It seems everyone knows a woman who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. And no wonder. Among women in the United States, breast cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosis (after skin cancer) and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths (after lung cancer).
In 2015, more than 231,000 women in the U.S. are expected to be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. About 60,000 more will be diagnosed with non-invasive breast cancer (cells that are abnormal but have not invaded nearby tissues, also known as carcinoma in situ). More than 40,000 women will die of breast cancer this year.
The good news is there have been some notable decreases in diagnoses in recent years. The American Cancer Society found that from 2002 to 2003, there was a drop in new cases of close to 7 percent, most likely due to fewer women using hormones to address symptoms of menopause. Death rates, too, have declined. Since 1989, they have steadily dropped, due to better detection and treatment.
One more bit of good news: when breast cancer is diagnosed at a localized stage (before it has spread to lymph nodes, nearby structures or other places outside the breast), the 5-year survival rate is 99 percent.