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Early breast cancer diagnosis could save 1,000 lives

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A total of 957 deaths from advanced breast cancer could be avoided each year in England if its early diagnosis rates matched those in Norway and Sweden, research has shown.

In comparison with Norway and Sweden, the excess death rate in England “was particularly pronounced in the first month and in the first year after diagnosis, and generally more marked in the oldest age groups,” researchers found.

Compared with Norwegian patients, 81% of avoidable deaths in English patients occurred in the first two years after diagnosis.

“Our findings emphasise the importance of awareness of symptoms and early detection as the main strategy to improve breast cancer survival in the UK,” Professor Henrik Moller, lead author on the study, from King’s College London, said.

They looked at breast cancer cases for women diagnosed between 1996 and 2004 from the three countries.This included 303,657 English cases, 24,919 Norwegian cases, and 57,512 cases from Sweden.

The experts said that when breast cancer is caught early, treatment is often milder and more effective. So poor survival rates in the first year or so after diagnosis highlights the issue of late diagnosis.

Every year in England, there are 1,183 avoidable deaths from breast cancer within five years of diagnosis. Of these, 260 occur within a month of diagnosis, 557 between a month and a year after diagnosis and 140 after a year - but before two years - since diagnosis.

Professor Sir Mike Richards, the Government’s national cancer director, said: “Over the coming months we shall be looking at what needs to be done to achieve earlier diagnosis.”

 

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Readers' comments (2)

  • I'm too scared to go to my GP as one breast is bigger than the other. It's always been like that and I had a mamogram twenty years' ago. A pea size lump was detected, but I was told that there wasn't a problem - how they could tell just by touch I don't know. I now know more and am dreading going to any healthcare profressional. I am due for a mamogram next year.

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  • in response to the anonymous writer who is afraid to go to any health care professional Please go the earlier the better i speak from experience the worst thing to do is nothing , like many cancers, breast cancer can be treated but early detection is vital i have had treatment for this disease, surgery, chemo & radiotherapy its a long haul but there is a light at the end of the tunnel& yes i was scared With breast cancer in the west on the increase anyone with the slightest change in breast tissue should be seen by a specialist & not just a GP regular check ups are a neccessity it may be there is nothing abnormal there but better to act than to do nothing & wish you had

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