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A Brief History of 50 Years of Breast Cancer Treatment

Posted 9/5/2014

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  This has been our last day in Maine, and we will be very sorry to head home tomorrow--except for the much better internet service! I suspect that the daily frustration of sitting at the computer will be quickly forgotten, and I will long for the pine-scented sea air and the heron outside my window. We awakened early this morning to catch the high tide and spent a glorious two hours kayaking on crystal clear, totally still water. We were silenced by the beauty all around us, and watched two bald eagles circling and many seals awakening on rocks as the sun warmed and loons ignoring our presence so we could almost touch their glossy feathers.

  The rest of the day unfolded almost as magically, and I have reluctantly come inside to share this article with you. I read it sitting by the water, and I promise that is one of the better locations to take all this in. If you are not interested in reading this history (mostly encouraging) now, I would encourage you to remember that it is here and come back at some point. It is well worth your time.

  50 Years in Breast Cancer: Dramatic Progress in Treatment Based on an Improved Understanding of Biology

Monica Morrow, MD, FASCO
If an oncologist practicing in 1964 at the time of ASCO’s founding was placed in a time capsule and transported to the 2014 ASCO Annual Meeting, she could be forgiven for thinking she had arrived in another universe. During this period, the landscape of breast cancer management across the spectrum of risk assessment and prevention, surgery, radiation, and adjuvant systemic therapy has changed so dramatically as to be virtually unrecognizable. In the past 10 years, there has been a rapid acceleration of our understanding of breast cancer biology, which has fueled new approaches to treatment. Although we have not cured all breast cancer, the uptake of mammographic screening in the industrialized world coupled with improvements in therapy, has resulted in decreasing mortality rates at a time when the morbidity of treatment is also decreasing.1 A discussion of the advances in any single area of breast cancer management could fill an entire paper. This article will focus on a high-level overview of major advances across the spectrum of treatments for patients with nonmetastatic breast cancer.


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