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Delay in Advanced Breast Cancer Treatments Has Grave Consequences

TOP - Daily

Initiating treatment more than 60 days postdiagnosis results in higher rates of breast cancer–related death

Results from a new study show that when compared with beginning therapy shortly after diagnosis, women who wait more than 60 days to begin treatment for advanced breast cancer face significantly higher risks of dying.

“We wanted to see whether delaying treatment affected mortality rates among women with breast cancer,” says Electra D. Paskett, associate director for population sciences at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute. “It’s been shown that early detection and appropriate, timely treatment can increase 5 year survival rates to as high as 98%. Until this study, we didn’t know the profound effect delaying treatment could have,” she said.

For the study, published online by the Journal of Clinical Oncology, medical records of 1786 women enrolled in North Carolina Medicaid system who were diagnosed with breast cancer from January 1, 2000, through December 31, 2002, were examined. Follow-up data were available through July 31, 2006.

From biopsy-confirmed diagnosis to the initiation of treatment, the median time was 22 days. Treatment was started for 66% of the women within 30 days, and 90% of the women started treatment within 60 days. Researchers found no difference in survival rates for those patients treated within 60 days.

However, treatment was started more than 60 days following a cancer diagnosis in 10% of the women studied. Compared with women who were treated sooner, a delay of more than 60 days was associated with an 85% higher risk of breast cancer–related death and a 66% higher risk of death overall for those with advanced cases of breast cancer.

Senior study author Paskett says, “This study suggests that 10% of women can’t get access to care, or it takes a longer time to get access to care.”

A previous study by Paskett confirmed that patient navigators play a valuable role in helping breast cancer patients start treatment earlier. “This research shows we have an opportunity to improve breast cancer outcomes by helping women who are diagnosed at late-stage to get started with treatment sooner,” says Paskett. “Even if the goal of treatment isn’t curative, early treatment seems to prolong survival.”

Source: OSUCCC-James.