Early detection of second breast cancers improves prognosis in breast cancer survivors

A group of international researchers has found the first reliable evidence that early detection of subsequent breast tumours in women who have already had the disease can halve the women’s chances of death from breast cancer.

According to the research published online today (Wednesday 18 March) in the cancer journal, Annals of Oncology if the second breast cancer was picked up at its early, asymptomatic stage, then the women’s chances of survival were improved by between 27-47% compared to women whose second breast cancer was detected at a later stage when symptoms had started to appear.

Doctors should continue to monitor breast cancer patients closely and try to identify returning ‘secondary’ tumours before symptoms appear, researchers have warned.

Nehmat Houssami, from the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health, who led the study, said: “Intuitively, it makes sense to consider that early detection of second breast cancers will improve prognosis, since breast cancer survivors have a long-term risk of developing further disease or relapse in either breast.”

However, she added, there had been a “paucity of evidence” about the benefits of early identification. According to the research, “recommendations on follow-up after treatment of early breast cancer should consider our findings, which suggest that early detection of second breast cancer events improves prognosis in this ever-increasing group of women”.

Source: Annals of Oncology

Annals of Oncology is a monthly journal published on behalf of the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) by Oxford Journals.

A pdf of the full research paper can be downloaded at: http://www.oxfordjournals.org/our_journals/annonc/press_releases/freepdf/mdp037.pdf