Is Breast Cancer Prevention On Track To Outpace Diagnosis?

New forms of non-invasive breast cancer treatments are appearing in science magazines on a routine basis — but what about prevention methods? There’s good news on this front, too. Scientists say that we know enough about breast cancer to prevent most cases based on a combination of lifestyle changes and other methods. Early detection might not be the best weapon available to us anymore.

And thankfully, the five-year survival rates have skyrocketed over the past few decades as well. If the cancer can be detected and completely contained the breast tissue, then the survival rate is an awe-inspiring 99 percent. When it spreads to the lymph nodes over time, the survival rate drops to a more dangerous — but still hopeful — 85 percent.

At least one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Even with the high survival rates, the pervasiveness of this insidious disease makes in the second most deadly cancer. 

Women who have a family history of breast cancer might find that certain medications reduce the risk of diagnosis. According to the United States Preventive Services Task Force, the medications tamoxifen, aromatase inhibitors, and raloxifene can help women avoid the disease.

Dr. Lydia E. Pace from Brigham and Women’s Hospital said, “A lot of studies of preventative medications have shown a moderate reduction in risk of developing breast cancer.” Even so, the medications only prevent the least deadly forms of cancer. Certainly better than nothing.

Pace also said that “for many women these medications are an important option, but the decision to take them is very individual. Some women don’t want to take medication every day for five years. For some, the lack of a mortality benefit is really important, but other women want to do everything they can do to reduce their risk of getting breast cancer.”

It also doesn’t help that all of the aforementioned drugs come with side effects no one wants to experience.

Risk factors for breast cancer include: age, family history, unhealthy lifestyle, etc. 

Even though women are living longer and going through puberty earlier, they aren’t having their first pregnancy, on average, as early as women once did. Mothers are also reducing the amount of time that they breastfeed in addition to going through menopause later in life as well. These factors all increase the cancer-promoting hormones present in women’s bodies, which make them more prone to developing the disease as they age. 

Also: more women are consuming more alcohol, and that can have a disastrous effect on the body’s cancer-fighting properties.