Our everlasting Christmas/ Birthday/ Hanukkah/ Labor Day/Talk-Like-A-Pirate Day wish is for a long and lovely, healthy life for our patients (and readers!) (and not-yet readers!).
This is why we tout the importance of regular exams (self, clinical and mammograms). It is also why we love a good brain-boost and body-boost: keeping body parts healthy requires constant maintenance.
In case we haven’t mentioned it, in addition to caring about people, we also care about numbers. Why? Because they help us understand that early detection is no small thing. Breast cancer is a big thing - one in eight women will be diagnosed in her lifetime. That’s a doozy of a number. But catching it early can make great news out of bad news: For women who have Stage 0 cancer, the survival rate is 93%. That’s an impressive number! You are more likely to be struck down by a bus than by a stage 0 breast cancer, so look both ways and get your annual mammograms.
As time passes, undetected and therefore untreated cancers can progress to more advanced stages, as we discussed last week. And the later stage a cancer is when it’s found, the more it costs in terms of having a long, healthy life. The Komen website has an excellent break-down on the numbers in chart form, taken from the American Cancer Society's research, here.
Five year survival for stage 1 disease is still close to 90%, with stage 2 cancers having survival at 5 years ranging between 74 and 81%. Progress in treatment and more specific treatment options keeps moving those numbers up, making you much more likely to face death from another cause than your breast cancer in these stages. The most advanced stage 4 (with spread of the cancer to other sites besides lymph nodes or adjacent tissue) has the worst outlook with an average of only 15% survival at 5 years - the reason we hate late stage cancer and work towards a time when this stage no longer exists.
Remember statistics are just numbers - averages that that help us get a sense of the scope of breast cancer as a disease. Individual prognosis or outlook depends on much more than what we've presented. But we can all agree that when it comes to fighting the disease - early detection can save lives.
Originally published 8/27/13 on mammographykc.com.