If you’ve been diagnosed with advanced breast cancer, you may be terrified for your life. However, a new study may show a silver lining. The National Cancer Institute reported that the number of women living with advanced breast cancer has grown in the US with improved survival among women of all ages.
Currently, more than 154,000 women in the United States are living with breast cancer that has metastasized. The Washington Post reported that the study looked at five-year survival rates among women with advanced breast cancer between 1992 and 1994 and compared those results to the survival rates between 2005 and 2012.
The survival rate among women with advanced breast cancer doubled from 18 percent to 36 percent. The survival rate grew from 22 or 23 months to almost 39 months.
Among women who are 50 to 64 years old the survival rate grew from 19 months to about 30 months. The researchers state that the increased survival rates among women with advanced breast cancer are due to better treatments.
One drug Herceptin came onto the scene in the late 1990s and is thought to extend lifespan of women with aggressive breast cancers.
Lead author Angela Mariotto of the National Cancer Institute stated that the study didn’t determine the cause of the longer lifespan among younger women. However, the researchers assume that more aggressive treatments were used among younger women.
“[Women] can and often do live for years with reasonable quality of life, albeit undergoing constant treatment to keep their disease under control,” the researchers said.
The research was published in the Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention journal and is the first of its kind to estimate the number of women living with advanced breast cancer in the United States. The scientists included women who had been initially diagnosed with advanced breast cancer and those who had cancer that grew into advanced stages.
“We’re getting better at tracking recurrences,” Dr. Lynne Penberthy of the National Cancer Institute told Forbes. “Our goal is to be able to monitor people from diagnosis to death, including each metastasis and recurrence, and not just for breast cancer. We want to do this for all cancer types.”
“Fortunately, people are living longer with metastatic cancer,” Penberthy said. “For breast cancer, there’s a large population to consider. This is the first time that we’ve been able to get some estimate. This is a population with significant medical and other needs.”
The advancements in breast cancer care have been significant in recent decades. However, preventing the disease is a better option all around. If you’d like to learn more about breast cancer prevention and clinical trials for a vaccine that could keep you cancer-free, click here.