Chemo After Surgery for Locally Recurrent Breast Cancer Improves Survival

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Locally recurrent breast cancer is cancer that comes back (recurs) in the same breast in the same place or very close to the original cancer.

If your initial treatment was lumpectomy and radiation therapy, then the standard of care for a local recurrence is mastectomy. But not much research has been done to figure out if chemotherapy after surgery for a local recurrence would offer benefits.

Results from the CALOR (Chemotherapy as Adjuvant for Locally Recurrent Breast Cancer) study suggest that chemotherapy after surgery for locally recurrent breast cancer improves both disease-free survival and overall survival.

Disease-free survival is how long a woman lives without the cancer coming back. Overall survival is how long a woman lives with or without the cancer coming back.

The study was presented at the 2012 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

The CALOR study looked at 162 women who had been diagnosed with locally recurrent breast cancer and followed them for more than 5 years. About half the women were randomly assigned to get chemotherapy after surgery. The other half didn’t get chemotherapy.

After 5 years, 69% of the 85 women who got chemotherapy were alive without the breast cancer coming back, compared to 57% of the 77 women who didn’t get chemotherapy. This means that women who got chemotherapy had a 41% lower risk of the cancer coming back or growing.

Looking at overall survival, the researchers found that 88% of the women who had chemotherapy were alive after 5 years compared to 76% of the women who didn’t get chemotherapy.

The researchers also looked to see if the hormone-receptor status of the cancer made a difference in the benefits offered by the chemotherapy. It did:

  • 67% of women diagnosed with estrogen-receptor-negative breast cancer who got chemotherapy were alive without the cancer coming back after 5 years compared to 35% of similar women who didn’t get chemotherapy

Chemotherapy’s effect on overall survival didn’t seem to be related to hormone-receptor status.

If you’ve been diagnosed with locally recurrent breast cancer, your doctor will evaluate all the details of your unique situation and recommend a treatment plan after surgery tailored to your risk of recurrence or a new cancer diagnosis. If you’re in the process of deciding on treatments after surgery, you may want to talk to your doctor about this study, especially if the cancer is estrogen-receptor-negative. By considering the characteristics of the cancer and all possible treatment options, you and your doctor can decide on a treatment plan that makes the most sense for YOU.

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