Breast Cancer Symposium Being Held In San Antonio

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The nation’s top breast cancer experts are meeting this week in Texas and they are presenting studies that may change the way some breast cancer is treated in this country.

As CBS 2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported, breast cancer diagnoses in the past involved tossing the kitchen sink of treatments at tumors in the hopes that something might be successful.

Doctors are figuring out what does work – and what doesn’t – which means tens of thousands of women may be spared grueling treatments that don’t actually improve their survival.

New research presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium looked at hundreds of older patients treated with or without radiation and found no difference in overall survival and very small differences in recurrence rates after five years.

The women who may be able to skip radiation are over 65 who have low-grade breast cancer fueled by hormones.

Another study found that surgery may not be necessary for women with advanced breast cancer. Doctors in India studied women with widespread breast cancer whose tumors had shrunk with initial chemotherapy.

Half had mastectomies or lumpectomies, half did not. Survival was the same in both groups, suggesting that these women can be spared the ordeal of having their breast removed.

“This kind of opens the door to start thinking about identifying different subsets of people who have really good prognosis disease that can be spared certain treatments,” Dr. Freya Schnabel of NYU Langone Medical Center told Gomez.

A major analysis of mammography studies found a clear benefit to screening for women over 50.

“All of them show within this age group a consistent benefit in reducing the mortality for breast cancer,” Dr. Schnabel said.

New research finds vigorous exercise may offer some protection from aggressive breast cancers.

“Women who, over the course of a long period of time, exercised three or more hours per week had a 47 percent reduction in the risk of developing these more aggressive types of breast cancer,” Dr. Schnabel told Gomez.

Women in the study did exercise including brisk walking, tennis and aerobics.

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