Breast cancer advances save 130,000 lives

Friday 4th October 2019

More than 130,000 breast cancer deaths have been avoided in the UK over the last 30 years because of testing and treatment advances.

Death rates for women with breast cancer have fallen by 44% since 1989, when just under 16,000 women lost their lives to the condition. Cancer Research UK is publishing the analysis to mark breast cancer awareness month.

While one in four cases are picked up through the national screening programme, most are diagnosed after women spot warning signs and go to their GP.

Devon mum-of-two Deborah Huggons, 62, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 after she felt a lump in her breast.

“I had no history of breast cancer in the family and my diagnosis had such an effect on me, my friends and family,” she said.

“I did not find chemotherapy easy, but I didn’t let it beat me. Early diagnosis is key and I really want to help get that message across; I’m very breast aware now and keen to help others.”

Ministers are currently reviewing Scotland’s breast screening programme, as figures show poorer Scots continue to be less likely to be diagnosed at earlier stages, which is key for effective treatment.

Improvements over the last three decades are also attributed to new drugs becoming available, more advanced surgical techniques and increasing use of radiotherapy.

But more than 50,000 new cases are diagnosed every year and the condition continues to claim more than 10,000 lives.

CRUK 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.

“Diagnosing cancer early can save lives. If you get to know what’s normal for your body, you’re more likely to notice if something changes and can raise any concerns with your doctor.”