Posted by Bill Sandweg on 11 April 2022.
There is never a good time to develop breast cancer but for women who have had the misfortune of being diagnosed with breast cancer, the treatment options have never been better than they are today. The statistics remain daunting, however, In 2021, over 280,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer. Almost 45,000 women died of breast cancer last year, many of whom had been fighting the disease for years.
Early detection and treatment are key to the improvement of outcomes. When breast cancer is still localized at the time of its diagnosis, the survival rate is almost 99%. Localized breast cancer means that it is still in the breast only. Treatment usually involves removal of the tumor and then adjuvant therapy.
If the cancer has spread outside the breast but no further than the local lymph nodes, the survival rates are around 86%. The treatment is more extensive for this stage, which is usually referred to as Stage III breast cancer. The surgeon will excise the tumor and sometimes even the whole breast as well as nearby lymph nodes in an attempt to assure that all of the cancer has been removed. Chemotherapy is common in the treatment of Stage III breast cancer.
The poorest prognosis is associated with breast cancers that have spread beyond the breast and into structures such as the brain, the bones or the vital organs. Survival rates at this stage, Stage IV, are only around 28%,
An additional factor in survival is the type of breast cancer and whether it is estrogen or progesterone receptor positive or not. If the cancer is negative for these receptors, the cancer is much more aggressive and more difficult to treat. It spreads its cells earlier in the process and has poorer survival rates, even when detected early.
In my law practice, I see breast cancer patients from time to time. Fortunately for my clients, as breast cancer treatment has become more successful, fewer and fewer women are being harmed by delays in diagnosis. It is not that there are no more diagnostic misses. In spite of the best intentions of physicians, those remain fairly constant. The good news is that, even when there has been a miss and a delay in treatment, the woman still gets a good outcome. If a patient gets a good outcome, even if there has been a delay, it is very difficult to get a jury to find in her favor so I have a hard time accepting those cases.
The message of all this is clear. Do your part to detect breast cancer early. Self-examination is the first step. Regular check ups and routine mammograms are essential. Keep those statistics improving.