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Science Technology

Breast-Cancer Death Rate Drops Almost 40 Percent, Saving 322,000 Lives, Study Says (washingtonpost.com) 64

Breast cancer death rates declined almost 40 percent between 1989 and 2015, averting 322,600 deaths, the American Cancer Society reported Tuesday. From a report: Breast cancer death rates increased by 0.4 percent per year from 1975 to 1989, according to the study. After that, mortality rates decreased rapidly, for a 39 percent drop overall through 2015. The report, the latest to document a long-term reduction in breast-cancer mortality, attributed the declines to both improvements in treatments and to early detection by mammography. Deanna Attai, a breast cancer surgeon at the University of California at Los Angeles who was not involved in the study, said the advances in treatment included much better chemotherapy regimens -- developed in the 1980s and refined ever since -- that are administered post-surgery to reduce the risk of recurrence. Other improvements have included tamoxifen, an anti-estrogen agent that was approved in the late 1970s; Herceptin, a drug used to treat tumors with a higher-than-normal level of a protein called HER2 and drugs called aromatase inhibitors.
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Breast-Cancer Death Rate Drops Almost 40 Percent, Saving 322,000 Lives, Study Says

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  • they just delaying fate

    • In Medicine, a success is having the patient die from a condition that you didn't try to treat,

      • such as oh being OLDER THAN DIRT??

        but anyway keeping somebody in good enough shape to be racking up XP is more or less the goal of medicine
        (and btw folks you have to be able to get out of bed to get your daily "login" xp bonus)

      • by Anonymous Coward

        In Medicine, a success is having the patient die from a condition that you didn't try to treat,

        In Politics, the definition of success is based on how you run the statistics through the bullshit filter.

        The 5-year breast cancer "survivor" metric hasn't changed in decades. The reality? We've hardly advanced at all with treating or curing cancer; we've just started looking for it earlier.

        • by jbengt ( 874751 )

          We've hardly advanced at all with treating or curing cancer; we've just started looking for it earlier.

          We still can't "cure" most breast cancer patients, but we are definitely better at prolonging the life of a breast cancer patient past 5 years, even when comparisons account for detection at earlier stages.

        • The reality? We've hardly advanced at all with treating or curing cancer; we've just started looking for it earlier.

          It's probably even worse than that. Cancer death rate is the number of cancer deaths divided by the number of diagnosed cancers. But it's a well known fact that a large number of diagnosed cancers are false positives or are at least benign enough to be unlikely to actually become the cause of death. People can live with such a "cancer" for decades and end up dying from something else. This means that increased screening automatically increases the denominator of the cancer rate and therefore reduces the rat

          • by bws111 ( 1216812 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @04:20PM (#55304001)

            I don't know where you got your definition of the cancer death rate, but it is not what they used. They looked at how many deaths from breast cancer there were per 100,000 women (NOT per 100,000 women with breast cancer). That number is 40% lower than it was. I don't know how you can spin that as 'unimpressive'. It doesn't matter if the decrease is because of better treatment, or early detection, or simply not getting breast cancer in the first place (which of course would be the ideal).

    • Ok, now that we have success with breast cancer, how about time and funds for prostate cancer....you know, to keep things even.

      ;)

      • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @12:33PM (#55302409)

        Ok, now that we have success with breast cancer, how about time and funds for prostate cancer....you know, to keep things even.

        ;)

        If you had to prioritize, you would in all cases go for breast cancer first. Except for the much fewer cases of aggressive prostate cancers, you have something that kills more people.

        Many men die of old age while having prostate cancer.

        The more important issue of treating prostate cancer is the number of false positives, which lead to unneeded operations, and often some pretty nasty outcomes. A husband of one of my wife's friends was diagnosed, and the doctor and the wife demanded a really aggressive approach. Today, he is impotent and wears adult diapers because he has no bladder control. He said death wasn't a bad alternative to that.

        • The more important issue of treating prostate cancer is the number of false positives, which lead to unneeded operations, and often some pretty nasty outcomes.

          This was pretty much what I was alluding to.

          Actually, if they want to research and treat the #1 cause of women's premature death, they'd go for heart disease.

          If I recall correctly, that's what most women die of....many more than of breast cancer.

        • Do you know your claims are false, or do you not care?

          The fact is that similar numbers of people die from both.
          Prostate cancer is diagnosed far more often, and men suffer from a larger number of life-impacting operations to remove their prostate than for breast cancer.
          There are 8 TIMES as many drugs developed for breast cancer than prostate cancer.
          Undiagnosed mortality rates from both are quite similar, although higher for prostate cancer.
          Screening for breast cancer received around 10 TIMES the funding of p

          • Do you know your claims are false, or do you not care?

