A growing number of women now able to survive early breast cancer

The majority of women with early breast cancer are now surviving the disease, according to experts. This is due to the vast advancements in treatment over the past few years.

It is estimated that their risk of dying within five years of diagnosis is approximately 5%, down from 14% in the 1990s. Cancer Research UK states that this provides "reassurance" to a large number of women, but warns that more highly-trained personnel is required to meet rising demand.

The English National Health Service (NHS) employment plan has been repeatedly delayed. According to government ministers, this workforce strategy is forthcoming.

After detecting an enlargement under one arm in 2002, Mairead MacKenzie, 69, of Surrey, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She recalls feeling terrified because she had no idea of her chances of survival. Within days of seeing her physician, Mairead began chemotherapy, a drug-based treatment that kills cancer cells.

This was followed by a mastectomy (removal of one breast), breast reconstruction, and radiotherapy, followed by seven years of tamoxifen treatment to reduce the likelihood of the cancer returning. "It felt like they were throwing the book at me," she explains. Mairead is now a member of a patient-advocacy group that assists scientists in comprehending the patient experience.

She is thankful for the care she received, as well as the gardening, walking, and traveling she has been able to do in the years since. "Good, clear communication about prognosis can make a significant difference in a patient's quality of life and ability to cope," says Mairead.

In the 1990s, 2000s, and between 2010 and 2015, more than half a million women with early, invasive breast cancer (mostly stages one and two) were diagnosed. It was discovered that the prognosis for nearly all women has significantly improved since the 1990s, with the majority becoming long-term cancer survivors.

Based on these trends, the researchers behind the study conducted by Oxford University assert that the risk for women diagnosed today is significantly reduced. Prof. Carolyn Taylor, an oncologist and primary researcher, states, "This is encouraging news for clinicians and patients."

Two-thirds of recently diagnosed women had a five-year risk of mortality from breast cancer of less than 3%, while the risk was 20% or higher for one in twenty women. Age, type of breast cancer, and underlying health are among the variables that affect prognosis. Chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and endocrine therapy can reduce the risk of dying in the long term if these therapies are administered after surgery fails to eradicate the disease.

Prof. Taylor asserts that more women are undergoing cancer screenings than twenty years ago, and that awareness of the symptoms has increased. In time, researchers will examine the survival rates of patients diagnosed during the Covid pandemic; however, there is currently no data available on this topic.

Naser Turabi, director of evidence and implementation at Cancer Research UK, describes Covid as "very disruptive" but concedes that "we were already on a downward trend before the pandemic." Now, however, diagnostic and treatment delays and extremely fragile services are the norm.