Oct. 31, 2007 Contrary to previous studies, African-American women with early-stage breast cancer who have surgery to remove the cancer (lumpectomy) followed by radiation therapy have a higher chance of their cancer coming back in the breast and lymph nodes 10 years after diagnosis, compared to their Caucasian counterparts, according to the largest study of its kind.*
The study also shows that early-stage breast cancer patients who are African-American women who are diagnosed with the disease at a younger age have a higher disease stage at diagnosis (larger tumors and cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes) and more aggressive tumors than Caucasian women who undergo similar treatment.
"The incidence of breast cancer is actually lower in African American women compared to Caucasian women, yet their mortality rates are higher," Moran said. "We were surprised. Previous reports did not show higher relapse rates in African American women after surgery to conserve breast tissue. This might be because we had so many African American patients and a longer follow-up period."
"This study confirms the aggressive nature of breast cancer in African-American women and emphasizes how important it is for all African-American women to see their healthcare providers regularly and to go for screening mammograms to try to catch any abnormalities early," said Meena S. Moran, M.D., the lead author of the study and a radiation oncologist at the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn. "This study also points out the need for further research in evaluating the underlying molecular, genetic and biological differences in breast cancers in African-American women so that we can develop better strategies for helping these women beat their cancer."
For patients with early-stage breast cancer, the current standard treatment involves a lumpectomy, followed by radiation therapy to the breast over a five to six-and-a-half-week period to kill any remaining cancer cells.
The cohort study involved 2,382 patients over a 30-year period who underwent a lumpectomy and radiation therapy for early-stage breast cancer. Researchers wanted to find out if there were differences in the outcomes between AfricanAmerican patients and Caucasians. Findings showed that 10 years after treatment with lumpectomy and radiation, 17 percent of African-American women had their breast cancer recur compared with 13 percent of Causcasian patients.
The study "Differences between African American (AA) and Caucasian (C) Patients Treated with Conservative Surgery and Radiation Therapy (CS+RT) for Early Stage Breast Cancer," was presented at a scientific session October 29, 2007, at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology's 49th Annual Meeting in Los Angeles.
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The above story is based on materials provided by American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.
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