Breast cancer: the risks of treatment

As women live longer with breast cancer, the benefits and side effects of long-term treatments need to be considered

While the incidence of breast cancer has continued to rise, mortality from the disease has decreased every year since 1992 in the US, Australia, New Zealand and Europe.

Whether this decline is due mainly to improved treatment or to increased detection at an early stage is debatable. The important thing is we're doing better.

In the recent Cancer in Australia: An Overview 2014 report (see resources) from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, it was noted that while one in eight women will develop breast cancer by the age of 85, only one in 40 women will die from it.1

The role of adjuvant therapy

Adjuvant systemic therapy means administration of drugs to women with localised, early-stage breast cancer, who have been rendered apparently cancer-free by surgery, with or without radiotherapy.

The aim of early systemic therapy is to

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