            The fact is that similar numbers of people die from both.

            Everyone dies of something

            Prostate cancer is diagnosed far more often, and men suffer from a larger number of life-impacting operations to remove their prostate than for breast cancer.

            Then they aren't too bright. While you like to accuse me of lying, this is not news at all, I knew this stuff long ago. And now I'll give you all the fake news you care to call fake. http://healthland.time.com/201... [time.com] If you are past 60, and get a diagnosis, you should forgo treatment. Why? Becaue unless it is an aggressive case, you'll die of old age first.

            In fact, surgery is often the last thing you want http://healthland.time.com/201... [time.com]

            The PSA test is the source of many fal

    • Don't be an ass.
  • by crow ( 16139 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @12:09PM (#55302187) Homepage Journal

    If I read that correctly, this means that of all the cases reported now, the overall odds of death have dropped 40% compared to all the cases reported thirty years ago or so. That doesn't mean the odds of survival for a given diagnosis have improved 40%. One reason cited was the increased early detection through mammograms, so clearly some of the improvement is from shifting the average diagnosis to a less severe tumor. This raises the issue of tumors that are now detected which in the 70s would have gone unnoticed, and wouldn't have progressed, but are now detected and removed. (I'm not an expert, but I read on the Internet that this is an issue, so it must be true.) If you take that into account, it may pull down the overall percentage a tick.

    In any case, it's clearly good news, but I've still lost a friend from breast cancer, but I'm hopeful that another will survive. I'm looking forward to what the next decade or two bring with better understanding of the genetic differences of specific cancers and vaccines or other drugs designed to target those differences.

    • by tomhath ( 637240 )

      That doesn't mean the odds of survival for a given diagnosis have improved 40%.

      I don't understand your point; the American Cancer Society didn't report a 40% improvement for the same diagnosis. The combination of better diagnosis and better treatments has resulted in a 40% improvement.

      • If cancer starts off small and benign, and only after some years turns larger and malignant (fatal), then the death rate will be skewed towards women with more developed forms of breast cancer. The inclusion of less developed forms of breast cancer via earlier detection will skew the death rates down not because the women are dying less often, but because you're including more women in your stats who have early breast cancer and thus don't have an elevated death rate (yet).

        You can see the same thing in
        • You also have to understand how they count survival. If you live for 5 years, then is is counted as survival. If you just created a test that detected cancer earlier than 5 years before death, it would have a 100% survival rate. That makes all the numbers they throw out meaningless. The same number of people are dying at the same time as before, but because you told them they were going to die, that makes them from the dead camp to the survival camp. this [cancer.net] and this [cancerresearchuk.org]
          • by jbengt ( 874751 )

            If you just created a test that detected cancer earlier than 5 years before death, it would have a 100% survival rate. That makes all the numbers they throw out meaningless.

            Except that the mortality statistics cited in the study are for deaths caused by breast cancer per 100,000 females in the overall population, not deaths per 100,000 diagnosed patients. The incidence of in situ and invasive breast cancer diagnoses has flattened out in recent years but still has an upward trend, while mortality rates hav

    • by bws111 ( 1216812 )

      It doesn't appear that they are talking about a 40% improved survival rate for diagnosed cases. They are looking at deaths caused by brreast cancer in the general population, and that rate is 40% lower than it was.

      • by crow ( 16139 )

        Thanks!

        So that does take into account any increase in diagnosis of cases that would not have been fatal, and it also takes into account any decrease due to changes that reduce the overall incidence, such as reduced smoking.

        Still, no matter how they came to the number, it's impressive.

        • Smoking is correlated to breast cancer, and people smoke much less now.

          It is actually surprising how ineffective medical advances have been over the last 50 years. Despite an enormous improvement in technology people do not live much longer than they used to. And much of the difference is due to reducing smoking.

          This is in strong contrast to the understanding of germs as the cause of disease in the late 1800s which had a dramatic effect. Antibiotics in the 1940s were helpful, but not as much. And since

    • by UPZ ( 947916 )

      One reason cited was the increased early detection through mammograms, so clearly some of the improvement is from shifting the average diagnosis to a less severe tumor. This raises the issue of tumors that are now detected which in the 70s would have gone unnoticed, and wouldn't have progressed, but are now detected and removed. (I'm not an expert, but I read on the Internet that this is an issue, so it must be true.) If you take that into account, it may pull down the overall percentage a tick.

