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Early Detection Still Key to Breast Cancer Survival

Despite advances in treatment, finding smaller tumors linked to better results

THURSDAY, Oct. 8, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Even with recent strides in breast cancer treatment, a woman’s chances of surviving the disease still partly depend on early detection, according to research published online Oct. 6 in The BMJ.

The study included 173,797 Dutch breast cancer patients. The researchers found that survival rates improved between 1999 and 2012 — and that included women with more advanced cancer. Among women diagnosed with breast cancer between 2006 and 2012, the five-year survival rate was 88 percent. That compared with 83 percent among women diagnosed between 1999 and 2005. Among those with larger tumors — more than 2 inches across — the research revealed that the five-year survival rate rose from 63 to 73 percent.

However, the researchers found that the smaller a woman’s tumor at diagnosis, the better the outlook. Of women diagnosed in more recent years, nearly all survived at least five years if their tumor was diagnosed when it was less than three-quarters of an inch across. In fact, their five-year survival rates were comparable to those of an average woman their age who’d never been diagnosed with breast cancer. Women diagnosed with breast cancer in more recent years were more likely to receive newer treatments, and were also more likely to receive breast conserving surgery.

Harold Burstein, M.D., Ph.D., an oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, co-wrote an editorial published with the study. “The cancers caught these days are smaller and better-behaved when you look at them under a microscope,” Burstein told HealthDay. “And this study shows that even with the treatment advances of recent years, tumor size still matters.”

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