With advances in private oncology and more widespread screening programmes, more people are being tested for cancer than ever before, people are being diagnosed earlier and their chances of survival are significantly higher.
According to a long-term study published by the British Medical Journal, the risk of death within five years of being diagnosed with breast cancer has reduced by over two-thirds over the past 20 years, from 14.4 per cent to 4.9 per cent.
Moreover, for the vast majority of people who are diagnosed early and thus have a relatively low-grade HER2-negative tumour, that chance plummets to just 0.2 per cent, providing hope for so many more women who have been diagnosed.
The paper is the first long-term cancer study of its type that has an extended follow-up period, and is not only positive news in its own right, but can be used as an accurate tool for cancer prognosis.
Here are just some of the reasons why people diagnosed with cancer are living longer lives and are more likely to live longer.
Wider Breast Screening Programmes
The paper compares survival rates from 1993 to 1998 and from 2010 to 2015 in terms of survival rates after five years, and in that intervening time, a lot has changed in the world of oncology, but arguably the biggest shift is in more proactive approaches to screening and greater education of the signs of cancer.
The earlier a cancerous lesion or tumour is discovered, the easier it is to treat and the greater the long-term outcomes, so a wider screening programme will allow more people to start treatment earlier and be cancer-free as a result.
Improved Radiotherapy Treatments
Radiotherapy has been an option for people with cancer for decades, but advances in both technology and methodological approaches have meant that there are far more effective treatments which can be undertaken with fewer side effects.
Treatments such as intrabeam radiotherapy, which uses low-energy radiation to directly target a tumour bed during breast cancer surgery, are highly effective and provide greater options for patients.
Not only are these treatments more effective but they are also more widely available for patients, ensuring they can receive potentially lifesaving or life-prolonging treatment when previously it was not an option.
Greater Range Of Cancer Drugs
Besides a greater range of chemotherapy drugs that can help remove any traces of cancer from the body, there are also a wider variety of medical treatments available, including targeted therapies that can fundamentally stop cancer cells from spreading and growing.
In 1993, few target therapies were known of, even fewer were available and none had been approved for use on the NHS at that point until the more widespread approval of imatinib in the early 2000s.
Whilst not every type of cancer can currently be treated through targeted therapy, each year brings with it a greater array of cancer treatments and with that a renewed hope that more people with breast cancer can have as broad a range of treatment options as possible.