Breast cancer survival rates could be improved in the UK by carrying out basic checks in more patients, it has been claimed.
One of the procedures involves looking at patients’ lymph nodes during surgery to see if the cancer has spread.
Another entails checking patients’ hormone status at diagnosis. The majority of breast cancers, but not all, are fuelled by the female sex hormone oestrogen.
Both kinds of checks are recommended in official guidelines but not always followed in all hospitals.
Researchers making the recommendation studied data on more than 9,000 patients at 10 hospitals in the east of England.
For women under 70, five-year survival ranged from 85% to 90%, and for those over 70 between 65% and 75%.
Hospitals where surgeons checked lymph nodes in more than 90% of patients had better breast cancer survival rates.
The study, published in the journal Annals of Oncology, also found that for women over 70 survival rates were better when more patients had their hormone sensitivity checked.
Professor Stephen Duffy, from Queen Mary, University of London, and Cancer Research UK, said: “Although survival rates for breast cancer are very good in hospitals we studied in the east of England, rivalling the best in Europe, we have found that there is still room for improvement.”
Co-author from Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, said: “Lymph node staging and hormone receptor typing give valuable information to decide on optimal treatment after surgery.”