National Breast Cancer Coalition

Truth #21


Breast cancer awareness campaigns
have helped move the disease from behind
closed doors but have not had a significant impact
on the incidence of Stage 4 disease or on mortality.

Breast cancer continues to take a toll in the US and globally despite significant attention and resources directed at the disease. Billions of dollars have been invested in breast cancer research in our country over the past 20 years, and many organizations and public health officials continue to focus attention on early detection and awareness campaigns as the primary approach to addressing the disease. Awareness campaigns continue to grow each year, and younger and younger girls are encouraged to think about the disease despite the extremely rare incidence among this age group.

Many advocacy groups and organizations continue to run programs in the name of breast cancer prevention—defined as mammography screenings and breast self-examinations (BSEs). However, prevention does not mean mammograms and BSEs. Prevention is stopping breast cancer before it develops. As a result of awareness campaigns promoting mammography, the incidence of DCIS has increased and resulted in overtreatment for many women, without a concurrent decrease in the incidence of later stage diagnoses. The incidence of Stage 4 breast cancer disease has not changed since 1975. And about 40,000 women still die of the disease each year in the US.