Fewer American Women Dying of Breast Cancer
Deaths Have Dropped Steadily for More Than a Decade
WebMD News Archive
Sept. 22, 2005 -- There is more good news in the battle against . Newly released figures show that deaths continue to decline,
dropping about 2% a year since 1990.
The drop was most dramatic among women under the age of 50, whose breast
cancers tend to be more aggressive and harder to treat. The number of breast
cancer deaths for this age group declined by 3.3% annually between 1990 and
The figures were published today by the American Cancer Society, which
reports each year on breast cancer trends. ACS officials credited earlier
diagnosis and better treatments for the "slow, steady drop" in breast
cancer deaths over the 12-year period.
Breast cancer education efforts aimed at American women have also had an
impact, says ACS director of cancer screening Robert Smith, PhD.
"Women know a lot more about breast cancer than they did 20 years
ago," Smith tells WebMD. "They are far more likely to report the first
signs and symptoms of breast cancer promptly. And doctors today are more alert
to breast cancer and less likely to dismiss a patient's concerns."
Ethnic Disparity Persists
But all the news is not good. Survival among black women with breast cancer
continues to lag well behind that of white women. Whereas 90% of white women
are alive five years after being diagnosed, that number drops to 76% among
A similar disparity has been reported for Hispanic women and other racial
and ethnic groups in the U.S. that are disproportionately poor.
The ACS report cites later breast cancer diagnosis as a major factor in the
survival disadvantage, and it has called on the U.S. government to increase
funds for screening poor women.
The CDC has a program in place to provide mammograms and treatment to
economically disadvantaged women. But the program has funds to screen only
about one in five women who qualify.
"Income level should not determine whether someone survives breast
cancer," ACS president Stephen F. Sener, MD, says in a news release that
calls on Congress to increase funding for screening and treatment by $45
Smith points out that many private groups also offer mammograms and
follow-up care to medically underserved women. But he acknowledges these
private programs may be difficult to find.
"Like everything else it is harder for poor women, and it shouldn't be
that way," he says. "They should have the same access to screening and
follow-up care as other women."
Breast Cancers Rise Slightly
Despite the declines, breast cancer continues to be the No. 2 cancer killer
among women, behind lung cancer. This year, an estimated 211,000 women will be
diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States and 40,000 are expected to
die from the disease.