2006 to 2012.
Researchers analyzed the overall survival data of 173,797 female patients with breast cancer. They found that tumors diagnosed during the 2006 to 2012 period were smaller, less likely to be lymph node positive, and more often low grade.
Patients with diagnoses during that time were also more likely to have undergone breast-conserving therapy, and the use of hormonal therapy, chemotherapy, and drug therapy were increased.
Results showed that relative survival rates and overall survival rates were higher for the 2006 to 2012 cohort for all tumor and nodal stages, particularly in women ages 75 years and older. The study demonstrated that both tumor stage and nodal status had a significant impact on overall survival in patients from both groups.
“Through public health screening and innovations in treatment, we are making steady progress against breast cancer,” the authors write. “A challenge ahead is to help other societies build models of screening and treatment that foster the access and success of the Dutch experience.”
Catching cancers when they are small still makes a difference to survival, even in the current era of more effective therapies, suggests a study of breast cancer patients in The BMJ this week.