What's the optimal time between breast cancer diagnosis and completing treatment? Cleveland Clinic oncologists a step closer to finding out

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Survival rates for breast cancer increase when treatment is completed within 38 weeks of diagnosis, according to research led by Cleveland Clinic oncologists. 

Using a national database, researchers from the health system conducted an observational study involving more than 28,000 breast cancer patients. 

When treatment options — surgery, chemotherapy and radiation — are completed less than 38 weeks from the time of diagnosis, the five-year survival rate was higher, according to findings published in the June issue of the Annals of Surgical Oncology. When completed within 38 weeks, the five-year survival was 89.9 percent, compared to 83.3 percent if completed after 38 weeks. 

"The biggest difference in our study from others that have looked at time to treat was that we looked at the time from diagnosis to the completion of the multimodality treatment, not only at one individual part, to identify the 38-week window to improve survival rate for patients with breast cancer,” said Debra Pratt, MD, lead study author and director of the breast center at Cleveland Clinic Fairview Hospital. 

While the study wasn't able to analyze why treatment would be delayed beyond 38 weeks, researchers say there are likely a number of factors at play, including uncoordinated care. 

“What we see happen traditionally in the U.S. and even in the [United Arab Emirates] is that the patient has to visit multiple specialists – first a surgeon, then a medical oncologist for chemotherapy followed by a radiation oncologist – all of which are scheduled weeks apart and in different places,” said Stephen Grobmyer, MD, study co-author and chair of the oncology institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. “There is this phenomenon of ‘serial care,’ rather than coordinated and planned care.”

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