Decrease in breast cancer deaths

For years, breast cancer has been one of the top causes of death among women. Breast cancer still needs a lot of attention and research to combat it, but thanks to improving treatments, researchers expect to see the number of breast cancer deaths in Europe fall by 9% in 2012. That’s positive news. But (breast) cancer still needs a lot of attention and research.

Breast cancer as a cause of death

Breast cancer has been one of the top causes of death among women for many years. Breast cancer still needs a lot of attention and research to combat it, but thanks to improving treatments, researchers expect to see the number of breast cancer deaths in Europe fall by 9% in 2012. That is the outcome of an investigation. Professor Carlo La Vecchia from the University of Milan indicates in the journal Annals of Oncology that the number of deaths in women in the age group 20 to 49 years is as high as 13%. That is very positive news!

What is breast cancer

The human body is made up of billions of cells. The body is constantly creating new cells to take the place of damaged or outdated cells or to grow. One cell produces two separate cells, and these can also split into two separate cells, and so on. This development is called cell division. This process continues and the body produces many millions of new cells every day.
Cancer is characterized by disturbed cell division. In other words, something is not going well in the process described earlier. This can be in a specific place in the body; in breast cancer it concerns the breast tissue; this can be just as true for men as for women. For example, with disturbed cell division, a cell does not divide into two but more cells. Or does a cell continue to divide. Disrupted tumor cells initially use milk ducts and gland lobes to move. When the tumor cells connect with each other, they end up in the breast tissue. They destroy the tissue, or push it aside. In that case it is referred to as a growth or tumor. The problem is already bigger. If the disrupted cells then enter the lymphatic vessels and blood vessels, they are referred to as metastases.
The disrupted cells, the tumor cells, can be benign. This means that they do cause swelling, a lump, but the cells do not move further through the tissue. Annoying, but good news for bad news . If the disrupted cells are malignant, they grow into everything they encounter. They will spread, and if they also divide, a malignant swelling will occur. That’s called a carcinoma.

Breast cancer and heredity

A lot is already known about breast cancer. But much more research needs to be done to eradicate the nasty disease. One of the studies focuses on heredity and breast cancer. This research is known as the HEBON study. HEBON is a national study among families where breast cancer (and ovarian cancer) is common. Hebon is a merger of HEreditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Research Netherlands. This involves a collaboration between all Clinical Genetics/Family Tumors departments in the Netherlands, involving many disciplines. All University Medical Centers and the Dutch Cancer Institute are involved in the implementation of the research. The objectives of the research are:

  • better risk assessment;
  • better information about hereditary and non-hereditary causes;
  • more insight into the long-term effects of preventive interventions;
  • better coordination of cancer treatment with hereditary predisposition.


Breast conserving operations

When a breast cancer diagnosis has been made, a woman has many thoughts. A very unpleasant moment in the woman’s life. There has long been a debate about which is better: amputation of the breast or breast-conserving surgery. Amputating the breast or breasts has not only physical, but also psychological consequences.
This article does not discuss better or worse, that will differ from case to case. It is possible to discuss whether one is safer than the other. This has been done after 22 years of research led by the Netherlands Cancer Institute-Antonie van Leeuwenhoek Hospital. The conclusion of the study is that breast-sparing operations in women with breast cancer are just as safe as mastectomies. The chances of survival for both types of surgery are exactly the same and in most cases of breast cancer it is therefore not necessary to remove one or both breasts.

Cancer in general is becoming less fatal

Cancer in general is becoming less and less fatal. The figures support this statement: in 2012, 139 per 100,000 men (0.139%) still die from the disease. For comparison: that is 10% less than in 2007. Among women this is 85 per 100,000 (0.085%). And that is a decrease of 7% compared to 2007. The increase in lung cancer among women is worrying, while lung cancer among men is actually decreasing. Pancreatic cancer is also increasing among both men and women. This could be linked to the growing number of overweight people. Another reason could be that better diagnoses can be made than before. This means that an unpleasant diagnosis is found more often, but also means that fewer indeterminate diagnoses are made.

Attention to breast cancer

As mentioned earlier, science is learning more and more about (breast) cancer. And with this we come step by step closer to eradicating this terrible disease. A lot of money is needed for this research. That is precisely why it is important that the media continues to pay a lot of attention to cancer research. And that there are organizations that are committed to research and sharing information. Pink Ribbon, World Cancer Research Fund (WKOF), KWF Kankerbestrijding, National Fund against Cancer, and many other organizations are committed to fighting cancer.

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