Women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have a lot to absorb and need time to study and understand their treatment options. But how much time can they safely take before they have lumpectomy or mastectomy?
It’s a common question among breast cancer patients: “How soon do I need to schedule my surgery?”
Delaying treatment too long is a poor idea that can compromise a woman’s health, but what type of delay is too much? Days? Weeks? A large, newly published retrospective study concluded that the interval between diagnosis and breast cancer surgery can affect a woman’s survival.
Impact of delaying surgery
Using two different databases (SEER-Medicare and the National Cancer Database) researchers analyzed the medical records of approximately 200,000 women with a first diagnosis of invasive, noninflammatory, nonmetastatic breast cancer. The women were sorted into groups based on how long they waited after diagnosis to have surgery: 30 days or less, 31-60 days, 61-90 days, 91-120 days and 121-180 days.
Most women (78% in one study, 70% in the other) had surgery within 30 days of being diagnosed. Women who delayed surgery by additional 30-day intervals had a higher risk of death: their risk rose by 9 to 10 percent for each 30-day delay:
Although a woman’s individual circumstances—the type of cancer, type of tumor, and how advanced her cancer is when detected—definitely influences her absolute risk of survival, this study shows that most women can take time—days or weeks—to research and understand their options without compromising their survival. Delaying for several months, however, can be detrimental to survival. This information can help women and their physicians to better understand the risk in delaying and better plan for surgery.
Resources: Bleicher RJ, Ruth K, Sigurdson ER, et al. “Time to Surgery and Breast Cancer Survival in the United States.” JAMA Oncology. Published online December 10, 2015.