Posted by Jyoti Pal on August 13, 2008

Being diagnosed and treated for breast cancerdefine doesn’t keep cancer patients ‘off it’ forever. The risk of relapse for some breast cancer survivors can remain even 15 years after one was initially diagnosed with the disease.

However, there’s a bright spot to it: the risk of recurrence gradually lowers with passing years, a new study reports.

The study headed by Dr. Abenaa Brewster, a medical oncologistdefine at the University Of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancerdefine Center in Houston, evaluated 2,838 breast cancer patients, all treated with some form of adjuvant systemic therapy between 1985 and 2001. Their breast cancer ranged from stage I to III.

The women administered a variety of treatments -- surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or endocrine therapy had remained cancer-free for five years after initial diagnoses.

Ten years into the study, reports highlight that 89 percent of such patients remained disease-free; and 81 percent remained cancer-free after 15 years, researchers found.

Of the total, 216 patients developed a recurrence of cancerous lumps in breasts. Most importantly, the risk of recurrence was guided by the stage and type of tumors, Brewster marked.

Women diagnosed in the stage I of the disease faced a 7 percent chance of a relapse; however, the risk rates rose to 11 percent in stage II and further to 13 percent for patients in stage III of the disease.

A deeper look revealed that primarily two types of tumors recurred more often 10 to 15 years after diagnosis; the slow-growing ones and those that are estrogen positive.

Passing a realistic hope, Dr. Timothy Johnson said, "This study gives women a ballpark feel for what to look forward to at the point of five-year survival; they are not totally free from the risk of recurrence, as some women would like to believe, but they aren't totally doomed either."

"And if you take these numbers at face value, (breast cancer survivors) have a pretty good chance of escaping recurrence after five years of survival," he added.

Also assuring was Dr. Brewster, "The message I'd really like to get across is that these recurrence rates are actually pretty low, and I hope these numbers are reassuring to women because women who are five-year survivors of breast cancer often think they are still at high risk for recurrence."

The study findings were published online August 12 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

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