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Breast cancer treatments improve survival

Breast cancer treatments improve survival

Treatments such as chemotherapy and hormonal therapy have greatly improved the survival of women diagnosed with early breast cancer, scientists said on Friday. An analysis of 194 trials involving 145,000 women showed that treatments that combine both therapies can halve the 15-year risk of death from the disease, which is the most common cancer in women. Studies also have shown that lesbians may be at a higher risk for the disease than heterosexual women. "The standard chemotherapy and hormonal therapy that have long been used to prevent breast cancer recurrence not only have an effect on five-year survival, but they have a long-lasting effect on 15-year survival," said professor Sarah Darby of the Radcliffe Infirmary, in Oxford, England. "The benefits of chemotherapy and hormonal therapy can be added to each other." More than 1 million women worldwide each year are diagnosed with breast cancer. Surgery will remove the cancer, and radiotherapy is given to kill any residual cells in the breast. Chemotherapy and tamoxifen, a hormone therapy for estrogen-sensitive cancers, are often recommended as extra treatment if appropriate, to stop the disease from coming back. The study, reported in The Lancet medical journal, analyzed the impact of treatments on women involved in clinical trials that began before 1995. It did not include new treatments such as aromatase inhibitors, which studies have shown may be more effective than tamoxifen, or drugs such as taxanes. "What we have got now is very good. It is better than people ever realized," said Darby, adding that there have been massive decreases in breast cancer mortality rates since the 1990s. Darby and her colleagues found that for women of all ages with early hormone-sensitive cancer, taking tamoxifen for five years could reduce their breast cancer death rate over the next 10-15 years by a third. For middle-aged women, combining tamoxifen with chemotherapy halved the death rate. "This is the largest follow-up study ever done in women with early breast cancer. It shows that we are making great progress in treating cancer increasingly effectively," said Prof. John Toy, of the charity Cancer Research United Kingdom, in a statement. In a commentary on the analysis, Karen Gelmon of the British Columbia Cancer Agency in Vancouver, Canada, described the findings as impressive. She said the survival curves suggest that the therapies could cure a proportion of women with early-stage breast cancer rather than simply delay recurrence of the disease. (Reuters, with additional reporting by

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