The Who, What, Where, When and Sometimes, Why.

Chemotherapy for early breast cancer

This summary table contains detailed information about research studies. Summary tables are a useful way to look at the science behind many breast cancer guidelines and recommendations. However, to get the most out of the tables, it’s important to understand some key concepts. Learn how to read a research table.

Introduction: Chemotherapy after breast surgery (adjuvant chemotherapy) improves survival in women with early breast cancer.  

pooled analysis of data from 60 randomized clinical trials showed women of all ages, with or without breast cancer in their lymph nodes, can benefit from adjuvant chemotherapy. Women younger than 50 showed the most improvement in 15-year overall survival.

The benefit of adjuvant chemotherapy depends on each person’s prognosis. People with the poorest prognosis get the most survival improvement, while those with the best prognosis get the smallest benefit.

Learn more about chemotherapy.

Learn about the strengths and weaknesses of different types of studies.

Study selection criteria: Early Breast Cancer Trialists’ Collaborative pooled analysis.

Early Breast Cancer Trialists’ Collaborative Group
Pooled Analysis

Age and Prognosis

15-Year Overall Survival

Percent Surviving

Absolute Improvement in Survival with Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy

No Chemotherapy

By age at diagnosis

Younger than 40

70%

64%

6%

40-49

76%

69%

7%

50-59

70%

66%

4%

60-69

69%

66%

3%

70 or older

74%

68%

6%

Among women younger than 50 at diagnosis

Lymph node-negative

84%

79%

5%

Lymph node-positive

55%

46%

9%

Among women 50-69 at diagnosis

Lymph node-negative

86%

83%

3%

Lymph node-positive

62%

59%

3%

 

References 

1. Early Breast Cancer Trialists’ Collaborative Group. Effects of chemotherapy and hormonal therapy for early breast cancer on recurrence and 15-year survival: an overview of the randomised trials. Lancet. 365(9472):1687-717, 2005.

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