Research advances over the past two decades have changed the landscape of breast cancer care. Genetic testing, targeted treatments and more precise surgical techniques have helped boost survival rates in some cases while helping to support breast cancer patients' quality of life.
One in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). While the leading risk factors are well known—older age, family history, obesity—the most important risk factor for breast cancer is simply being a woman. The fact that any woman may develop breast cancer is one reason annual mammograms and clinical breast exams are so important; regular screening may help detect cancer early. As with every type of cancer, when breast cancer is discovered early, there are more treatment options available, survival rates are longer and the outcomes are typically better.
Data from the NCI show consistent declines in both new cases and deaths from breast cancer since 1990. Further, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that from 2002 to 2011, the incidence of breast cancer among U.S. women did not increase, while mortality decreased 1.9 percent annually. What's most notable about these statistics is that breast cancer mortality is decreasing faster than incidence—meaning that women with breast cancer are living longer. New technologies and improvements in existing treatments are likely contributing to the stronger numbers and improved quality of life for women with breast cancer.
For example, oncoplastic surgery. Oncoplastic reconstruction serves two purposes: removing the cancer while reconstructing the breasts so they look and feel natural. Immediate reconstruction is not an option for everyone with breast cancer, including patients who undergo full mastectomies that remove all their breast tissue. Despite the potential impact oncoplastic reconstruction may have on patients’ self-esteem and quality of life, lots of breast cancer patients have never heard of the options.
Continued refinements in breast-conserving and reconstructive oncoplastic surgery techniques are also adding to the array of advanced treatment technologies available today. Those options include two types of surgery that go beyond non-invasive options to treat lymphedema, a common side effect of breast cancer. In addition, 3D nipple tattooing along with reconstruction after a mastectomy help offer a sense of depth and detail to the newly reconstructed breast.