December 1st 2005
Improvements in early diagnosisand treatment of breast cancer overthe past few decades have clearlyreduced disease-related mortality. The2000 Oxford Overview published recentlyby the Early Breast Cancer Trialists’Cooperative Group (EBCTCG)highlights some of the widely practicableadjuvant drug treatments thatwere under investigation in the 1980s,and have substantially reduced 5-yearrecurrence rates as well as 15-yearmortality rates. Optimal adjuvanthormone therapy is associated with asubstantial improvement of diseaseoutcomes in hormone receptor–positivewomen. Chemotherapy is alsoassociated with considerable benefitsin women with breast cancer, regardlessof age, stage, or hormone receptorstatus. However, chemotherapy isnot without risks. The treatment isassociated with many adverse eventsthat may significantly affect a patient’squality of life while she is receivingtreatment. Other effects may be longstanding,permanent, and, rarely, lifethreatening.