Monday, 20 November, 2017

Risk of breast cancer returning stays as high for decades afterwards

Breast-cancer Researchers track mammary cell changes that lead to breast cancer
Ben Pena | 09 November, 2017, 20:20

Women who are treated for a kind of breast cancer that is fueled by the hormone estrogen face a substantial risk of the cancer returning, even 20 years later, researchers said Wednesday.

Their findings are published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers analyzed data from 88 clinical trials involving almost 63,000 women with estrogen-receptor (ER) positive breast cancer, one of the most common types.

The team now wants to understand whether there is a subset of women with ER-positive breast cancer that has a low enough risk so that extended endocrine treatment would not be needed.

Sewraj encouraged all guests to heed the advice given by the guest speakers and to join the fight against breast cancer, by having their regular screenings and mammograms to detect any early signs cancer cells.

Every patient received treatments such as tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors which block the effects of oestrogen or shut off the hormone's supply.

Patients can appear cancer-free but the disease may return many years later with tumours spreading through the body, according to the analysis of data from 88 clinical trials.

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Women who originally had large tumours and cancer that had spread to four or more lymph nodes were at highest risk of the cancer returning the next 15 years, the study said.

Dr Hongchao Pan, a lead researcher on the study from the University of Oxford, said it was "remarkable" that breast cancer can remain dormant for so long and then spread many years later.

Aromatase inhibitors, which will only work in women who are postmenopausal, are even better at reducing the risk of recurrence.

But there are side effects with hormone treatments which can affect patients' quality of life and cause them to stop taking the pills.

"These data can be used by patients and their health care providers as they consider whether to continue taking anti-estrogen therapy beyond five years, weighed against side effects and toxicity of the therapies", he said.

Over recent years, research has found that extending the length of time that these medications are taken could reduce risks further still.

Professor Richard Gray, one of the lead authors from the University of Oxford, said that treatment has improved since numerous women were diagnosed so recurrence rates would be somewhat lower for today's patients. This risk remains the same even after five years of treatment.

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