Harvard Women's Health Watch

Advances in early-stage breast cancer treatment

Advances in early-stage breast cancer treatment

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Here's a progress report on new advances.

Two decades of increased education and awareness about breast cancer seem to be working. The number of women getting mammograms "" the best chance for early detection "" has more than doubled since the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month campaign began in the early 1980s. Concurrently, our knowledge of breast cancer has become far more sophisticated.

Advances in treatment are transforming the face of the disease. Not only has the death rate dropped and survival time lengthened; treatment options are now more numerous, less disfiguring, and less toxic. Women with breast cancer are being viewed differently, too, thanks to years of advocacy that have transformed the doctor/patient relationship. Whereas newly diagnosed women might once have had their treatment dictated by a surgeon or oncologist, they are now likely to be asked to take the lead in determining its course. And although the goal of treatment is still the same "" to eradicate the existing disease and reduce the risk that it will recur "" there is an increasing array of options for therapy.

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