A clinical study recently published in
Cancer indicates that women with breast cancer who are 30 years of age or younger have a poorer prognosis for survival than their older counterparts following standard therapies.
Breast cancer is a common malignancy, with approximately 200,000 cases diagnosed annually in the United States. The presence of cancer cells in the tissue or ducts of a breast is known as breast cancer. There are many different stages of breast cancer, indicating the extent of the disease. Stages I and II are considered early breast cancer, in which the cancer is usually small in size and may still be confined to the breast. Stages III or IV are known as advanced breast cancer, in which the cancer has usually spread outside the breast to lymph nodes and/or distant locations in the body, including vital organs. Breast cancer is much more common in older women than it is in younger women, but younger women tend to have the most aggressive forms of this disease.
Optimal treatment of breast cancer typically requires several different treatment modalities often including a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and/or hormonal therapy. Treatment strategies vary depending upon the stage of breast cancer a patient has been diagnosed with.
Researchers at MD Anderson Cancer Center reviewed the medical histories of 185 women 30 years of age and younger when diagnosed and treated for breast cancer at their facility. Treatment outcomes were compared against those of women over 30 years of age also receiving treatment at MD Anderson during the same time period, October 1985 to September 1995, and against profiles in the National Cancer Data Base (NCDB).
Of 185 patients 30 years old or younger, 11% presented stage I breast cancer, 45% had stage II, 38% stage III and 6% stage IV. Five years following treatment, the average survival rate was 87% for stage I breast cancer, 60% for stage II, 42% for stage III and 16% for stage IV. According to the NCDB data, survival at five years following therapy for women 30 years or older was 97% for stage I, 83% for stage II, 54% for stage III and 16% for stage IV. The survival rates for women 30 years or younger with stages I, II and III were significantly lower than those of patients over 30 years old receiving the same treatment for their respective stages.
The researchers conducting this analysis concluded that women 30 years of age or younger appear to develop more aggressive forms of breast cancer and ultimately have lower survival rates than their elder counterparts following standard therapies. This finding appears to indicate that young women developing breast cancer may wish to pursue more aggressive forms of therapy or participate in a clinical trial evaluating aggressive therapeutic approaches for the treatment of their disease. Patients 30 years of age or younger with breast cancer may wish to speak with their physician about the risks and benefits of receiving aggressive therapy or participating in a clinical trial. Two sources of ongoing information regarding clinical trials include the National Cancer Institute (
Cancer, Vol 92, Issue 10, pp 2523-2528, 2001)