October is breast cancer awareness month. Of course, for many American families, there's no need for a month to be designated to remember breast cancer. They're more than aware of the disease every day of the year, because they've been personally affected by it.
But while there's still way too much bad news about breast cancer, there's some good news, as well. The team at WalletHub pulled together a long list of facts and figures related to breast cancer in 2017. Here are 10 stunning numbers, most of them from their compilation, that you need to know about the second-most-common type of cancer.
An estimated 316,620 new cases of breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2017. To put that number in perspective, on average, one American woman will be diagnosed with breast cancer every two minutes. Around 12.4% of women in the U.S. develop breast cancer at some point in their lives.
This is the saddest number of all. Based on projections, 40,610 women in the U.S. will die this year from breast cancer. That translates to one death every 13 minutes.
For a woman with breast cancer who is between the ages of 18 and 44, the average annual healthcare cost will increase by $19,435. While for many, most of this cost will be paid by insurers, breast cancer adds to financial pressures on patients, also.
It's estimated that the total cost for treating breast cancer will reach $20.5 billion by 2020. That's up from $16.5 billion in 2010. And the total doesn't include productivity losses, which can add another $1.42 billion in costs each year.
Up to 10% of breast cancers can be linked to genetic mutations inherited from parents. Because of this genetic association, it's not surprising that 15% of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have a family member who either has, or has had it, also.
While the first five numbers weren't very uplifting, the numbers get more encouraging from this point forward. The risk of breast cancer can be lowered in many cases. Research has found up to a 25% decrease in risk of breast cancer for women who exercise regularly. Similarly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that maintaining a healthy weight can lower the risk of 13 types of cancer -- including postmenopausal breast cancer.
Around 90% of all women with invasive breast cancer survive for at least five years. The survival rate doesn't go down very much at the 10-year mark, with 83% of women surviving for at least that long. Those numbers still aren't high enough, of course, but the good news is that more women are surviving breast cancer than ever before.
One of the best numbers of all with respect to breast cancer in 2017 is that 99% of women with breast cancer that is diagnosed early -- before the cancer spreads -- survive for at least five years. Currently, however, only around six out of 10 breast cancer diagnoses are made prior to the cancer spreading to other parts of the body.
Breast cancer death rates decreased 38% between 1989 and 2014. Why such a dramatic drop? Increased awareness played a big role. Better screening was also very important -- note the previous statistic about great survival rates for women who were diagnosed early. And new treatments have come along that are much more effective than previous treatments.
That leads to our final number. According to the National Institute of Health's clinical trials database, there are 366 late-stage clinical studies underway right now targeting breast cancer. And that number doesn't tell the full story.
A couple of months ago, I wrote that Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY) had what I believed to be perhaps the most promising cancer drug in late-stage development with abemaciclib. In Lilly's clinical studies, combinations of abemaciclib with other therapies produced significant improvement in progression-free survival rates. Note the use of the past tense, though: Lilly won approval for the drug -- now branded as Verzenio -- in late September.
The 366 late-stage studies don't include just-approved drugs like Verzenio. That number also doesn't include mid-stage studies like one being conducted by small biotech Celldex Therapeutics (NASDAQ:CLDX). Celldex is evaluating glembatumumab vedotin (glemba) in phase 2 clinical trial for treating breast cancer. Results are expected in the first half of 2018. If all goes well, the company could submit glemba for U.S. approval based on the mid-stage study.
It's possible that drugs like Verzenio, glemba, and others in development, along with more and better early screening, could help make the numbers about breast cancer look much better in the years to come.