Breast Cancer: Surgery Delays Longer Than 6 Weeks Decrease Survival in Young Women

signs of a breast tumour
Signs of a breast tumour (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A study looked back at just under 9,000 women diagnosed between 1997 and 2006 and included in the California Cancer Registry, part of the US National Cancer Institute Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program. Time to delay was defined as the number of weeks between breast cancer diagnosis (by biopsy) and treatment aimed at cure (lumpectomy or mastectomy, for example). The group examined was composed of women under 40.

Key Findings: The 5-year survival among women treated surgically that had a treatment delay time more than 6 weeks was 80%, compared with 90% for dose with a delay time less than 2 weeks.

Looking by race, African-Americans and Latinas were more likely to have delays (15%) compared to non-Hispanic whites. As well, delays were more common among the uninsured (18%) compared to those with private insurance (9.5%). Not surprisingly then, women with low socioeconomic status were more likely to be delayed (17.5% versus 8%).

My take: Previous studies have had mixed results. Many of those studies did not focus solely on the younger population, a higher-risk group in general. It is important for us to avoid delays before and after a breast cancer diagnosis to maximize survival odds for young women. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page. Thanks!

Smith EC, et al: JAMA Surg. April 24, 2013 (early release online).

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Harvard AB Yale MD UPenn Radiation Oncology Radiation Oncologist, Seattle area

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