      Yeah much of the progress came from better detection (annual mammograms from age 40) as well as better treatment options (neoadjuvant chemotherapy). Note that USPTF has recently rolled back mammogram recommendations to every 2 years instead of every year, and, starting at age of 50 instead of 40. While it definitely will help save healthcare costs, I wonder if more people will miss early detection of cancer?

  • Thankful (Score:4, Insightful)

    by American AC in Paris ( 230456 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @12:11PM (#55302205) Homepage

    Without these advances, my wife would likely have died of this disease. Instead, she's alive, and despite the fact that breast cancer survivorship is no walk in the park, she's still able to do most of what she did before.

    It's incredible how much medical science has advanced on breast cancer since the late 80's. I hope the research keeps its momentum.

    • I'm glad your wife is OK. Cancer sucks.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      And as a counter-point to this: My wife died two years ago from breast cancer that eventually came back and spread to her brain. She was originally diagnosed at 34 and died at 39. It came back just about three years after her initial diagnosis and double mastectomy. It came back in her lungs initially and we did everything we could, including medical trials for new drugs, and monthly trips to M.D. Anderson.

      The moral of this story is that the new medical advances testing such as mammograms don't do any g

      • As someone who still loses entire nights of sleep to this fear, you have my deepest sympathy. I'm a total stranger, but if ever you need an outlet or an ear, I'm more than willing to listen and talk. Strength to you.
  • 3 time survivor (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @12:47PM (#55302527)

    Over the past 30 years, my wife has survived breast cancer 3 times. All three occurrences were classified as new primaries. The third time was HER2 positive, which meant chemo for a year. The first six rounds were classic chemo plus Herceptin, followed by another 8 rounds of Herceptin only. She has also been on tamoxifen for the last 5 years. The first two occurrences were early enough that the HER2 factor wasn't even discovered. Thankfully, it seems that neither of the first two were HER2 positive anyway, as both were not as aggressive as the third. The key in all three cases was early detection. I noticed a comment above about delaying fate. In a way this is true, in that she will be able in the future to die of something other than breast cancer. In the mean time, we get to enjoy retirement together. Modern medicine has kept us both alive, as I am around thanks to a triple bypass.

    • I'm glad it worked out for you. I've survived two different cancers and I wouldn't have, had I been born 30 or 40 years earlier.

      I don't understand some of the negative posting here. What's not to like about earlier detection, better treatment, and more positive outcomes?

      To those of you who might think it's a big joke, I truly hope you never have to find out you were wrong.

  • Before donating to any such charities, please do a quick search with charitynavigator or charitywatch:
    https://www.charitynavigator.o... [charitynavigator.org]
    https://www.charitywatch.org/ [charitywatch.org]

  • Also takes lives of about 1 in 40

  • by blindseer ( 891256 ) <blindseer.earthlink@net> on Tuesday October 03, 2017 @04:01PM (#55303909)

    Still, the remaining black-white disparity âoeis not acceptable,â said Lee Schwartzberg, a medical oncologist at West Cancer Center in Germantown, Tenn. He said the gap reflects complicated social, economic and biological factors that are not yet fully understood, including insurance and employment status. In addition, black women are twice as likely as white women to develop so-called triple negative breast cancer, which can be harder to treat, the report noted.

    They do a study and find that people with African ancestry tend to have a kind of cancer that we don't yet know how to treat. What if this disparity was found between people from Angola vs. Kenya? Would this be "unacceptable? What if it was between Greeks and French? Would that be "unacceptable"? They can call this "complicated" all they like but the reason that this one group tends to have higher rates of deaths from cancer is clear from the paragraph I quoted, it's genetic. There's nothing we can do about one's genes.

    It seems obvious they know the reason why the disparity exists, it's genetic. However, when we equate this disparity to race instead of genetics then it becomes "unacceptable" to people. It's unfortunate that we cannot treat this "triple negative" cancer better. Research into treating this cancer should continue, as should treatments for all kinds of cancer. Seeing this as a matter of race instead of genetics turns a problem of medicine and science into a political issue.

    Can we leave politics out of science? Please? Politics ruined football. If sanity is not regained then politics will ruin everything.

    • Bzzt, wrong answer.

      A friend of mine does public health work, specifically around cancer and outcomes, with a number of hospitals directly and with data from a great many more.

      One of the interesting things they've found is that outcomes are greatly influenced by one's socio-economic status even when people are able to get the same treatment. Why?

      Because having cancer - actually dealing with it, getting treatment for it - is complicated. Keeping on top of myriad appointments, following through on issues with

  • Wake me up when women have to register for the draft, and their life expectancy is the same as that of men.

  • I wonder how much money was donated and spent on breast cancer research during those years?

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