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Women with Advanced Breast Cancer Shouldn't Delay Treatment for More than 60 Days: Study

Update Date: Nov 23, 2012 07:10 AM EST

A new study suggests that women who are diagnosed with advanced breast cancer should not delay treatment, as those who wait even 60 days before beginning treatment face significantly higher risks of dying than women who start the therapy soon after diagnosis.

The research has been conducted by researchers at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC-James).

"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 OSUCCC-James and senior author of the study.

"It's been shown that early detection and appropriate, timely treatment can increase five year survival rates to as high as 98 percent. Until this study, we didn't know the profound effect delaying treatment could have," she said.

For the study, researchers examined the data of 1,786 women enrolled in North Carolina Medicaid system diagnosed with breast cancer between Jan. 1, 2000 and Dec. 31, 2002.

The median time from biopsy-confirmed diagnosis to the initiation of treatment was 22 days, Medical Xpress reported.

The data revealed that 66 percent of the women started the treatment within 30 days, while about 90 percent started treatment within 60 days.

While there was no significant difference seen in the survival rates of those who started their treatment within 60 days, one in 10 women had their treatment started more than 60 days after their cancer diagnosis.

Further analysis showed that those who were diagnosed with advanced breast cancer had an 85 percent higher risk of death due to breast cancer when their treatment was delayed for more than 60 days. Also, they had a 66 percent higher risk of death overall when compared to women whose treatment started sooner.

"We're finding as we do research, it is really the lower income population that suffers the highest burden of all diseases," says Paskett. "This study suggests that ten percent of women can't get access to care, or it takes a longer time to get access to care."

According to Paskett, interventions to improve and implement timely treatment for breast cancer patients should focus on patients at advanced stages of cancer.

"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," she says. "Even if the goal of treatment isn't curative, early treatment seems to prolong survival."

The study was published online by the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

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