More breast cancer cases, but early detection and improved treatment lead to fewer deaths

More women are being diagnosed with breast cancer than ever before, but death rates continue to fall, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) and National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre (NBOCC).

The report, Breast cancer in Australia: an overview, 2009, was launched at NBOCC's Pink Ribbon Breakfast in Sydney to mark Australia's Breast Cancer Day.
In 2006, over 12,600 women were diagnosed with breast cancer, the largest number of new cases recorded in any year to date.

'To put that into context, on an average day in 2006, 35 Australian women were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer,' said Dr Adriana Vanden Heuvel of the AIHW's Cancer and Screening Unit.

'It is anticipated that the number of new cases in Australia will continue to rise so that by 2015, an average of 42 women every day will be told they have breast cancer-over 15,000 women in total for the year,' said Dr Helen Zorbas, CEO of NBOCC.

According to the report, 1 in 9 Australian women will develop breast cancer and 1 in 38 women will die from the disease before the age of 85.

'Although the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer has more than doubled in the past 25 years, largely due to a growing and ageing population, improved survival rates give increasing hope to women diagnosed today,' Dr Zorbas said.

'Between 1994 and 2006 the death rate from breast cancer fell by 27%. This is the lowest recorded rate in the 25 years covered in the report,' Dr Vanden Heuvel said.

In addition to declining death rates, the percentage of women living for at least 5 years after diagnosis is continuing to improve.

Most (88%) women diagnosed with breast cancer between 2000 and 2006 will likely live for at least five years after diagnosis. This compares with 73% of those diagnosed between 1982 and 1987.

Despite these gains, the report shows some disparities in outcomes, with survival rates varying by age, geographical location, Indigenous status and socioeconomic status.

'For example, 90% of women with breast cancer living in areas with the highest socioeconomic status will be alive five years after their diagnosis, compared with 86%of women living in areas with the lowest socioeconomic status,' Dr Zorbas said.

The available information also suggests that although Indigenous women were significantly less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than non-Indigenous women, among those Indigenous women diagnosed, survival was poorer than for non-Indigenous women.


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