As Breast Cancer Diagnoses Rise in New Jersey, RCCA Oncologists Share 3 Important and Hopeful Facts

An estimated 8,580 women across New Jersey will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year.1 That number reflects a significant increase from years past. For example, the average annual number of diagnoses from 2015 to 2019 was 7,906.2

While the increased number of cases is distressing, medical oncologists with
Regional Cancer Care Associates (RCCA) say it’s important to keep three facts in mind:

1. The situation in New Jersey is part of a larger trend. “Unfortunately, breast cancer diagnoses across the United States have been rising by about one-half of 1% a year for the past several years, and also are rising in many countries around the world,”3,4 said Aileen L. Chen, MD, a board-certified medical oncologist and hematologist who practices at the Freehold and Holmdel offices of RCCA, one of the nation’s largest networks of oncology specialists.

Dr. Chen, board certified hematology, internal medicine, and medical oncology, practicing with RCCA in Freehold and Holmdel, NJ

“Of course, when a woman learns she has breast cancer, her focus is not on epidemiology or geographic trends, but I think this context is important for two reasons. First, New Jersey has a history of actual and possible ‘cancer clusters,’ so when people here learn they have cancer, their thoughts can run to some environmental factor or other problem specific to the state that may be the cause. In this instance, however, the increased diagnoses in New Jersey are in step with what’s occurring nationwide. Second, a cancer diagnosis can be very isolating. As much as the people in your life love you and want to support you, they can’t fully understand what you’re facing, including the natural tendency to ask, ‘Why me?’ If you recently have been diagnosed with breast cancer, I think it’s important to know that many, many women across America are exactly where you are right now in terms of having to face this diagnosis. And it’s even more important to know that more than 4 million women in the U.S. have gone forward from the difficult place where you are now to live their lives as breast cancer survivors.”5

So why are breast cancer rates increasing nationally — and even globally?

Dr. Chen explained that researchers have identified a number of causes, including a sedentary lifestyle, alcohol consumption, diet, being overweight or obese after menopause, and environmental conditions, as well as changes in childbearing patterns and average age at onset of puberty and start of menopause that can affect a woman’s long-term exposure to the sex hormone estrogen.
4,6,7 “Breast cancer, like most cancers, is multi-factorial in nature, meaning that many factors come together and interact in complex ways to drive development of the disease. The good news, however, is that several of those factors are within a woman’s power to modify and so reduce her risk,” Dr. Chen noted.

2. Physicians have a broad — and expanding — range of options for treating breast cancer. “We have never had a greater ability to individualize care to treat a woman’s breast cancer in a way that offers the best possible outcomes while taking into consideration her overall health, her preferences for treatment and her quality of life,” said Julianne W. Childs, DO, a board-certified medical oncologist and hematologist who practices at the Cape May Court House and Marmora offices of RCCA.

“The last several years have seen a dramatic expansion of treatment options. This includes more surgical techniques, including several breast-sparing approaches. In terms of medical management, it means immunotherapies, targeted therapies, chemotherapy with fewer side effects than older regimens, and hormonal treatment strategies to reduce the risk of recurrence. Radiation therapy approaches also have evolved, and we’ve learned much more about how to combine and sequence different surgical, medical and radiotherapy interventions in a way that is really tailored to each woman’s specific situation,” Dr. Childs said.

The medical oncologist added, “As a result of the advances, the five-year relative survival rate for women diagnosed with localized disease — which represents the majority of newly identified cases — is now 99%.
8 We also have made significant progress in treating women with more advanced disease, including extending life while maintaining a good quality of life for women with metastatic breast cancer.”

Dr. Childs noted, “Thanks to these treatment advances, even though the rate of breast cancer diagnoses is rising in New Jersey, the breast cancer death rate is falling, with declines in 20 of New Jersey’s 21 counties. The sole exception is Salem County, where the rate is stable. The toll that breast cancer takes remains far too high, as evidenced by the fact that an estimated 1,200 women in New Jersey will lose their lives to the disease this year, but we have been driving that number down, and we are determined to continue doing so by making the most effective use possible of the therapies available to us.”

