THURSDAY, Dec. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Younger women with aggressive breast cancers often benefit more than older women when they undergo early, pre-operative chemotherapy, a new study finds.
A team of German scientists found that women aged 35 or younger who underwent "neoadjuvant" chemotherapy -- chemo given before surgery to help shrink a tumor and make it more operable -- responded better than women over 35 who received the same treatment.
"This study suggests that chemotherapy is a good idea early on in younger patients. In our study, the younger-than-35 women had a higher chance of having no residual tumor left in the breast than older women," said study author Dr. Sibylle Loibl, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Frankfurt, in Germany.
The research is to be presented Thursday at the 2012 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in San Antonio, Texas.
"Breast cancer in young women is rare -- only about 5 percent of patients are under 35," Loibl noted. Tumors in younger women, however, tend to be more aggressive, so researchers are keen to find successful treatments for this age group.
To help do so, Loibl and colleagues evaluated the health records of almost 9,000 women with operable or locally advanced breast cancers that had not yet spread beyond the breast. All of the women were treated with neoadjuvant chemotherapy, which could include radiation, drugs or both. The data was drawn from eight German studies.
A smaller subgroup of more than 700 women aged 35 and younger was compared to the older women with the disease. Loibl said the researchers looked at patient survival rates as well as "pathologic complete response," meaning the absence of any residual invasive cancer in the breast. They also looked at the absence or presence of metastatic cells in the lymph nodes near the breasts.
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