Is breast cancer survival improving?

Cancer. 2004 Jan 1;100(1):44-52. doi: 10.1002/cncr.11859.


Background: Despite advances in therapies for breast cancer, improvement in survival for patients with recurrent or metastatic breast cancer has been difficult to establish. The objective of the current study was to determine whether the survival of women with recurrent breast cancer has improved from 1974 to 2000.

Methods: The authors analyzed the survival experience of 834 women who developed recurrent breast cancer between November 1974 and December 2000. All patients had been treated previously with adjuvant anthracycline-based protocols. Patients were divided into five consecutive groups based on year of breast cancer recurrence, and survival was compared across the five groups. Because some prognostic variables were divided unevenly divided among the cohorts, a multivariate model was created to determine the association of year of recurrence and survival after accounting for other prognostic factors.

Results: In the unadjusted analysis, there was a statistically significant improvement in survival across the five groups, and the more recent cohorts had longer survival (P < 0.001). Other variables that predicted longer survival after breast cancer recurrence included smaller initial tumor size, lower stage of disease, fewer lymph nodes involved, longer disease-free interval, estrogen receptor-positive tumors, and nonvisceral dominant site of disease recurrence. In the multivariate analysis, which adjusted for these prognostic factors, year of recurrence was associated with a trend toward improved survival, with a 1% reduction in risk for each increasing year.

Conclusions: For these cohorts of patients, the authors present data suggesting that the prognosis for patients with recurrent breast cancer improved between 1974 and 2000.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / mortality*
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / pathology
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival Analysis