Regular screening improves breast cancer life expectancy
MedWire News: Women with small sized invasive screen-detected breast cancer have the same life expectancy as the general population, a long-term follow-up study in The Netherlands reveals.
Between 1975 and 2006, approximately 241,500 screening examinations were performed in the Nijmegen screening program, resulting in 885 women (mean age 62 years) being diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.
Johannes Otten (Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center) and colleagues compared the survival of these women with that of an equal number of apparently healthy, age-matched women invited to screening in the same year, representing the general population.
The researchers report that, overall, the women with breast cancer had a life expectancy of 17.4 years, which was 6.1 years shorter than the life expectancy of the comparison group, at 23.5 years.
However, for 360 (42%) patients with tumors smaller than 15 mm, life expectancy was similar to that of the comparison group. In contrast, for patients with tumors of 15 mm or larger, the life expectancy was 6 to 12 years shorter than the comparison group, depending on the tumor size.
In addition, screening history modified life expectancy. For patients who had a negative screening examination 2 years before the detection of a tumor 15 mm or larger in size, the difference in life expectancy was reduced to between just 4 and 7 years shorter than the comparison group.
“The group of invasive tumors represents 85% of all screen-detected patients,” note Otten and co-authors. “If carcinoma in situ would also have been included in our study, about half of all screen detected breast cancer patients have the same life expectancy as the comparison group.”
Writing in the journal Cancer, the team concludes that, for women with larger tumors at diagnosis, life expectancy diminishes with increasing tumor size but can be modified by regular participation in a breast cancer screening program.
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By Laura Dean