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See the Promising Trends in Breast Cancer Survival

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of women’s deaths (behind heart disease). About one in eight women in the U.S. will hear the diagnosis that they have breast cancer.

However, there’s good news for women. The number of breast cancer fatalities has been dropping since 1990. Some reasons for this are that women are now having breast cancer screenings more routinely and medical professionals are improving disease treatment.

In the U.S., more than 2.9 million women are breast cancer survivors, but until a recent study, we didn’t know the number of women who are living with metastatic breast cancer (MBC). That’s the most advanced stage of the disease — when cancer has spread from the breast to other organs.

Now a study from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is revealing positive news for women with cancer.

Nearly 155,000 women are living with MBC. In fact, 16.5 percent of women with MBC – about 25,500 – have been living with the disease for five to 10 years. Another 17 percent – about 26,400 – have been living with MBC for 10 years or more.

The study also explored the five-year survival rate among women under age 50 whose initial breast cancer diagnosis was MBC. Researchers found between 1992 and 1994, and 2005 and 2012, the survival rate doubled from 18 percent to 36 percent.

For women age 50 to 64, the survival time also grew significantly.

Researchers cited better treatments as contributing to the improved survival rates. The drug Herceptin, approved in the late 1990s, appears to be extending the lives of women with certain aggressive breast cancers.


Screening for Breast Cancer

Check with your health care professional about when and how often you should have a mammogram to screen for breast cancer. You can also ask about ways you can lower your risks of breast cancer.


Symptoms of Breast Cancer

See your health care professional promptly if you notice any of these symptoms:

  • A change in how the breast or nipple feels, including tenderness, a lump in the breast or in the armpit or a change in skin texture.
  • A change in breast or nipple appearance, including size, swelling, shrinking, asymmetry or inverted nipples.
  • Skin irritation, redness, scaliness, dimpling or thickening of the nipple or breast skin.
  • Spontaneous or bloody nipple discharge (other than breast milk).


What Comes After a Diagnosis

If you receive a cancer diagnosis, a number of support systems are available to help you live well through and beyond your treatment. Don’t hesitate to ask your health care professionals about all your options.

For breast cancer survivors, Aurora Health Care offers Team Phoenix. The program empowers women to become active in their own healthcare and survivorship.

With any diagnosis, especially a serious one like cancer, you can get reassuring piece of mind by receiving a second opinion before treatment. How you want to proceed with your treatment is your decision.

Meet the Author

Joseph J. Weber, MD is a breast surgical oncologist at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, WI

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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