A woman's chances of surviving breast cancer partly depends on early detection, despite recent advancements in the treatment, says a new study.
The study involved nearly 174,000 Dutch breast cancer patients. The study found that survival rates improved between 1999 and 2012 that included women with more advanced cancer. However, the survival rates were high when the tumors were detected early.
"The general prospects for a woman diagnosed with breast cancer in the Western world are very good," said lead researcher Dr Madeleine Tilanus-Linthorst, of Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands.
The researchers found that among women diagnosed with breast cancer between 2006 and 2012, the five-year survival rate was 88 percent. That compared with 83 percent among women diagnosed with the cancer between 1999 and 2005, the study said.
Among women with larger tumors, the research found that the five-year survival rate rose from 63 percent to 73 percent. However, the smaller the tumor at diagnosis, the better the survival.
The study also found that of women diagnosed in more recent years, nearly all survived at least five years if their tumor was detected when it was less than three-quarters of an inch across.
"Catching the cancer early is still highly important," said Tilanus-Linthorst.
Dr Harold Burstein cowrote an editorial published with the study. "The cancers caught these days are smaller and better-behaved when you look at them under a microscope," said Burstein, an oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
"And this study shows that even with the treatment advances of recent years, tumor size still matters," he said.
The researchers concluded that even with advancements in cancer therapy, tumor size at diagnosis remained a key factor in a woman's outlook.
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the goal is to encourage women to complete their regular screenings throughout the entire year. The use of an annual screening mammogram helps increase the ability to detect breast cancers before symptoms start.
The study is published in the medical journal BMJ.