A study published on Wednesday in the journal JAMA Surgery found that the proportion of women with Stage 4 breast cancer who had surgery has dropped from 67.8 percent in 1988 to 25.1 percent in 2011, a consequence of the greater availability and efficacy of drugs and radiation techniques. However the study also found that women who had surgery survived longer than those whose did not — a median of 28 months and 19 months respectively — raising questions about whether surgery isn’t the better option after all. A problem with the study is that it relies on retrospective data, making it impossible to filter out the countless variables that would have impacted the decision to treat the cancer with or without surgery. In Stage 4 cases, cancer cells have left the breast and metastasized to bones or other organs, gravely threatening the patient’s survival. But even in that late stage it appears that tumors in the breast may continue to seed other organs with cancer cells or interfere with immunological response. Contrary to what had been a growing consensus, the study concludes that for patients of Stage 4 breast cancer surgery should still be considered.
Read the full story at The Washington Post.