Improved breast cancer screening rates and advances in diagnosis and treatment are saving lives. A study showed that between 1990 and 2003 breast cancer death rates dropped 24 percent. This is the same thing as survival rates increasing by 24%.
Many factors affect how aggressive breast cancer might be and how likely a woman is to survive after breast cancer. Breast cancers that are small and diagnosed early are generally easier to treat and cure. Because of better and more widespread screening, it's likely that detecting breast cancers earlier is responsible for a large part of the survival rate increase.
Breast cancers that are hormone-receptor-positive tend to be less aggressive that those that are hormone-receptor-negative. Hormonal therapies such as tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors are effectively used to treat and prevent the recurrence of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers.
In this study, women with hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer had almost twice the increase in breast cancer survival rates than women with hormone-receptor-negative breast cancer. While great strides have been made in the treatment of hormone-receptor-negative breast cancer, these cancers tend to be more aggressive and less responsive to treatment.
It's a little surprising that women older than 70 had the smallest increase in breast cancer survival rates between 1990 and 2003. It's not clear why this happened. Unfortunately, it's possible that older women aren't offered all available treatment options. A 2006 study showed that breast cancer is often undertreated in older women.
Increased survival rates are promising for all women, whether or not they have breast cancer.
- Regular screening makes a difference by detecting breast cancer earlier, when it's most treatable.
- Breast cancer treatment options are steadily improving for all types of breast cancer.
- Together with their doctors, women diagnosed with breast cancer can choose the best treatment options for them, regardless of age or breast cancer type.