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Study Estimates Number of U.S. Women Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer

A new study shows that the number of women in the United States living with distant metastatic breast cancer (MBC), the most severe form of the disease, is growing. This is likely due to the aging of the U.S. population and improvements in treatment. Researchers came to this finding by estimating the number of U.S. women living with MBC, or breast cancer that has spread to distant sites in the body, including women who were initially diagnosed with metastatic disease, and those who developed MBC after an initial diagnosis at an earlier stage.

The researchers also found that median and five-year relative survival for women initially diagnosed with MBC is improving, especially among younger women.

The study was led by Angela Mariotto, Ph.D., chief of the Data Analytics Branch of the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), with coauthors from NCI, the Metastatic Breast Cancer Alliance, and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The findings were published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

In documenting the prevalence of MBC, the findings point to the need for more research into how to address the health care needs of women who live with this condition. "Even though this group of patients with MBC is increasing in size, our findings are favorable," said Mariotto. "This is because, over time, these women are living longer with MBC. Longer survival with MBC means increased needs for services and research. Our study helps to document this need."

Although researchers have been able to estimate the number of women initially diagnosed with MBC, data on the number of women whose cancers spread to a distant organ site, either as a progression or a recurrence after being first diagnosed with an earlier stage of breast cancer, has been lacking because U.S. registries do not routinely collect or report data on recurrence.

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