Screening, Treatment Cuts Breast Cancer Deaths in Half

From - January 9, 2018

Screening, Treatment Cuts Breast Cancer Deaths in Half

TUESDAY, Jan. 9, 2018 -- Breakthroughs in breast cancer screening and treatment have slashed the percentage of women dying from the disease, a new analysis reveals.

"Advances in screening and treatment are saving lives," said lead researcher Sylvia Plevritis, a professor of radiology and biomedical data science at the Stanford University School of Medicine. "Here's an example that all this investment in research and discovery has had a real benefit. This has translated into making a difference."

Screening and treatment reduced breast cancer deaths by 49 percent in 2012, compared with a 37 percent reduction in 2000, according to the study.

Treatments that target specific types of breast cancer have generated the most scientific advancement and, as such, have taken a larger role in saving lives, the researchers found.

Better cancer treatments accounted for 63 percent of the reduction in breast cancer deaths in 2012, compared with 37 percent due to early detection of cancer through screening, the study findings showed.

Back in 2000, treatment and screening were of equal importance, splitting 50-50 the lives saved from breast cancer, the researchers said.

Hormone therapy now is available to counter breast cancers spurred by estrogen, while the targeted drug Herceptin (trastuzumab) has been a wonder in treating breast cancers caused by genetic abnormalities, explained Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society.

These new treatments, combined with improvements in traditional chemotherapy, are helping more women beat breast cancer, Lichtenfeld said.

The greatest advance in breast cancer screening during the same period was the move to digital mammography, which produces cleaner and better images, he added.

"For the period between 2000 and 2012, there were some advances made in the technology for screening for breast cancer, but there was greater impact made by treatment," Lichtenfeld said.

For the study, Plevritis and her colleagues fed breast cancer monitoring data into a series of six different computer simulations.

Each simulation estimated what the death rate would have been in a given year between 2000 and 2012 without the availability of state-of-the-art screening and treatment, and how much each contributed to the reduction in deaths, Plevritis said.

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