Breast Cancer, 1971-91:

Prevention, Treatment, and Research

PEMD-92-12: Published: Dec 11, 1991. Publicly Released: Dec 11, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the progress in the prevention and treatment of breast cancer, focusing on what kinds of research were needed to help prevent breast cancer and improve survival rates.

GAO found that: (1) the number of American women diagnosed with breast cancer increases each year, between fiscal year (FY) 1973 and FY 1988 the estimated number of new cases of breast cancer diagnosed grew from 73,000 to 135,000; (2) although more and more women are dying from breast cancer, the adjusted mortality rate has remained relatively constant since FY 1973; (3) the detection, diagnosis, and treatment of breast cancer has improved, since the availability of mammography; (4) based on data from the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program, the average size of breast cancer tumors steadily decreased between FY 1977 and FY 1987; (5) the 5-year survival rate for breast cancer patients diagnosed during the period between FY 1981 and FY 1983 was 77 percent, whereas 74.1 percent of the patients diagnosed during the period between FY 1974 and FY 1976 period survived for at least 5 years; (6) although there has been little in the way of facts, evidence, or hard data to support what can be done to improve breast cancer survival rates, a breast cancer patient today has a higher probability of 5-year survival than a patient 20 years ago; (7) it is unlikely that prevention efforts will reduce the incidence of breast cancer, since such identified risk factors as age and heredity can not be changed; and (8) research expenditures for breast cancer are equivalent to or greater than expenditures for other selected conditions.

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