- Reviewed by Anthony L. Komaroff, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Health Letter
Encouraging news about breast cancer survival: most women treated for early breast cancer are likely to become long-term survivors, according to a study published online June 13, 2023, by The BMJ. Researchers analyzed the health data of more than 512,000 British women who had been diagnosed with early breast cancer (confined to one breast and possibly the lymph nodes under an arm) between 1993 and 2015. The women in the study (most were age 50 or older) were treated initially with surgery and then followed for up to 20 years. Scientists determined that the five-year risk of death from breast cancer fell from about 14% for women diagnosed in the 1990s to about 5% for women diagnosed later in the study. For example, among women diagnosed between 2010 to 2015, more than six in 10 had a five-year death risk of 3% or less. The study was observational and merely suggests (but doesn't prove) that death risk has decreased in general. It also doesn't explain why the death risk dropped among women in the study. The scientists speculated that better treatments, improved imaging, and increased breast cancer awareness and screenings have contributed to better outcomes.
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About the Author
Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter
About the Reviewer
Anthony L. Komaroff, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Health Letter
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