Challenging conventional medical wisdom: Surgery after chemotherapy may boost breast cancer survival rates

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Credit: ShareCare
Credit: ShareCare

Women with advanced breast cancer who undergo surgery to remove the tumor after chemotherapy or another type of systemic treatment may live longer than those who don’t have surgery, a new study suggests.

The findings challenge a long-held belief that surgery confers little benefit for women with stage 4 breast cancer unless the cancer is causing pain, bleeding or other symptoms. Stage 4 is the point at which the cancer has spread beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes to other parts of the body.

[Researcher Dr. Daleela] Dodge’s team analyzed a nationwide database of close to 13,000 women who had stage 4 breast cancer between 2010 and 2015. Women were treated with chemotherapy, hormone therapies and/or immunotherapies with or without surgery.

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Regardless of hormone receptor or HER2 status, women who had surgery to remove the cancer after chemotherapy or another systemic treatment were more likely to be alive five years later than patients who only received systemic treatments.

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“If you look at other cancers, we treat spreading disease very aggressively with surgery,” Dodge said. “In breast cancer, there has been this paradigm that you don’t perform surgery in metastatic patients, but it’s time to rethink this.”

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