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Young Women Diagnosed with Early-Stage Breast Cancer More Likely to Die than Older Women
Date:10/15/2008

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a national study presented earlier today at the 2008 American College of Surgeons (ACS) Clinical Congress, a researcher reported that "women under 40 years of age diagnosed with Stage I breast cancer are 44 percent more likely to die than older women." According to Julie A. Margenthaler, MD, assistant professor of surgery, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO, "These are women with similar size tumor and lymph node status. The characteristics of the tumor itself, however, portend a poorer prognosis.

"We think we should devote much of our future research to finding out what tumor biology is accounting for these deaths," Dr. Margenthaler said. "Clearly we can make a huge impact in the lives of these young women and save a lot of years."

According to Dr. Margenthaler, treating young women with breast cancer is something of a subspecialty and is a great personal interest, as many of her patients fall into this category. She explained that physicians have long been aware that young women with breast cancer under the age of 40 or 45 tend to have poorer survival outcomes than older women. This disparity in survival had typically been attributed to younger women being diagnosed with late-stage disease. "This conclusion makes sense," she said, "considering that young women are not being screened regularly with routine mammograms. In fact, most young women are not diagnosed until they discover a mass they can feel and that tends to mean a higher stage than if the mass is found as a small size on a mammogram."

However, Dr. Margenthaler suspected that the poor outcomes of her young patients were related to factors beyond the lack of routine screening and clinicians not detecting early tumors. She and her colleagues decided to review past medical literature and look at the statistics a little differently.

The research team conducted a retrospective study of 243,012 patients
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SOURCE American College of Surgeons
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