Women with early-stage breast cancer whose surgery has been postponed during the coronavirus pandemic need not worry about the delay, new study findings suggest.
A longer time from diagnosis to surgery doesn’t affect overall survival of women with early-stage tumors, the researchers found. They also said a delay didn’t lower survival among women with estrogen-sensitive, early-stage breast cancer who received neoadjuvant endocrine therapy before their surgery.
“Usually we take these patients with very small tumors directly to surgery, so it is a big change in practice to first put those patients on tamoxifen or an aromatase inhibitor,” said lead study author Dr. Christina Minami, an associate surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
“What we can say from our findings is that despite the delay in surgical therapy, because you were on neoadjuvant endocrine therapy, we do not think that your survival will at all be impacted,” she added in a news release from the American College of Surgeons.
For the study, her team used data on nearly 379,000 women. One group had ductal carcinoma in situ — the earliest form of breast cancer.
The other group had small invasive tumors — stage 1 and 2 — that had not spread to lymph nodes and were estrogen receptor-positive.
The researchers wanted to know if waiting up to one year from diagnosis to surgery affected women’s five-year survival.
Among women with early-stage invasive breast cancer, the wait didn’t make their cancer progress. Women with estrogen receptor-positive cancer had slightly higher odds of seeing their cancer worsen, but their overall survival was not affected, Minami said.
Senior study author Dr. Elizabeth Mittendorf, a professor of surgery at Brigham and Women’s, said the findings have been helpful to share with patients whose surgery has been delayed.
“We can tell our patients they can still expect an excellent prognosis from their early-stage hormone receptor-positive cancer and that their excellent prognosis is not negatively impacted by this delay they have experienced,” she said.
The findings were recently published online in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.
For more about breast cancer, visit the American Cancer Society.
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