Late-Stage Breast Cancer Patients Might Benefit From Immediate Surgery

In In The News by Barbara Jacoby


Early detection of breast cancer is one of the most important factors when calculating survival rates, but a Magee Hospital surgeon thinks he has found a way to help women who’s cancer is not detected until it has already spread to their bones.

Patients who first present with stage four breast cancer with bone metastasis have a short life expectancy, but a study of 278 women in Turkey suggests that by sending the patient directly to the operating room might be able to help hundreds of American women each year survive.

The current standard course of treatment for breast cancer that goes undetected until it is in stage four with bone metastasis is to attack it with system-wide chemo therapy and only remove the cancer cells in the breast if the tumor ulcers, starts to bleed or becomes infected. The study offered tumor removal for half of the women and found that survival rates after 18 months increased from 65 percent to 73 percent.

“Even if this is early results I believe that in three years this data is going to be mature,” said Magee Surgeon Atilla Soran who will be doing more follow up studies and hopes other will follow suit.

Soran did his work in Turkey in part because it is his native country and in part because there were more women who could be placed into the study.

“In the United States we are catching more early stage breast cancer, but in Turkey and in other Mediterranean countries screening is not wide-spread, so more patients might come to a physician in the late stage of cancer,” Soran said.

About five percent of the 200,000 thousand women annually diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States are diagnosed with stage four cancer but the number increases to 10-15 percent in Turkey.  That number holds true from other nations in the region.

The push for regular breast cancer screening began in the US more than two decades ago but according to Soran such efforts only began 10 years ago in Turkey.

Women in the study were given the option of a lumpectomy or mastectomy depending on the size and location of the tumor.  About 75 percent opted for a mastectomy, but Soran said that needs to be an individual decision.

Soran presented his study to the 2013 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium and says the doctors were interested in the idea but many said they would be waiting until more data was available before changing their standard approach to the illness.