HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Friday, May 13, 2005

Breast Cancer Therapies Working!

Some good news on this Friday the 13th --- According to an article in the Washington Post, a recent study shows that aggressive breast cancer treatment, including chemotherapy and homones, has worked to reduce the disease's death rate.  The article reports on a study to be released in tomorrow's edition of the Lancet.  It states,

Chemotherapy and hormone treatment have dramatically reduced the death rate from early breast cancer, according to a major international analysis that indicates the often arduous regimens do cure many women.

The latest data from an extensive ongoing project involving 145,000 women with early breast cancer found that chemotherapy and hormone treatment continue to protect many women from dying from the disease for at least 15 years. The protection often gets stronger over time, increasing the likelihood that the therapy is truly eradicating cancer from their bodies.

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For most women, it is now standard practice to treat early breast cancer with surgery and radiation, followed by chemotherapy to reduce the risk of a recurrence by attempting to wipe out any cancer cells lurking elsewhere in the body. If their tumors are sensitive to the hormone estrogen, many women also take the estrogen-blocking drug tamoxifen for about five years to further reduce the risk of recurrence. (A new generation of hormone therapy has begun to replace tamoxifen.) Although earlier studies have shown that the approach reduced the chances of a relapse and increased the odds of survival, there have been haunting concerns about how long those benefits last inasmuch as breast cancer can hide in the body for years or even decades before reemerging.


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