THE death rate for women diagnosed with breast cancer has fallen by 44 per cent over the past 30 years, new figures have revealed.
Statistics published by Cancer Research UK show breast cancer deaths hit a record high in 1989, when around 15,600 women lost their lives to the disease. Since then, new tests and better treatments have been credited with slashing death rates.
The charity estimated more than 130,000 UK breast cancer deaths have been avoided in the past three decades.
Research has also helped highlight the importance of diagnosing cancer early, when treatment is more likely to be successful. Ninety-eight per cent of women whose breast cancer is caught at the earliest stage survive for at least five years, but for those diagnosed at the most advanced stage this drops to around a quarter (26 per cent).
Cancer Research UK said around a quarter of cases are diagnosed through the NHS breast cancer screening programme, but that the majority of people are diagnosed by spotting the signs and consulting their GP.
The charity said it is focusing efforts on helping the one in five women with incurable cancers. Every year in the UK, breast cancer claims around 11,400 lives and just over 55,000 new cases are diagnosed.
Studies like Cancer Research UK’s Personalised Breast Cancer Programme are investigating personalised treatment options for women based on the genetic makeup of their tumour. And the charity’s work developing blood tests for breast cancer may help doctors track how well treatments are working, and even predict if someone’s cancer could come back and spread.
Cancer Research UK’s chief executive Michelle Mitchell said: “These numbers show that research is working, and we should celebrate the considerable progress that’s been made – but while lives are still being lost, our work is not done yet.
“Our ongoing research into the biology of breast cancer is vital. With this increased understanding, we’re developing new life-saving treatments; making them kinder, more effective, and more personalised to individual people.”
The first sign of breast cancer most people notice is a lump or thickening in their breast, but early symptoms can also include skin changes, breast pain and nipples changing position or leaking fluid.
For more information visit cruk.org.uk/breastcancer
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