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Survival Up for Patients With Stage IV Breast Cancer

Initial surgery to the primary tumor possibly be a factor

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WEDNESDAY, Dec. 2, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- American women diagnosed with advanced, stage IV breast cancer have a better chance of survival, and are surviving longer, compared to two decades ago, according to a study published online Dec. 2 in JAMA Surgery.

Alexandra Thomas, M.D., from the Carver College of Medicine at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, and colleagues tracked outcomes for 21,372 patients who were diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer between 1988 and 2011. The women did not receive radiation therapy as part of their first course of treatment.

The investigators found that the patients' median survival rose from 20 months between 1988 and 1991, to 26 months between 2007 and 2011. At the same time, rates of breast surgery declined during the study period. However, women who did undergo surgery were more likely to survive, the researchers found. Among patients diagnosed before 2002, 9.6 percent of those who had surgery survived at least 10 years, compared with 2.9 percent of those who did not have surgery. Along with surgery, other factors associated with longer survival included the patient's marital status, her year of diagnosis, tumor size, and the tumor's hormone receptor status.

"Survival in stage IV breast cancer has improved and is increasingly of prolonged duration, particularly for some women undergoing initial breast surgery," the authors write. "As systemic therapy advances provide better control of distant disease in stage IV breast cancer, and as women present with lower distant disease burdens, these findings on initial surgery to the primary tumor may be of importance."

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