Number of Israelis with untreatable breast cancer drops significantly

Science and Health

There has been a drop in the number of Israelis diagnosed with breast cancer and an increase in the percentage of those diagnosed at an early stage, according to Health Ministry statistics covering 2020, when the statistics were collected. In 2020, 5,384 Israelis were diagnosed with a breast tumor. About one in 100 cases occur in men.

Between the years 1996 to 2020, there was a significant decrease in mortality trends from invasive breast cancer among Jewish and other women, along with stability among Arab women.  Israel is in 26th place in the world in the incidence rate of the disease and in 71st place in the death rate from it – an improvement in the death rate compared to the previous year.

Much of the credit can go to the Israel Cancer Association’s campaign for mammography and easy access to examinations, thanks to the National Health Insurance System that provides good care to all Israelis via the four public health funds.

One of the parameters for the effectiveness of a screening program is an increase in the proportion of women who are diagnosed at an early stage of the disease.

According to the data, there was a decrease in 2020 in the number of women diagnosed with a breast tumor, with 5,384 women diagnosed in 2020, compared to 5,539 women diagnosed in 2019 even though the population is growing and aging.  Fully 87.8% were diagnosed with an invasive tumor and 12.2% with a localized tumor.

A woman undergoes a free mammogram inside Peru’s first mobile unit for breast cancer detection, in Lima (credit: REUTERS/ENRIQUE CASTRO-MENDIVIL)

In 2020, 53 men were diagnosed with breast cancer, the vast majority (91%) over the age of 50.

According to the data, the percentage of women diagnosed at an early stage increased in 2020 compared to the year before. In 2020, 71% of all new patients were diagnosed with early-stage disease (targeted or local penetration only) compared to 68.7% in 2019.

In a global comparison, Israel ranks 26th in the incidence rate of breast cancer. In relation to mortality rates, Israel is in 71st place, this is an improvement compared to the year 2019, in which Israel was in 69th place in the world in mortality rates from breast cancer. It is important to note that the rate of morbidity and mortality in Israel is very low compared to the rest of the world.

In women, invasive breast cancer in 2020 accounted for about a third of new cancer diagnoses and is the most common of the types of cancer over the years. In this year, 4,696 women were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer (some with cancer with local penetration only). Invasive breast cancer (a tumor that has gone beyond the tissue of its origin and spread to other areas of the body)

Similar to the previous years, of the women diagnosed in 2020, 90% were Jewish and other women and 10% Arab (non-Arab Christians and those without religious classification) when there was a stabilization among Arab women. Between the years 2016-2020, there was a distinct annual decrease of 3.2 % in the incidence of invasive breast cancer among Jewish and other women.

The average age at diagnosis in 2020 among Jewish and other women was 62.3 and 54.5 among Arab women. In most age groups, the rate of diagnosis of the disease among Jewish women is higher than among Arab women, probably also due to the more widespread use of screening tests to detect the disease.

Breast cancer survival rates differ vastly

The five-year survival rate from breast cancer among women diagnosed between 2009 to 2015 is high: 89.4% among Jewish women and 84.3% among Arab women. This is an increase in the survival rate compared to the years 1996-2001, when the survival rates were 84.4% among Jewish women and 74% among Arab women.

About a fifth of all cancer deaths in women are as a result of invasive breast cancer. In 2020, 1,060 women died in Israel from invasive breast cancer, a decrease from 2019 when 1,085 women died. Most of the mortality is among older women, when between 1996 and 2020, there was a significant annual decrease of about two percent in mortality among Jewish women, and the mortality trend was stable among Arab women.

In 2020, 652 women in Israel were diagnosed with localized breast cancer (91% Jewish and other women and 9% Arab women). Targeted breast cancer is often diagnosed through screening tests for early detection. Between the years 1996 and 2020, there was a rise in the number of diagnoses of localized breast cancer, so that each year on average there was an increase of 2.3% among Jewish women and 3.1% among Arab women.

The average age at diagnosis in 2020 was 59.5 among Jewish women, while among Arab women there was a decrease in the average age at diagnosis from 55 in 2019 to 51.6 in 2020. According to the data, the risk of getting localized breast cancer is higher among Jewish women compared to women Arabic in all age groups.

The Health Ministry recommends that women aged 50 to74 undergo routine mammography once every two years, and those aged 40 and over who are at increased risk of the disease (due to a first-degree family member diagnosed with breast cancer or due to benign breast disease) have a mammogram once yearly.