Breast cancer study finds survival rate improvements

A long-term study into breast cancer treatment in the ACT and surrounding region has found significant improvements in survival rates over a 20-year study period.

The ACT and South East NSW Breast Cancer Treatment Group Quality Assurance Project Report, supported by Canberra Health Services and NSW Health, summarises data collected from July 1997 to June 2017 with the key objective of improving the quality of breast cancer treatment.

Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith said the comprehensive study was enlightening for our clinical community and its findings give people hope for better health outcomes for breast cancer survival.

“This report has been a collective effort between a voluntary group of highly skilled clinicians, surgeons, oncologists and nurses. All have dedicated their time to this significant study, creating a valuable resource that will provide great benefit to clinicians and patients.

“Since the project began in 1997, its findings have contributed to and steered the high-quality care that women and men receive after a breast cancer diagnosis,” said Minister Stephen-Smith.

A standout finding of this report is that the risk of a woman getting a recurring cancer after an operation and treatment for an invasive breast cancer has dropped 61 percent in 20 years.

Other key findings include:

  • Over a third (35 per cent) of all cases of invasive breast cancer were screen-detected
  • Of the 669 non-invasive cancers, 76 per cent were detected through a screening program
  • 47.9 per cent of women with operable invasive early breast cancer underwent mastectomy
  • In the last five years there has been an increase in the number of women undergoing breast conserving surgery
  • 6,676 women and men participated in the study involving 58 clinicians.

Report author and Group Chair of the project Dr Paul Craft AM said breast cancer treatment was complex and the choices for treatment were rapidly changing over time.

“What we are seeing is a significant improvement in health outcomes, particularly in the last five years, since the last report was issued,” Dr Craft said.

“This was an ambitious project when we started in 1997 but the outcomes to date have confirmed that the improved treatment techniques and therapies incorporated in the years since have made significant improvements.”

Dr Craft, Clinical Director of the Canberra Region Cancer Centre at Canberra Hospital, said breast cancer remained the most common cancer in women.

“The latest statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimated that in 2020, the number of new cases of breast cancer diagnosed would be 19,974, Australia-wide,” he said.

To access the report: https://www.health.act.gov.au/research/breast-cancer-treatment-project.

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