Breast Cancer Death Rates on the Decline

Breast cancer death rates have fallen significantly in the last two decades, a decrease due to the increasing number of women getting more frequent mammogram screenings,  as well as the faster and better treatment options available today for breast cancer treatment. According to USA Today, recent government statistics show that deaths declined 34% between 1990 and 2011, from 33 to 22 per 100,000 women, and experts expect that the downward trend has continued in the four years since. The American Cancer Society says this translates into more than 200,000 deaths averted.

Otis Brawley, chief medical officer for The American Cancer Society, told USA Today that cancer treatments have improved quite remarkably, especially with new medicines available to patients such as Tamoxifen,( a beta blocker) as well as chemotherapy treatment. In the meantime, breast cancer awareness has grown steadily, resulting in more women going to their doctors now for annual breast screenings than ever before.  Mammogram screening rates for women between 40 years and older have increased from approximately 29 percent in 1987 to 67 percent in 2005-10.

According to cancer.org , women who live in affluent areas are less likely to die from the disease because they have better access to health screenings a well as better treatment options. In contrast, women who live in poorer countries are most likely to die sooner due to lower socioeconomic status resulting in less access to these treatment options. The website also states that the biggest drop in death rates have been seen among women who are less than 50 years of age than in women older than 50 years old.

The American Cancer Society recommends that all women over the age of 40 should always get a yearly annual screening, while women in their 50’s and older should get screenings every two years or so. Women that are younger than 40 years of age are usually not required to get a screening, but should always check for lumps on a daily basis as a preliminary precaution. It is also recommended that women who have a family history of breast cancer should get a mammogram just to be on the safe side. Many experts aren’t sure how these recommendations will affect current cancer death rates, but they expect to see continuing improvements in treatment methods for the treatment of breast cancer in the near future.

Some symptoms that are primarily associated with breast cancer include a lump or mass in either breast that can be felt relatively easily, skin irritation or dimpling, swelling of one or both breasts, breast pain, nipple pain and much more.

According to cancercenter.com, some of the main risk factors that contribute to the disease itself consist of age (women over 60 are frequently diagnosed), genes, family history, obesity, heavy drinking, any significant changes to a woman’s menstrual cycle, frequent radiation exposure to x-rays and much more.

Cancer experts say that one in eight (12 percent) of U.S. women will develop breast cancer over the course of their lifetime. Women are not the only ones who develop breast cancer.  Men are also at risk for developing the disease as well. In fact, in 2014 there were 2,360 reported cases of men diagnosed with breast cancer and approximately one in every one thousand man will get the disease.

When a person is first diagnosed with breast cancer or any other form of cancer, there are generally four or five stages involved and each stage gives the patient a general idea on the severity of the cancer and if tumors are seen spreading throughout a person’s body. Stage zero is the first and less severe stage which means that a tumor is generally confined to a milk duct, but has not spread to other tissues or body organs. In stage one, tumor is approximately ¾ inch in diameter and has not spread anywhere outside of breast area. In stage two, tumor is larger than ¾ inch and/or has spread to one or more lymph nodes directly in the armpit region.

In stage three, tumor is larger than two inches and has spread to lymph nodes, tissues as well as other areas beneath the breast area. In the more advanced and complex stages, tumors have spread to tissues as well as other distant organs throughout the entire body. Depending on the severity and spread of the tumor itself, there are various forms of treatment options to treat breast cancer, ranging from radiation, chemotherapy or perhaps a combination of both.  Other possible treatment options available for breast cancer patients include mastectomies, removal of lymph nodes as well as breast reconstruction surgeries.

Besides breast cancer, other cancers such as lung, colon and prostate cancers have been reportedly on the decline as well. “It’s wonderful news,” said Dr. Richard Wender, chief cancer control officer for the American Cancer Society. “There’s no mystery about how this happened. The biggest factor has been reduction in tobacco use – first in men and then in women.” While cancer death rates have declined quite significantly due to the drastic reduction of cigarette use, cancer experts are also crediting the early detection screenings which are saving more patients’ lives every single day.

If breast cancer is caught in an early stage, chances are that the survival rate will be somewhere around 98 percent according to several cancer sources. While it is highly recommended for every woman to get screened early for breast cancer, it is also important that high risk patients with family histories of cancer get screened early for other types of cancers as well.

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons

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