This year's site study: Breast cancer

Pablo BedanoOn behalf of our cancer committee, I am pleased to present to you Community Health Network's 2011 annual report on cancer care services. Our cancer committee is a multidisciplinary group—including physicians, nurses, administrators and social workers—committed to assessing and overseeing the care of cancer patients within Community Health Network. At a national level, our committee operates in liaison with the American College of Surgeons to monitor cancer patients' care and treatment.

Community hospitals voluntarily participate in the approvals program of the American College of Surgeons. This program provides a model for successful cancer programs and establishes performance measures for high-quality cancer care. The goal of Community Health Network and the American College of Surgeons is to decrease cancer morbidity and mortality through prevention, education and monitoring of cancer patients and their care. The cancer committee monitors cancer conferences in our system, and oversees and guides the cancer registry.

Cancer conferences are multidisciplinary and are attended by surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, radiologists, pathologists and other sub-specialists. Cancer conferences are held at various times and locations throughout the network, and provide an educational forum for case consultation and discussion. The cancer registry collects and analyzes data on the care of our cancer patients and follows these patients throughout their lifetime.

The subject of this year's report is breast cancer. This year, an estimated 230,480 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, and 57,650 women will be diagnosed with in situ breast cancer in the United States. Approximately 2,140 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer. There will be an estimated 39,970 deaths from breast cancer this year.

If the cancer is limited to the breast at the time of diagnosis, the five-year survival rate (percentage of people who are alive at five years) is 98 percent. If the cancer has spread to the regional lymph nodes, the survival rate is 84 percent, and this decreases to 23 percent if the cancer has spread to distant sites. About 5 percent of people are found to have distant spread (metastases) at time of diagnosis.

There have been steady improvements in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer at every stage, which have led to a progressive improvement on survival. In women younger than 50, there has been a decrease in mortality of around 3 percent a year since 1990; in women older than 50, the decrease in mortality has been 2 percent per year. Currently, there are more than two and a half million women living in the United States who have been diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer.

In this report, physicians from our network will review recent advances in the care of patients with breast cancer, as well as strategies for early detection and identification of women who may have a genetic predisposition of developing breast cancer. It is our hope that this information will be useful to our patients who are currently living with this disease, as well as the family members and friends who support them.

I sincerely thank you for your interest in our program and for your support of our network. I hope you find our annual report helpful and informative.

—Pablo M. Bedano, M.D., M.S.
Chairman, Cancer Committee