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New Breast Cancer Treatment Guidelines Written For Patients

PHILADELPHIA (March 15, 1999) -- For the first time ever, breast cancer treatment guidelines used by the nation's top cancer specialists have been rewritten so patients can understand them clearly. In an effort to fully respect the needs of cancer patients and their families, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) and the American Cancer Society (ACS) rewrote the technical guidelines drawn up by the NCCN. Fox Chase Cancer Center is a member of the NCCN and has published the new treatment guidelines on its website at

The NCCN is a nationwide network of 17 leading cancer centers. Physicians look to the NCCN for guidance on the highest quality, most effective advice on treating cancer. The NCCN's mission is to make state-of-the-art cancer care available nationwide, through efforts of cancer treatment guidelines.

"The NCCN Oncology Practice Guidelines, which now addresses the needs of more than 95 percent of all cancer patients, define treatment standards for oncology professionals," said Lou Weiner, chairman of the medical oncology department of Fox Chase Cancer Center. "We are proud to be associated with the NCCN and ACS, who have cooperated to write the new guidelines. Now, patients and their families can better understand how their treatments fit with accepted national guidelines. This should empower and improve the care of cancer patients."

After studying research results on breast cancer treatment, a panel of NCCN experts has agreed upon specific, up-to-date recommendations for treating women with this disease. These recommendations were formulated using scientific evidence and currently accepted approaches to treatment. Every year the panel will update their recommendations, if advances in medical science warrant it.

Cancer survivors applaud the newly written guidelines. "These guidelines will help people better understand their doctor's advice," says Vickie Wasserberger, a breast cancer survivor from New Hope, PA. "It's overwhelming to hear and understand your treatment options, especially when you've just learned you have cancer. It's a lot to digest. This will allow a patient to take some time to look over the guidelines in the privacy of their own home." The treatment options for different stages of cancer are presented as flow charts.

For each stage, the chart shows step by step how the patient and doctor can arrive at choices about treatment. The flow charts are broken down into the following categories:

  • cancer stage (stages indicate how far breast cancer has spread within the breast, to nearby tissues, and to other organs)
  • work-up (the tests done to help determine the initial breast cancer diagnosis)
  • treatment
  • prevention (what can be done to prevent a recurrence of the disease)
  • follow-up

Because each patient's situation is unique and must be evaluated individually, breast cancer patients are encouraged to ask their doctor the following questions:

  • What is the stage of my disease?
  • How many tumors do I have and how large are they?
  • What is my tumor's grade (how abnormal do the cells appear) and its histology (type and arrangement of tumor cell), as seen under a microscope?
  • Has the cancer spread to any of my lymph nodes? If yes, how many?
  • Is my particular cancer estrogen receptor-positive or progesterone receptor-positive?
  • Does the fact that I have (or have not) reached menopause affect my treatment?

This joint effort with the NCCN ensures that breast cancer patients will have the information they need to better understand the disease and act, in conjunction with their physician, to get treatment that is right for them.

Fox Chase Cancer Center is one of 35 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the nation. The Center's activities include basic and clinical research; prevention, detection and treatment of cancer; and community outreach programs.

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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