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Breast Cancer Death Rates Decline

Poorer Women Slower to See Dip in Breast Cancer Death Rates
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Mammograms Can Save Lives continued...

"The most important thing that all women can do is get an annual screening mammogram to detect breast cancer in its earliest stage, when it is most treatable," DeSantis says. "It does save lives, and it is worthwhile for women beginning at age 40."

There are some risks associated with mammograms, though, including the fact that they could lead to unnecessary and anxiety-provoking testing.

Other breast cancer statistics highlighted in the new report, include:

  • The rate of decline of dying from breast cancer from 1990 to 2007 was greater in women younger than 50 compared to older women, 3.2% per year vs. 2.0%, respectively.
  • Trends in breast cancer death rates vary by state. There were declines in 36 states and the District of Columbia. These rates were unchanged in the remaining 14 states.
  • Overall breast cancer rates are lower in African-American women than white women. But African-American women have higher rates of more advanced disease, are more likely to be diagnosed with larger breast tumors, and are more likely to die from breast cancer.

All Women at Risk for Breast Cancer

The overall news on the breast cancer front is good, DeSantis says. "We are still on decline, and I do think it is possible to continue to make progress."

Marisa Weiss, MD, is the president and founder of Breastcancer.org. She is also the director of Breast Radiation Oncology and Breast Health Outreach at Lankenau Hospital in Wynnewood, Pa., and a breast cancer survivor. “It’s upsetting when anyone is diagnosed with breast cancer, and there is no question that the burden of the disease and the outcome continue to be worse in poor women,” she says.

“We have major medical advances with great benefits that are underutilized,” Weiss says. “The idea of getting a mammogram every year can fall off of the plate when a woman is over-committed and too busy, and then they think 'if they find something, how I will afford the treat it?'"

Women should make breast health a priority, she says.

All women are at risk for breast cancer. Family history is just part of it. Most women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have no significant family history of this disease. "Even the thin vegetarian yoga instructor with no family history can get breast cancer," she says.

"We are making great progress, but we still have a long way to go," Weiss tells WebMD. "Breast cancer is a very complex disease and we want to be able to prevent or cure all forms."

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