Contralateral breast cancer research

Continuing with previously funded work on assessing the risk of women in Northern Ireland, the new pioneering research project by Dr Kienan Savage at Queen’s University, Belfast will work to identify women who are most at risk of developing a second cancer in their other breast (known as a contralateral breast cancer, or CBC), so they can receive the best, personalized treatment for them with the aim of saving  lives.


The impact for high risk women 

Every year 1,400 women in Northern Ireland are diagnosed with breast cancer.  Over the next 20 years, 400 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their other breast.  At present we have no way of identifying which women are at greatest risk of a second diagnosis, whose lives could be saved by a double mastectomy.


Dr Savage and his team will examine tissue samples from over 300 women in Northern Ireland who have had breast cancer to determine if there are tumour markers that would help detect those patients most at risk.


These findings will help develop a test to identify which women are at greatest risk of developing a second cancer in the second breast.  If successful, this research will help reduce unnecessary surgery and save lives here, in Northern Ireland, and world-wide.


Understanding the relationship between the cancers

Dr Savage said, “Women who develop a breast cancer have a risk of developing a second cancer in their other breast. It’s not known whether these second cancers represent spread from the first breast cancer or whether they are true, new, second tumours.  It’s important that we can understand the relationships between these cancers to allow doctors to offer the best treatment to women who may develop a second cancer.


“Furthermore, these results may be able to identify women at a lower risk of developing a second breast cancer. This will both reassure these women of their low risk and allow them to avoid the surgical removal of both of their breasts, which may be of no benefit to them, and could in fact be harmful.”


You can support this important research project by getting involved in our Cheers to 50 Years campaign.