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Survival rate for some types of breast cancer up to 95pc despite Covid setbacks

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Prof Arnie Hill and Dr Deirdre Duke at the official opening of the Beaumont Breast Centre at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin. Photo: Marc O'Sullivan

Prof Arnie Hill and Dr Deirdre Duke at the official opening of the Beaumont Breast Centre at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin. Photo: Marc O'Sullivan

Prof Arnold hill

Prof Arnold hill

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Prof Arnie Hill and Dr Deirdre Duke at the official opening of the Beaumont Breast Centre at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin. Photo: Marc O'Sullivan

The survival rate for some types of early-stage breast cancer is now up to 95pc, but there is concern over the number of women who presented late due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Professor of surgery at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, Arnie Hill, said the high survival rate is for women with early-stage breast cancer that has not spread to the lymph nodes. It stands at around 85pc for cancer that has spread.

In the past 20 years, due to screening and other factors, doctors are seeing women with the disease getting diagnosed earlier, Prof Hill told the Irish Independent.

However, he said during the past two years more women with “more locally advanced cancer” were coming late.

“Women were understandably scared to come to hospital or even leave their homes. But the numbers coming are as busy as ever now,” he said.

Prof Hill, who is chair of Breast Cancer Ireland, was speaking as Beaumont officially opened its €6 million purpose-built breast centre.

The building, which has the latest 3D mammography and breast ultrasound equipment, was strongly supported by fundraising from people who took part in Breast Cancer Ireland’s ‘Great Pink Run’ and the ‘100k in 30 days’ events.

“Women say it is like a spa, it is so peaceful,” said Prof Hill.

He pointed out that the three-floor facility was designed to be a reassuring and pleasant environment for the 10,000 patients attending per year.

“The top floor is most important because that is where our clinical trials take place on-site,” he said.

“Patients can take part in clinical trials of treatment at the forefront of breast cancer research and integrating this in the new centre is really progressive.”

Prof Hill added: “We are particularly excited about a clinical trial we are starting in July, for HER2 positive breast cancer, involving a drug that is relatively non-toxic and allows us to reduce, potentially, the amount of chemotherapy that women might need while achieving a 100pc response rate.

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“That would mean a transformation in the outcome for this particular sub-type of breast cancer.

“This new concept of chemotherapy de-escalation, where you only give chemotherapy to those who will benefit for the shortest possible time, represents a major breakthrough.

“Fifteen years ago, if you got HER2 positive breast cancer, we would say it was a bad thing.

“But we have such good treatments now we can obliterate it in 70pc of cases.

“Our ambition is to have a clinical trial available for each sub-set of breast cancer.”

The hospital is continuing to deal with a backlog of cases. Women with urgent symptoms are given priority.

There is also a waiting list of women who have inherited BRCA genes, which increases their risk of disease. These women are waiting for preventative surgery for breast removal or reconstruction.

Prof Hill said his ambition is to turn breast cancer into a chronic disease, equivalent to a condition like arthritis, which can be controlled with treatments.

Aisling Hurley, chief executive of Breast Cancer Ireland, said clinical trials at the centre will help “ensure greater survival and lower mortality rates among patients, and ultimately realise our goal of transforming this disease into a long-term treatable disease”.


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