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Last Updated: Monday, 29 December, 2003, 08:42 GMT
Europe 'failing on breast cancer'
Breast tumour
Early diagnosis aids survival
US women are more likely to survive breast cancer than their European counterparts because they are diagnosed earlier, research finds.

The study in the journal Cancer by an international researchers analysed data on more than 17,000 patients.

The five year survival rate in the US was 89% compared to 79% in Europe.

However, 41% of the US cases were diagnosed at an early stage, compared to just 29% in Europe.

Early treatment of breast cancer greatly improves survival rates as the disease can be treated before it has the chance to spread to other parts of the body.

The team also found that a greater proportion of elderly women than young women in the US were diagnosed at an early stage - 43% of over-65s compared to 38% of younger women.

The situation was reversed in Europe, with early-stage tumours more commonly diagnosed in younger female sufferers - 31% of under-65s compared to 25% of older women.

Better screening

The research suggests that screening programmes and awareness of the signs of breast cancer among women are better in the US, allowing tumours to be picked up at an earlier stage.

It could also be that there is less of a delay between a woman visiting her doctor with suspicions of a breast lump and a diagnosis being made.

Professor Michel Coleman, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said: "These findings reveal the urgent need to allocate more resources to ensure earlier diagnosis of breast cancer in Europe."

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