Incidence of breast cancer

I have just been reading about cancer on the cancer uk website and was shocked to see it said that half of people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer at some point. So I thought I’d look at breast cancer and how common it is as a cause of death. Nothing like something miserable to start the year with, especially when you want to raise money, so thanks Cancer Research Uk. These seem to be the latest stats for breast cancer mortality they have on their website. 

I don’t think the number of deaths has changed much in the last twenty to thirty years. More people are being diagnosed though. When I was first diagnosed (2003) roughly 12,000 women died of breast cancer a year. 

Latest CRUK stats

  • There are around 11,500 breast cancer deaths in the UK every year, that’s 32 every day (2017-2019).
  • Breast cancer is the 4th most common cause of cancer death in the UK, accounting for 7% of all cancer deaths (2017-2019).
  • In females in the UK, breast cancer is the 2nd most common cause of cancer death, with around 11,400 deaths every year (2017-2019).
  • In males in the UK, breast cancer is not among the 20 most common causes of cancer death, with around 85 deaths every year (2017-2019).
  • Mortality rates for breast cancer in the UK are highest in people aged 90+ (2017-2019).
  • Each year almost half of all breast cancer deaths (48%) in the UK are in people aged 75 and over (2017-2019).
  • Since the early 1970s, breast cancer mortality rates have decreased by around two-fifths (41%) in the UK. Rates in females have decreased by almost two-fifths (37%), and rates in males have decreased by more than two-fifths (44%) (2017-2019).
  • Over the last decade, breast cancer mortality rates have decreased by around a sixth (18%) in the UK. Rates in females have decreased by almost a sixth (16%), and rates in males have remained stable (2017-2019).
  • Mortality rates for breast cancer are generally lower in females of non-White minority ethnicity, compared with the White ethnic group, in England and Wales (2017-2019). See the publication Mortality from leading causes of death by ethnic group, England and Wales.(link is external)
  • Mortality rates for breast cancer are projected to fall by 26% in the UK between 2014 and 2035, to 31 deaths per 100,000 females by 2035.
  • Breast cancer deaths in England are more common in females living in the most deprived areas. There is no association for males.

Well, Seagulls, that’s cheerful but interesting reading for the start of the year. I wonder why you focus on mortality rates? There have been huge areas of progress in survival rates over the past decade or so with patients living longer lives after diagnosis and treatment and living NEAD. Yes, the cancer may still be there for some but patients may live as though it’s not. Writing the data in terms of increased survival rates surely would make more comfortable reading?

18% does not look like significant progress but it’s 18% on top of the existing figure so it’s even better. However it’s just statistics and, as I repeatedly stress, we are not statistics. We are each individuals with no idea how our bodies will respond. I have the double whammy of being Stage 4 and being triple negative. The statistical prognosis from diagnosis to death is 9-13 months. Yet, 21 months on from diagnosis, I am still here, baffling my oncologist as my TNBC is not behaving as it ‘should’, and doing well on my first line treatment. Had I asked for a prognosis, I’m pretty sure depression would have led to its fulfilment. I lived in blissful ignorance for a year before I began to read more about TN. 

I do believe that the valuable research you’ve done could be converted into an even happier picture for forum members by focusing on the data relating to surviving or living with the condition. It’s not hiding from the fact that death may be an outcome but changing the focus and thereby changing people’s perceptions of the disease. A killer yes, but so is heart disease and worst of all is dementia, not necessarily age-related.

Sorry if I’ve rained on your parade, so to speak, but I feel strongly that the perception of breast cancer should be no more death-focused than other health conditions. Yet is has been for decades : ‘if you get breast cancer, it is likely you will die’. That is no longer anywhere near the truth for most women. We need to focus on survival, living well in spite of the condition. But that’s only a personal view, which I assume/hope I’ll be able to reiterate 12 months from now xx