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August 13th, 2009
Breast Cancer Micrometastases Proves Beneficial in Adjuvant Treatments

A recent study challenges the medical community, suggesting that breast cancer patients with isolated tumor cells or small lymphatic “micrometastases,” benefit from adjuvant type therapy, such as post-surgical chemotherapy or hormonal therapy.

Because many doctors do not acknowledge that micrometastases affect long-term recovery, patients may not be provided options for adjuvant therapy post breast cancer surgery.

Dr. Tjan-Heijen, however, hopes to challenge this mode of thinking and shed light on the benefits of adjuvant therapy. According to Dr. Tjan-Heijen, micrometastases, range from 0.2 to 2.0 millimeters. Isolated tumor cells get even smaller at less than 0.2 millimeters.

Tjan-Heijen and her research team studied 2, 707 women who had previously been treated surgically for early-stage breast cancer. The women were divided into three groups:
Group 1: 856 women diagnosed with breast cancer whose sentinel node was negative and cancer cell-free, and who did not undergo additional therapy.
Group 2: 856 women diagnosed with breast cancer with cancer cells identified in the nodes, who did not undergo additional therapy .
Group 3: 995 women with cancer cells in the nodes, who did not undergo additional therapy.

The additional therapy is comprised of chemotherapy, endocrine therapy, or systematic therapy.

The study was conducted for a median of 5.1 years, in order to determine whether additional therapy minimized cancer recurrence and increased disease-free survival. Patients with the small cancer cells present displayed roughly a 10 percent in disease-free living.


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