Early detection halves secondary breast cancer deaths

Spotting secondary breast cancer early 'can halve the risk of death'

Breast cancer sufferers who go into remission but then have their cancer return are at up to half the risk of dying from the disease if its return is spotted early, a new study shows.

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

If detected early enough patients have a 27 to 47 per cent better chance of survival than women whose cancer is picked up later, according to the figures, published in the journal Annals of Oncology.

More than 45,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in Britain every year, around one third of whom go on to die from the disease. The study looked at 1,044 women who had attended a clinic in Florence, Italy, between 1980 and 2005.

While the majority of the tumours were identified by a mammogram, the results show that a significant number, 14 per cent, were picked up only by clinical examination.

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.’

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’.

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