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Even short delay in cancer treatment influences outcomes

A study published this month in the medical journal Cancer revealed that delays in treatment as short as four weeks can negatively influence outcomes.  Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College reviewed the records of 8000 patients who suffered from Stage I (early) breast cancer.  The patients were age 65 and older.    If they waited 8 weeks to begin radiation, they were 1.4 times as likely to suffer a recurrence or a new tumor.  If they waited 12 weeks or longer, they were four times as likely to suffer a recurrence.  The researchers also found that if the patients received fewer than 3 weeks of radiation therapy, rather than the standard regimen of 5 to 7 weeks, they increased their risk of dying by 32 percent. 

While agreeing with the basic premise of the study, a cancer expert at Memorial Sloan Kettering pointed out that the results may be influenced by which patients miss or delay treatment:  the treatments are endured on a daily basis for weeks, and persons from lower socio-economic situations typically have fewer resources to draw upon in timely commencing and completing this schedule.  It may be that they are also diagnosed later, have poorer nutrition or health habits, or have other population-based differences that contribute to a less successful outcome from treatment.
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