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One in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). While the leading risk factors are well known—older age, family history, mutations in certain genes—the most important risk factor for breast cancer is simply being a woman. The fact that any woman can develop breast cancer is one reason annual mammograms and clinical breast exams are so important; regular screening helps detect cancer early. As with every type of cancer, when breast cancer is discovered early, there are more treatment options available, survival rates are longer and the cure rate is higher.
Data from the NCI show consistent declines in both new cases and deaths from breast cancer since 1990. Further, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that from 2002 to 2011, the incidence of breast cancer among U.S. women did not increase, while mortality decreased 1.9 percent annually. What’s most notable about these data is that breast cancer mortality is decreasing faster than incidence—meaning that women with breast cancer are living longer. New technologies and improvements in existing treatments are likely contributing to the stronger numbers and improved quality of life for women with breast cancer.
For example, a new technology called the MarginProbe® System helps surgeons determine if cancer cells are present in the margins of tissue that has been removed. The technology is designed to reduce the rate of second surgeries following lumpectomy. Another innovation is designed to reduce radiation exposure to the heart for patients with cancer in their left breast. Before radiation treatments, the patients lie on their stomachs on the Access™ Prone 360 Breast Board, which has cutouts for the breasts. Because of gravity, the breasts naturally hang down below the board and away from the chest, providing a direct path for the radiation beam.