June 13, 2012

Study Examines Recurrence Of Breast Cancer In Women

Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com

Cancer can be a difficult disease to deal with. Those who fight it and come out victorious are known as survivors. Furthermore, to fight the illness a second time, can be a challenge in itself. A new study examines the effects of informing female patients during the first cancer diagnosis, the possibility of a recurrence of breast cancer. The project, completed by British researchers, examined the recurrence of breast cancer in the United Kingdom and recently reported that almost one in four women will have the disease for a second time within 10 years of the first diagnosis.

The study was completed by the researchers at St. James´s Institute of Oncology in Leeds and funded by the charity Macmillan Cancer Support. Researchers studied 1,000 women who had their first diagnosis of breast cancer in Leeds, England between January 1999 and March 2000. They were then monitored for ten years. 214 of the 1,000 (22.6 percent) of the women were found to have a recurrence of the illness. The women reported not having the disease for an average of 39.9 months before the breast cancer returned and survived an average of 17.9 months after a second diagnosis of the breast cancer. 51 percent of the women lived disease-free for a minimum of three years and 5 percent of the 214 women lived for another 10 years.

Those who were involved in the survey believe that the National Health Society of the United Kingdom needs to improve their care for women who face a recurrence of breast cancer.

"Far too many are given little practical or emotional support, the assumption being that they know what to expect from the first time they were treated," commented Jane Maher, chief medical officer for Macmillan, in an article by the Guardian.

As such, the researchers advocate that women need to be provided more information during the initial diagnosis on the possibility of a breast cancer recurrence.

"The NHS is focusing a lot of attention on people who don't have problems and not enough on people who do. Women who have recurrent disease don't get the same support and care as people who have had a primary diagnosis of breast cancer," Maher told the Guardian.

Other cancer organizations caution that the findings provided by Macmillan are “crude,” not helpful, and shouldn´t be taken as an accurate presentation of women who suffer cancer in the United Kingdom.

"The chance of cancer coming back for any particular woman is influenced by several factors such as whether they have passed the menopause, the size and grade of the tumor, whether it has spread to lymph nodes and whether it has hormone receptors, so crude figures for large numbers are not helpful to individual women. In fact, for many women the chance of cancer coming back is much lower than one in five,” explained  Professor Peter Johnson of Cancer Research UK in the Guardian article.

The organizations also believe that more research needs to be done to better understand the cancer recurrence rate.

“A useful first step towards knowing how many breast cancer patients might experience a recurrence of their disease. It is vital to know how many patients' breast cancer are likely to return to allow the NHS to better plan and provide for their needs,” remarked Dr. Rachel Greig of  Breakthrough Breast Cancer in the Guardian article.