New study on breast cancer recurrence

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
August 12, 2008 4:15:26 PM PDT
Important information for women with a history of breast cancer. Some 180-thousand women a year in this country join the ranks of those battling breast cancer. Even after treatment, the fear remains that the cancer may return.

When a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, treatment may involve any or all of the following: surgery, radiation, hormone therapy and chemotherapy.

The stage and make-up of their cancer tumor can determine risk of recurrence. In five years from diagnosis, some 87 to 93 percent of women who had cancers in stages 1, 2, and 3 are cancer-free, but the risk of the cancer returning among survivors is not gone.

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute found that approximately fifteen years from diagnosis, one in five women still faces has a chance of relapse.

"The majority of women are going to be disease free, but this study shows that 15 years out, however, 20 percent do develop a recurrence," said Dr. Sharon Rosenbaum-Smith, a breast surgeon at Roosevelt Hospital.

The researchers say the continuing risk raises the possibility that some women could benefit from longer hormonal treatments, which is now stopped after 5 years.

They say more research is needed to identify which women and what kind of tumors might be more associated with "late" breast cancer recurrence.

Troops and alcohol abuse

A new study of U.S. troops by Department of Defense researchers suggests that being exposed to war seriously raises the risk for alcohol abuse after the war.

"Our findings showed that the individual who deployed and reported combat exposures were at increased risk for newly reported alcohol behaviors," said Isabel Jacobson of the Department of Defense.

The researchers say the most increased risk was among reserve and National Guard personnel compared to those non-deployed.

Women service members were more likely to experience new heavy weekly drinking when compared to men.

The researchers believe it's the exposure to combat that is the contributing factor, rather than deployment itself.

"We did not see the same finding in those deployed who did not report combats exposure, which led us to believe that I was the combat exposure rather than the deployment itself that let to this increased risk in alcohol use," Jacobson said.

The researchers say to give answers to military leadership so that they can refine their policy and prevention strategies. The study will be published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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