Good News as More Women are Surviving Breast Cancer
Improvements in early detection and treatments have helped women around the world become breast cancer success stories.
Breast cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer death in women (behind lung cancer), but good news is that the rate of mortality from the disease has fallen by one-third over the past 30 years, especially among older women.
Researchers in Vienna attribute the positive trend to improvements in awareness, which leads to early detection, and the improvement of treatment options.
Obviously, the sooner a breast cancer can be found, the better the chances are for survival. The Susan G Komen Foundation notes that when breast cancer is localized – meaning they have not spread beyond the breast – the five-year survival rate is 99%. However, with Stage 4 disease (cancer has metastasized or spread to other areas of the body), the five-year survival rate drops to 26%.
Research into chemotherapeutic agents continues to improve as well. For example, new immune-based cancer treatments are in development for those with breast cancer as well as other types of cancer.
While these improvements have contributed to the success stories of breast cancer survivors, next we need to focus on quality of life, say researchers presenting at conferences in Vienna, Austria. Utilizing an “inter-disciplinary” approach is important, says Michael Gnant, Head of the Department of Surgery at MedUni Vienna and Vienna General Hospital.
For example, pulling the surgeon, the medical oncologist and the radiation oncologist together to discuss individual cases may decrease “over-treatment” – treatment that does not add benefit but does potentially add adverse side effects.
Per the Susan G Komen Foundation, most breast cancer survivors do report a good quality of life (indicated by both mental and physical health scores), but long-term side effects such as menopausal symptoms, chronic breast pain, fatigue and lymphedema can remain bothersome.
Medical University of Vienna. "Massive drop in mortality from breast cancer." ScienceDaily, 9 March 2017.
Susan G Komen Foundation
By Avonffw - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons