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Treatment Order Won't Affect Aggressive Breast Cancer Survival

Women with inflammatory breast cancer fared no better whether surgery or chemo came first, study found

TUESDAY, June 20, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Switching the order in which treatments were administered did not improve survival for patients with aggressive inflammatory breast cancer, a new study found.

Inflammatory breast cancer affects about 2.5 in every 100,000 women and is characterized by rapid tumor growth and earlier metastasis (spread). Doctors treating this cancer often combine surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and hormone therapy to battle the disease.

Recent studies have suggested that the order in which these therapies are given might impact patient survival.

In this study, researchers at the Mayo Clinic studied the medical records of 128 patients with inflammatory breast cancer treated at the clinic between 1985 and 2003. Average patient age was 53, and 57 percent of women studied were post-menopausal. The study excluded any women whose cancer had metastasized at the time of their first visit to the clinic.

Chemotherapy was the first line of treatment in 83 percent of the patients, while surgery was performed first on another 17 percent.

Within five years of treatment, survival rates were 42 percent, with 21 percent surviving with no signs of cancer.

After all factors were considered and calculated, the researchers did not find a greater likelihood of survival by having either surgery or chemotherapy as an initial treatment.

"Although the combined-modality regimen clearly provides the best outcome for patients with inflammatory breast cancer, further research is necessary to delineate subsets of patients who may benefit from alterations in the approach to improve survival from this aggressive disease," the researchers said in a prepared statement.

The findings appear in the June issue of Archives of Surgery.

More information

To read more about inflammatory breast cancer, head to the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Association.

SOURCES: Journal of the American Medical Association, news release, June 19, 2006
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