March 19, 2009

Detect second breast cancer, reduce risk

Early detection of subsequent breast tumors in women who have already had the disease can halve the women's risk, an Australian researcher says.

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, study leader Nehmat Houssami of the University of Sydney's School of Public Health, Australia, said in a statement.

However, due to a paucity of evidence about this until now, current recommendations on surveillance of breast cancer survivors vary substantially between countries and organizations.

The study looked at 1,044 women in Florence, Italy, between 1980-2005 and who had developed a second breast cancer. In that time 455 women had ipsilateral breast cancers diagnosed and 589 women had contralateral breast cancers diagnosed. Of these second cancers, 67 percent were asymptomatic and 33 percent were symptomatic.

The study, published in the Annals of Oncology, found if the second breast cancer was picked up at its early, asymptomatic stage then the women's chances of survival improved by between 27 percent to 47 percent compared to women whose second breast cancer was detected at a later stage.