NEW YORK--Public discussion has played a large part in the recent
declines in breast cancer mortality, say the sponsors of National
Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM), and they urge the media
to keep breast cancer on the public agenda.
At a press conference, the sponsors issued a statement that "despite
10 years of progress in early detection, treatment, and survival
of breast cancer, the difficulty in reaching elderly and underserved
women with important breast health messages remains a critical
From 1989 to 1993, the most recent 5-year period for which data
are available, the age-adjusted breast cancer mortality rate fell
approximately 6% in white women overall and rose about 1% overall
in black women. Dr. Smith noted that for some age groups of black
women, a decline in the death rate was observed for this period.
Furthermore, although the overall mortality rate is still rising
in black women, the rate of increase has declined dramatically
Several speakers at the briefing said that the trend was the sign
they had been waiting for that screenings, research, new treatments,
patient advocacy, self-help groups, and media coverage over the
past decade had begun to pay off.
Larry Norton, MD, chief of the breast cancer medical service,
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, said that when he heard
the news about the changes in the mortality rate, he felt like
his baseball team had won the pennant.
"It is important to get the message out that most people
who have early stage breast cancer are cured by modern treatment
methods and that there has been an explosion of knowledge about
breast cancer, more than we ever dreamed of," Dr. Norton
Increased participation in mammog-raphy screenings has played
a significant role in the modest mortality drop, said Robert Smith,
PhD, senior director of detection and treatment for the American
Cancer Society. "The rise in the numbers of women getting
mammograms underscores the profound positive impact that breast
cancer awareness programs have had on the disease," he said.