Women's Health

Breast Cancer Death Rate Has Dropped Dramatically in the US

Breast Cancer Death Rate Has Dropped Dramatically in the US

The results from a 2015 breast cancer study are in, and the news is great!

The study shows there is a 39% lower death rate in the US from breast cancer. And that there has been a steady decline of such deaths since 1989. The reduction in breast cancer-related deaths is reported to be the result of new medicines to treat the disease, coupled with early diagnoses via mammograms (Washington Post).

Advanced cancer drugs

We’ve learned of advanced cancer drugs, which are bringing very good results with breast cancer: Tamoxiphen (an anti-estrogen agent), Herceptin (for those with high levels of HER2), and aromatase inhibitors, a form of estrogen therapy.

HER2 is a growth-promoting protein on the outside of all breast cells. If the cancer cells are high in this protein, the cancer is referred to as being HER2-positive. This type of cancer cells “grows and spreads faster” than other cancers. HER2-positive cancer responds best to a drug therapy targeted specifically to these cells.

The WP also informs us of the recent use of targeted drug therapy for use as “cell zappers” in metastasized cancer.

Research and progress

The boost of federally-funded research plays a huge role in uncovering new ways to treat the disease. And, the assertive efforts of groups such as the Susan G. Komen Foundation to generate funding and get the word out to America about breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, has made the meaning of pink ribbons known to all.

This death reduction translates into 322,000 saved lives between 1989 and 2015.

This announcement should bring hope to those newly diagnosed, or those who are already being treated for breast cancer.

From Women’s Health, we learn that just 30 years ago, mastectomy was the common surgical procedure for breast cancer. And, the good news for today: lumpectomy and radiation has replaced that drastic surgery for early-term breast cancer.
Advances in the mammography field are helping medical practitioners diagnose breast cancer in its earliest stages when treatment is the most effective.

The newest diagnostic advance is 3-D mammography (digital tomosynthesis). This procedure “takes multiple x-rays of each breast from varied angles.” It is most useful with dense breast tissue (BreastCancer.org).

As the best voice to give inspiration and hope is from those who’ve survived breast cancer, we will now explore some of their success stories.

Personal stories of breast cancer survivors

Sheryl Crow: Over ten years ago, this country crossover singer was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was staged as ductal carcinoma in situ, an early form of cancer, had a lumpectomy, and was successfully treated with radiation (Country Living).

Sheryl readily shares the message of breast cancer prevention through screening and urges us to “stop making excuses” and get checked (People)!

Healthline also shares the success stories of other women who’ve survived breast cancer and have gone on to become ardent in “promoting cancer research and education.”

Christina Applegate: Having played the role of Kelly Bundy on Married with Children, this American dancer and actress received the diagnosis of cancer in one of her breasts in 2008. Since her Mom is a cancer survivor, Christina chose to have a double mastectomy and has since remained “active in charity events to promote cancer education and research.”

Cynthia Nixon: The actress who played Miranda in “Sex and the City”, received her breast cancer diagnosis in 2002. She was treated with a lumpectomy and radiation. (Her Mom had successfully battled breast cancer.) Cynthia is also a breast cancer advocate.

Kylie Minogue: This Australian singer has passed her 10-year survivor status after being diagnosed in 2005. The uniqueness of Kylie’s story is that she was initially told she didn’t have breast cancer. She prevailed in getting an accurate diagnosis and was then successfully treated with surgery and radiation.

Kylie’s message to all women is to “be wary of blindly following doctors.”

Reluctance to mammograms

Despite all of the above information, many women avoid scheduling routine mammograms. Some reluctance is tied to the fear they’ll be found to have breast cancer. Others have misinformation about the need for screening (People).

That site also tells us that for the many women across the nation who’ve never had a mammogram, the common excuse given was fear of physical discomfort.

Do you identify with any of their responses? If you had the chance, what would you say to these women?

Let’s learn more of cancer survival success stories from Healthline, to see how these warriors tackled diagnosis.

More breast cancer success stories:

From the beloved singer, Olivia Newton John, we learn she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992. After surgery and chemotherapy, she returned to her native Australia to recuperate. During this period, she also recorded an upbeat album. Olivia, like many other survivors, talks with others about her experience with breast cancer so that “other women could see the importance of early detection and that survival is possible.”

And then there’s Carly Simon, famed U.S. singer. Carly’s story is a bit different as she and her doctor were aware of the lump in her breast for two years before her treatment in 1997-1998. Her doctors had initially advised against surgery. Carly was eventually treated with a mastectomy, chemotherapy and reconstructive surgery. Though Carly is a cancer survivor, “she regrets not treating her cancer earlier.”

Dame Maggi Smith of Harry Potter and PBS fame was determined to have breast cancer in 2008. she had a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation. Being the “tough lady” she is, Maggi underwent a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation while filming her sixth appearance as Professor McGonagall in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood.

Jaclyn Smith, of Charlie’s Angels fame, was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer during her annual mammogram about 5 years ago and was successfully treated with a lumpectomy and radiation. Jaclyn is now an active supporter of ‘Strength in Knowing’, an online support group for women battling breast cancer.

If you ever have a day where you could stand a little uplifting, just go to Jaclyn’s support group.

The fight continues

Despite this great news, it’s important to recognize that the fight is not yet over.

According to the Washington Post, breast cancer:

  • Is still the most common cancer diagnosed in American women.
  • Remains the second-leading cause of cancer death after lung cancer
  • Will be diagnosed in about 252,000 women in the U.S this year
  • Will be the cause of death for approximately 40,000 women this year

A woman in the United States has a 12.4 percent, or 1 in 8 chance, lifetime risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer (WP).

Also, there is a disparity between the mortality rates for white women and black women.

Since early detection of cancer leads to the best odds for a cure, what can you do to get this message out?