30 November 2012 Delayed treatment for breast cancer has "profound effect"
Results from a new study conducted by researchers at Ohio State University show 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," said researcher Electra D. Paskett. "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."
The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, involved 1,786 women who were diagnosed with breast cancer between 2000 and 2002. The average time from biopsy-confirmed diagnosis to the initiation of treatment was 22 days. Sixty-six percent of the women started treatment within 30 days, and nearly all (90 percent) started treatment within 60 days. There was no difference in survival rates for those treated by 60 days.
However, for one in ten women studied, treatment started more than 60 days after their cancer diagnosis. Among those who had advanced cases of breast cancer, a delay of more than 60 days was associated with an 85 percent higher risk of breast cancer-related death, and a 66 percent higher risk of death overall, compared with women who were treated 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."
She adds that interventions to remove barriers and improve the timeliness of breast cancer treatment should focus on late-stage patients. "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."