Initial Surgery and Survival in Stage IV Breast Cancer in the United States, 1988-2011

Treatment options for patients with Stage 4 breast cancer have, in recent years, been largely centered around a combination of radiation and chemotherapy, while surgery has increasingly been seen as a less effective and more intrusive intervention. That effectiveness is getting a new examination because of a recent discovery by, in part, three researchers at the University of Iowa, Dr. Alexandra Thomas, Dr. Mary Schroeder, and Dr. Elizabeth Chrischilles.

By analyzing Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) data from patients diagnosed between 1988 and 2011, they found that surgery to the primary tumor was associated with longer survival for a significant number of patients. In addition, for those diagnosed prior to 2002, almost 10% of patients who received surgery survived at least a decade. For those who did not receive surgery, only 3% survived at least 10 years. Their findings were published in last month’s issue of JAMA Surgery.

Along with this prestigious publication has come a great deal of mainstream press attention as well. You can read the Washington Post article about it here. You can listen to an interview with Dr. Thomas on Iowa Public Radio here. You can watch a KCRG-TV news story about the study here. You can also read a response to the article by Dr. Lisa Newman of the University of Michigan, which highlights the disproportionate impact that Stage 4 breast cancer has on African American women and the disparities in treatments they receive here.

We recommend checking out all of this coverage. But you can also watch an interview that we conducted with Dr. Thomas and Dr. Schroeder right here:

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