11/29/2012 11:50 pm ET

Delaying Breast Cancer Treatment Raises Death Risk By 85 Percent, Study Finds

A new study shows just how dangerous it can be to wait to get treatment after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, shows that the risk of dying from advanced breast cancer goes up 85 percent if you wait more than 60 days to start treatment.

"It's been shown that early detection and treatment can increase five-year survival rates to as high as 98 percent. Until this study, we didn’t know the profound effect delaying treatment could have," study researcher Electra D. Paskett, an associate director for population sciences at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital, said in a statement.

The study included 1,786 women who were diagnosed with breast cancer between 2000 and 2002, and who were followed through mid-2006. The women were enrolled in the North Carolina Medicaid System.

Researchers found that treatment was started within a month for 66 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer, and treatment was started within two months for 90 percent of women. However, breast cancer survival rates didn't differ between women who sought treatment within a month and women who sought treatment within two months.

Researchers did find a decrease in survival rates for the 10 percent of women who took longer than two months to get treatment, though. Women with advanced breast cancer were 85 percent more likely to die from breast cancer, and 66 percent more likely to die in general, if they delayed treatment.

They noted that a major factor in delaying treatment is barriers to access, particularly among people who can't afford the treatment.

Besides getting treatment as soon as possible, there are other lifestyle-related factors that can also improve survival rates for breast cancer patients. Those include eating cruciferous vegetables, having a strong support system, and maintaining a healthy weight.



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