New breast cancer study highlights room for more improvement

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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – A new breast cancer study published by the American Cancer Society highlights positive, and some troubling, statistics about the disease.

Overall, the trend for survival after diagnosis is good. Researchers found between 1989 and 2015, mortality rates stemming from breast cancer dropped by 39 percent.

Doctors believe one big reason for this is the improvements in screening.

“Most breast cancers that we see and that we find have had absolutely no symptoms at all. They don’t hurt, you don’t feel anything,” said Dr. Bruce Schroeder with Carolina Breast Imaging.

Rhonda DeBruhl credits accuracy in mammogram screenings for saving her life.

“I’m blessed to live in an area with some wonderful doctors and facilities,” DeBruhl said, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer in 2015.

But the findings of the study weren’t all positive.

They continued to shed light on the survival rate differences between African American women and white women.

In some states, the difference was large. North Carolina ranked 11th worst in the country for the ratio of black deaths versus white deaths with regards to breast cancer.

Other states, mainly in the north, had no statistical differences between mortality rates of white and black women. Dr. Schroeder said that means race shouldn’t be looked at as a determining factor of breast cancer survival rates.

“What else is going on that’s not genetic,” he said. “It’s nothing about being African American that makes the risk.”

Most states with a higher black to white death rate were in the South. Dr. Schroeder believes things like diet and access to care in those areas could play a big role in the study’s findings.

To read the full study, click here.

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