NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - While the number of women living longer with breast cancer has improved significantly over the past four decades, the number of women diagnosed remains high.
In 1975, the 5-year survival rate for women was about 75 percent. Today it's over 90 percent.
This year it's estimated over 252,710 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. About 40,610 women will die from breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.
New treatments have led to an increase in the number of survivors.
"Fortunately, advancements are constantly happening in the breast cancer world," said Dr. Lindsey Prochaska, an oncologist and breast cancer specialist at New Hanover Regional Medical Center. "I think the targeted therapies I would say are the most promising and the biggest advancements at this point. Everything since Herceptin back in '98 (1998) that was really targeted to the HER2 receptor itself was a huge advancement and that continues to happen in other breast cancer types as well."
Screening remains vitally important but recommendations on looking for breast cancer has changed.
After years of encouraging women to check their breast for lumps, the American Cancer Society and other top health organizations no longer recommend regular breast self-exams citing unnecessary biopsies as the main reason.
The ACS says women should have the option to have a mammogram starting at 40 years old, but the organization does not recommend a yearly screening until 45.
Prochaska believes women should start getting mammograms before 45.
"Personally, I still recommend getting them at age 40 and getting them annually from then on," she said. "Some guidelines are even saying you can get them at age 50. As an oncologist, we feel starting them at age 40 is probably the best."
If you would like a Plaid Pack, sponsored by New Hanover Regional Medical Center, go to wect.com and click on Plaid Pack under the Health section. The packets contain information about all different types of cancers.