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Better Prognosis for Breast Cancer in Germany

Excellent treatment results testify to high quality of care at Heidelberg University Hospital’s Breast Center / First publication of prospectively collected data in Germany

How successful is the interdisciplinary treatment of breast cancer? Since 2003, the Breast Center at Heidelberg University Hospital has systematically tracked the course of breast cancer in more than 3,000 patients and, as the first center in Germany, has published these significant prospective results: Eighty-six percent of the patients survived the first five years after onset of treatment, with 80 % of them remaining disease-free during this period. The evaluation was published online in February 2012 in the journal The Breast.

“The prognosis for breast cancer has further improved thanks to new treatment options and consistent interdisciplinary treatment,” said Prof. Christof Sohn, Managing Director of the Heidelberg University Women’s Hospital and Director of the Breast Center. This is proven by the results of treatment in Heidelberg. An evaluation of the German cancer registry for the period from 2000 to 2004 conducted by Robert Koch Institute in 2010 yielded a probability of 79.6 % for disease-free survival in the first five years after treatment. A current study by the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) that analyzed the data of 11 German cancer registries from the period from 2002 to 2006 yielded a probability of approx. 84 %. In the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute, this probability was 89 % for the period from 1999 to 2006.

Eighty-six percent of the patients were still alive five years after treatment

The interdisciplinary team in Heidelberg headed by Prof. Andreas Schneeweiss, head of the section of Gynecological Oncology at the National Center for Tumor Diseases and the Heidelberg University Hospital Women’s Hospital and by Dr. Jörg Heil, head physician and coordinator of the Heidelberg University Hospital Breast Center, evaluated the data of all 3,338 patients newly diagnosed with malignant breast cancer treated at Heidelberg University Hospital’s Breast Center from 2003 to 2010. Five years after initial treatment, 80 % were disease-free, i.e., the cancer had not recurred. In 15 % of the patients, a tumor had recurred in the breast and in 19 %, metastases had occurred, with some patients experiencing both. Eighty-six percent of the patients survived the first five years after initial diagnosis. Taking the deaths into account that were not attributed to the breast cancer, the evaluation showed that only 10 % of the patients died from breast cancer during the first five years after diagnosis.

Interdisciplinary tumor board provides recommendations for treatment

“Our results serve as a basis for further improving preventative care and treatment of breast cancer patients,” said Prof. Schneeweiss. “In this area, with the structures created at the National Center for Tumor Diseases in Heidelberg, we are setting the standards for other centers in Germany.” Since 2003, Prof. Schneeweiss has managed the meticulous documentation of all breast cancer cases, which now constitutes the data base for this and other such analyses and will continue to do so in the future. Prof. Schneeweiss is also the head of the interdisciplinary tumor board and is therefore responsible for drawing up the individual interdisciplinary treatment recommendations.
In 2003, the Breast Center at Heidelberg University Women’s Hospital was one of the first centers in Germany to be certified by the German Cancer Society and the German Society for Senology. Today, there are more than 200 certified breast centers in Germany. In 2006, the Breast Center was accredited by the European Society of Breast Cancer Specialists (EUSOMA). For patients, this means that an experienced team of physicians and modern treatment options ensure high-quality diagnostics and treatment through multidisciplinary cooperation. In 2011, Heidelberg University Hospital’s Breast Center treated over 600 newly diagnosed patients, making it one of Germany’s largest breast centers.

J. Heil, A. Gondos, G. Rauch, F. Marmé, J. Rom, M. Golatta, H. Junkermann, P. Sinn, S. Aulmann, J. Debus, H. Hof, F. Schütz, H. Brenner, C. Sohn, A. Schneeweiss. Outcome analysis patients with primary breast cancer initially treated at a certified academic breast unit. The Breast (2012), doi:10.1016/j.breast.2012.01.009

J. Haberland, J. Bertz, U. Wolf, T. Ziese, B.M. Kurth: German cancer statistics 2004. BMC Cancer, 10 (2010), p. 52

E. Hiripi, A. Gondos, K. Emrich, B. Holleczek, A. Katalinic, S. Luttmann et al.: Survival from common and rare cancers in Germany in the early 21st century. Ann Oncol, 23 (2012), pp. 472–479

S. Altekruse, C. Kosary, M. Krapcho: SEER cancer statistics review, 1975–2007. National Cancer Institute (2010)


Dr. Jörg Heil
Head physician and coordinator of the
Heidelberg University Hospital Breast Center
phone +49 - 6221 56 77 22

About Heidelberg University Hospital:
Heidelberg University Hospital and the Medical Faculty of Heidelberg University
Patient Care, Research and Teaching of International Standard
Heidelberg University Hospital is among the largest and most renowned medical centers in Germany. The Medical Faculty of Heidelberg University ranges among the internationally relevant biomedical research institutes in Europe. The common goal is to develop new therapies and to apply them rapidly for the benefit of the patient. The Hospital and the Faculty have approximately 11,000 employees and are active in training and qualification. In more than 50 departments, clinics and special departments with about 2,000 hospital beds, approximately 600,000 patients receive inpatient and outpatient treatment each year. There are currently about 3,600 aspiring doctors studying medicine in Heidelberg; the Heidelberg Curriculum Medicinale (HeiCuMed) is at the top of medical teaching and training in Germany.
Requests by journalists:
Dr. Annette Tuffs
Head of Public Relations and Press Department
University Hospital of Heidelberg and
Medical Faculty of Heidelberg
Im Neuenheimer Feld 672
D-69120 Heidelberg
phone: +49 6221 / 56 45 36
fax: +49 6221 / 56 45 44
e-mail: annette.tuffs(at)

Selected english press releases online:

Dr. Annette Tuffs | idw
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