October and breast cancer awareness are in full swing. Here at Diagnostic Imaging Centers, every day means opportunities to focus on this second leading cancer in women. Every day means a chance to make a difference.
It seems like a good time to review the latest numbers related to breast cancer. We HAVE come a long way - gone are the days when no one dared mention the disease. And women facing the disease today have multifaceted individualized treatment options, much improved from the days of radical mastectomy as the one and only option.
So first the good news. The American Cancer Society recently reported a 40% drop in breast cancer deaths between the years of 1989 and 2017. This means 375,900 fewer deaths from breast cancer during that time period. This drop in deaths is due to both better treatment for those women who have breast cancer and improvement in detection. Finding breast cancer early, at its most treatable stage is the goal of screening. The recommendation of many, including the Society of Breast Imaging and the American College of Radiology amongst others, to start screening average risk women with mammography every year starting at the age of 40 is focused on the goal of saving the most women’s lives from breast cancer.
The bad news? There are still racial differences in breast cancer deaths - and we don’t yet have all the reasons for why these disparities persist. Breast cancer death rates are higher in black women than white in every state in the US - in some states by as much as 60% higher! This must be a focus of future research not only on the whys, but also on ways to counter this trend. A risk assessment for breast cancer should be a part of every woman’s health plan in her 20s - especially for black women who are more likely to develop the disease before the age of 40. This risk assessment may modify the standard screening protocol and may help to address this trend.
And now for the ugly - the number of women dying from breast cancer this year is estimated to be 41,760, and around 500 men will die from the disease. Numbers too hard to ponder and too high by far. We still do not find all breast cancers with current screening - and we still only screen a disappointing percentage of women who should be undergoing screening. Our fight against breast cancer is far from done.
Our hope for this October is to spread the word. We HAVE come a long way in our fight against this deadly disease, but the fight is not over. We look forward to the day that breast cancer no longer threatens a single life. And until that day, our hope is for 100% access for screening for all women.