Breast Cancer: What Women Should Know
On 27 October, it’s Pink Ribbon Day and since Breast Cancer is the most common cause of cancer-related death in women in Australia, we wanted to share with you some key facts about breast cancer in Australia.
The risk of breast cancer in young women is low, however young women can get breast cancer.
Although over 75% of cases of breast cancer develop in women 50 years and older, younger women can develop the disease. In addition, in younger women breast cancers are likely to be larger and more aggressive than in older women.
In Australia each year, about 700 women under the age of 40 years are diagnosed with breast cancer. Overall survival from breast cancer has increased in recent years. Our most recent data show that about 90% of women aged between 40 and 69 years at diagnosis will be alive after 5 years. However, for women younger than 40 years, survival is lower. Of younger women diagnosed with breast cancer, about 81.5% of those aged 20 to 29 years and 84.4% of those aged 30 to 39 years will be alive 5 years after diagnosis.
Facts for Women
- The present life expectancy of Australian women is 83 years. One in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 85.
- In Australia in 2002, a total of 12,027 women were diagnosed with breast cancer.
- The incidence rate of breast cancer in women rose from 80 cases per 100,000 females in 1983 to 117.3 cases per 100,000 females in 2002 – an average increase of 2.0 % per annum.
- The risk of breast cancer increases with age. About 24 per cent of new breast cancer cases diagnosed in 2002 were in women younger than 50 years; 50 per cent in women aged 50-69; and 26 per cent in women aged 70 and over.
- The increase in incidence in the 50-69 year old age group in 1993 and 1994 was most likely the result of the introduction of the national breast cancer screening program, given that this has been the main target age group.
- Breast cancer is the most common cause of cancer-related death in women in Australia.
- A total of 2,641 women died from breast cancer in Australia in 2004.
- From 1990 to 2004, the breast cancer mortality rate declined by an average of 2.0% per annum – from 31 deaths per 100,000 females to 23.4 deaths per 100,000 females.
- The 5-year relative survival rate for Australian women with breast cancer during 1998-2002 was 86.6 per cent, compared with 70.9 per cent in 1982-86. The 5-year relative survival rate represents the proportion of people who would survive 5 years after diagnosis with cancer if all other causes of death were excluded.
- It is estimated that in 2002 there were 114,000 women alive who had been diagnosed with breast cancer in the previous 20 years.
As there is currently no means of preventing breast cancer, the focus in reducing deaths from the disease has been on finding breast cancer as early as possible.
National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre recommends that all women from age of 50 have a regular mammogram.
National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre advises women to be aware of the normal look and feel of their breasts, and to see their doctor immediately should any unusual signs or symptoms occur.
Source: Breast Cancer in Australia: An Overview, 2006 (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and National Breast Cancer Centre).