Page last updated at 01:03 GMT, Wednesday, 17 March 2004

Breast cancer hits young harder

Breast cancer
More women are beating breast cancer

Young women who beat breast cancer can spend years battling its after effects, according to doctors.

They can suffer fatigue and problems moving their arms - problems that can sometimes last as long as 10 years.

The fourth European breast cancer conference in Hamburg, Germany, also heard that a new test for the disease could be out soon.

The test will allow doctors to examine the genetic make-up of tumours and to personalise treatment for patients.

Breast reconstruction

Doctors also backed the growing trend to give women chemotherapy before they have surgery to remove cancerous lumps.

Doctors in Germany said the practise helps more women to avoid having their breasts removed.

Dr Michael Untch, a cancer specialist in Germany, said it means up to 30% more women are able to have breast reconstruction compared with 10 years ago.

More women than ever before are surviving breast cancer. However, doctors in The Netherlands said many experience problems after they have been given the all clear.

Dr Lonneke van de Poll-Franse, from the Comprehensive Cancer Centre South in Eindhoven, questioned 183 patients who had been diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years ago.

She found that two out of three women were receiving still receiving specialist medical care.

One in three said they had problems moving their arms while one in 10 said they were suffering fatigue.

Among younger women 22% were still having problems with unusual tiredness
Dr van de Poll-Franse

Younger women - those who were diagnosed with breast cancer before they were 50 - were most likely to be suffering problems.

"Looking at fatigue, for example, only 4% of women who were 50 and over when diagnosed were still reporting it 10 years later, whereas among younger women 22% were still having problems with unusual tiredness," Dr van de Poll-Franse told the conference.

"We don't know for certain why this is but think it is most likely to be related to the fact that women over 50 are nearing the end of their working lives, with more time to spend on themselves and on maintaining their family relationships."

Dr van de Poll-Franse said the findings highlighted the need to ensure breast cancer survivors are offered the medical help they need.

"It is important that we make the same kind of facilities available to breast cancer survivors, who despite being free of disease can still suffer greatly with both physical and psychosocial problems."

Genetic test

Meanwhile, doctors were told they could be using gene technology to provide better treatment to women with breast cancer by the end of the year.

Dr Alane Koki, chief scientific officer at French biotechnology company Ipsogen, said it was on the verge of launching its Breast Cancer Profile Chip.

The chip uses microarray technology to look at the genetic make-up of a tumour. Microarray enables scientists to analyse the expression of many genes at the same time.

"Understanding differences in gene expression can help both patients and clinicians to decide what treatment would be most effective and appropriate with a personalised approach," Dr Koki said.

Almost 350,000 women in Europe are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. It claims the lives of more than 129,000 women annually.



SEE ALSO
Breast cancer
10 Jul 09 |  Health
Breast cancer 'is harder to spot'
16 Mar 04 |  Health
Women ignore breast cancer signs
01 Sep 03 |  Health

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