Surgery May Increase Survival in Breast Cancer Patients

Patients who underwent surgery and then standard treatment lived 9 months longer than patients who just had the standard treatment.

Researchers have found that surgery followed by the standard treatment in patients with stage 4 breast cancer added months to their survival compared with standard treatment alone.

"Our findings will change the standard of care for women newly diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer," said principal investigator Atilla Soran, MD, MPH. "We've shown that surgery to remove the primary tumor--either through lumpectomy or mastectomy--followed by standard therapy, is beneficial over no surgery."

This phase 3 randomized controlled trial began in 2007 and included 274 women with stage 4 breast cancer.

Half of the patients received standard therapy, which involves chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, and targeted therapy. The other half of the patients had surgery to remove the primary tumor, followed by the standard therapy, according to a study presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting.

Researchers found that at 40-months post diagnosis, patients who underwent surgery followed by standard therapy lived 9 months longer than patients who just received standard care.

Approximately 42% of patients who underwent surgery lived 5 years after diagnosis compared with less than 25% of patients who did not have surgery, according to the study.

Researchers also found that surgery in younger women with less aggressive forms of breast cancer had longer survival rates than women with aggressive and metastatic cancer.

"Our thinking is similar to how you might approach a battle against two enemies," Dr Soran concluded. "First you quickly dispatch one army--the primary tumor--leaving you to concentrate all your efforts on battling the second army--any remaining cancer."