The mortality rate from breast cancer for Israeli Jewish women fell 25 percent from 2005 to 2015, the Health Ministry and the Israel Cancer Association said Tuesday.
The improvement was attributed to an increase in awareness of early detection, greater use of mammography and of genetic testing for mutations associated with an increased risk for the disease, as well as advances in medical treatment.
But among Arab women in Israel the death rate from breast cancer rose 1 percent from 1995 to 2015. This increase reflects a growing incidence of the disease among Arab women, which is seen as linked to lifestyle changes and increased testing for early detection of the disease.
“In 2015 invasive breast cancer made up a third of cases of invasive tumors suffered by women, and 4,846 new cases were diagnosed,” said Prof. Lital Keinan-Boker, deputy director of the ministry’s Israel Center for Disease Control. That year, 663 women were diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ, a noninvasive cancer whose cells are confined to the lining of the milk ducts. This condition accounts for 13 percent of all diagnoses of breast cancer in women. Around 1,000 women in Israel died of invasive breast cancer, the most deadly form of cancer for women, in 2015.
“This is a difficult and common illness but the picture isn’t black, and is constantly improving,” Keinan-Boker said, “as a result of two trends: early detection and more effective treatments.”
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In 1995 the mortality rate from invasive breast cancer exceeded 27 per 100,000 women among Jewish women in Israel. The figure declined to 20.2 in 2005 and 15.7 per in 2015. For Arab women in Israel the mortality rate was 13.6 per 100,000 in 2005, rising to 16.3 in 2015.
A total of 22,481 women diagnosed with breast cancer live in Israel today. Seventy-eight percent of newly diagnosed women are above the age of 50. Israel ranks eighth in the rate of recovery and survival from breast cancer among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development member states, at 89.7 % for Jewish women and 84.4% for Arab women.
In the 1990s scans for the early detection of breast cancer became common in Israel, at the cancer association’s initiative. The program is intended for women aged 50 to 74 whose risk of the disease is normal. A routine mammogram every two years is recommended for them, while an annual mammogram is recommended from age 40 for women considered to be at increased risk for breast cancer.
While in 2005 only 58 percent of new breast cancer diagnoses were in the early stage of the disease, in 2015 this figure reached 64 percent. In 2015, the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes before it was detected in 33 percent of the women who were diagnosed, compared to 38 percent in 2005. Only 2.6 percent had an advanced stage at the time of diagnosis in 2015, compared to 3.6 percent in 2005.
Breast cancer accounts for 15 percent of all deaths from cancer for women, according to OECD figures. In 2015 the mortality rate from breast cancer in Israel was above the OECD average, in eighth place, after Ireland, Iceland, Hungary, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium and Slovenia. But in Israel, as in most OECD member states, that rate has been falling. The rate of mammography screening in Israel among women from 50 to 69 in the past two years is 71 percent, compared to an OECD average of 60.8 percent.
“Currently the most efficient way to fight breast cancer is early detection,” said Miri Ziv, the director general of the Israel Cancer Association. “As early as the disease can be detected, the chances of recovery are 90 percent and higher. I call on all women to take responsibility for their health and adopt a healthy lifestyle which has been scientifically proven to significantly reduce the chances of contracting the disease. At the same time, be examined according to age-specific instructions and be aware of your body and its normal state so that if any changes occur, it’s important to immediately see a doctor and insist on a diagnosis.”