Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed malignancy among women and, after lung cancer, the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in North America. Yet unlike the survival rate for individuals diagnosed with lung cancer, the rate for women diagnosed with breast cancer has been rising dramatically over the past decade—to the point where breast cancer could soon lose its ranking as the second-greatest cancer killer. Nothing would delight clinicians like us more.
This improvement in overall outlook for women diagnosed with breast cancer is attributable in part to earlier detection, which results from greater awareness of, and access to, regular breast screening. But breast cancer patients are also benefiting from accelerated research that has led to a much better understanding of the disease and a wider variety of treatment choices that doctors can mix and match to tailor therapy for a particular patient. In just the past decade, it has even become possible to target drugs to specific molecules within tumors that help to drive the disease.