A new report shows that the number of deaths associated with breast cancer has dropped significantly over the past 20 years. Experts point to better awareness of the condition and improved treatment options as major factors in saving lives.
Government statistics show that the number of breast cancer deaths dropped by an astounding 34 per cent between 1990 and 2011. According to The American Cancer Society, this means about 200,000 lives have been saved.
It’s further evidence that breast cancer can be beaten. “It’s fantastic,” says Megan Schanie, a 39-year-old breast cancer survivor from Louisville, Kentucky. “Even in my own little world, I’ve noticed that we have so many in our group who are surviving.”
So, what’s changed since the early 1990s?
Otis Brawley, chief medical officer for The American Cancer Society, says it has a lot to do with improved treatment options, including targeted chemotherapy and the drug Tamoxifen, an effective estrogen blocker.
But perhaps the most important difference between then and now: women are aware of the threat and understand how to confront it. The statistics don’t lie: in 1987 only 29 per cent of women over age 40 got regular mammograms; today, the number is closer to 67 per cent.
That leaves Brawley feeling rather optimistic about the breast cancer death rate. “I’m very hopeful we’ll continue to have a decline,” Brawley said.