Julianne W. Childs, DO
Dr. Childs, board certified hematology, internal medicine, and medical oncology, practicing with RCCA in Cape May Court House and Marmora, NJ

BREAST CANCER DIAGNOSES AND DEATHS: RECENT TRENDS IN NEW JERSEY

 

Diagnoses

Deaths

Location

A­­­verage
Annual Count,
2015-2019

5-year Trend

Average
Annual Count, 2016-2020

5-Year Trend

United States

253,845

Rising

42,101

Falling

New Jersey

7,906

Rising

1,264

Falling

Atlantic County

241

Stable

41

Falling

Bergen County

904

Rising

127

Falling

Burlington County

447

Rising

76

Falling

Camden County

454

Stable

80

Falling

Cape May County

110

Stable

21

Falling

Cumberland County

112

Stable

22

Falling

Essex County

656

Rising

110

Falling

Gloucester County

287

Stable

45

Falling

Hudson County

407

Stable

62

Falling

Hunterdon County

134

Stable

18

Falling

Mercer County

309

Stable

51

Falling

Middlesex County

646

Stable

104

Falling

Monmouth County

643

Stable

96

Falling

Morris County

496

Stable

69

Falling

Ocean County

608

Stable

109

Falling

Passaic County

399

Rising

61

Falling

Salem County

58

Stable

11

Stable

Somerset County

310

Stable

40

Falling

Sussex County

137

Stable

24

Falling

Union County

449

Stable

79

Falling

Warren County

98

Stable

19

Falling

 

Source: National Cancer Institute. State Cancer Profiles. Available at: https://statecancerprofiles.cancer.gov/. Accessed May 3, 2023.

 

  1. There is a great deal you can do to reduce your risk of breast cancer. As noted earlier, a woman’s risk for developing breast cancer is determined both by factors within her control and others — such as family history and age — not within her control.
“It’s important that women do what they can to address their modifiable risk factors — such as by exercising regularly and eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits with limited red meat, cured meats, and processed foods,” said May Abdo-Matkiwsky, DO, a board-certified medical oncologist who practices at the Sparta office of RCCA. She noted that one analysis of 38 different studies found that women with high levels of physical activity had a lifetime risk for breast cancer that was 12% lower than that of the least physically active women.9 Meanwhile, Dr. Abdo-Matkiwsky added, vigilance can go far toward dealing with the potential impact of non-modifiable risk factors. “It’s important that women obtain mammograms at the intervals appropriate for their age and medical history, that they be alert to any lumps or other changes in their breasts, and that they talk with their primary care provider about whether their family history warrants genetic screening for mutations associated with breast cancer.  
Dr. Abdo-Matkiwsky, board certified internal medicine and medical oncology, practicing with RCCA in Sparta, NJ

“The bottom line is that there are many steps available to you right here, right now to reduce your risk for breast cancer. And if, unfortunately, you should receive a diagnosis of breast cancer, know that there also is excellent care and abundant cause for hope available to you right here, right now. At RCCA, we pride ourselves in providing patients with access to the latest therapies and clinical trials in the community setting — in conveniently located offices where everyone from the physician to the receptionist knows you by name, and where our care plans are carefully tailored to your specific situation and needs. We hope that you will never require that care, but if you do, we’re here for you,” Dr. Abdo-Matkiwsky said.

*******

Drs. Chen, Childs, and Abdo-Matkiwsky are among the 90+ cancer specialists who treat patients at more than 20 RCCA care centers located throughout New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, and the Washington, DC, area. RCCA oncologists and hematologists see more than 23,000 new patients each year and provide care to more than 225,000 established patients, collaborating closely with their patients’ other physicians. They offer patients the latest in cutting-edge treatments, including immunotherapies and targeted therapy, as well as access to a wide range of clinical trials. In addition to serving patients who have solid tumors, blood-based cancers, and benign blood disorders such as anemia, RCCA care centers also provide infusion services to people with a number of non-oncologic conditions—including multiple sclerosisCrohn’s diseaseasthma, iron-deficiency anemia, and rheumatoid arthritis—who take intravenously-administered medications.

To learn more about RCCA, call 844-928-0089 or visit RCCA.com.

References:

  1. American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2023. Available at https://www.cancer.org/research/cancer-facts-statistics/all-cancer-facts-figures/2023-cancer-facts-figures.html. Accessed April 18, 2023.
  1. National Cancer Institute. State Cancer Profiles. Available at: https://statecancerprofiles.cancer.gov/. Accessed May 3, 2023.
  1. American Cancer Society. Key statistics for breast cancer. Available at https://www.cancer.org/cancer/types/breast-cancer/about/how-common-is-breast-cancer.html. Accessed May 9, 2023.
  1. Kashyap D, Pal D, Sharma R, et al. Global increase in breast cancer incidence: risk factors and preventive measures.

BioMed Res Int. 2022. doi.org/10.1155/2022/9605439.

  1. Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Breast cancer statistics and resources. Available at https://www.bcrf.org/breast-cancer-statistics-and-resources/. Accessed May 8, 2023.
  1. Ugai T, Sasamoto N, Lee H-W, et al. Is early-onset cancer an emerging global epidemic? Current evidence and future implications. Nat Rev clin Oncol. 2022;19:656-673.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). What are the risk factors for breast cancer? Available at https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/basic_info/risk_factors.htm. Accessed May 9, 2023.
  1. American Cancer Society. Survival rates for breast cancer. March 1, 2023. Available at https://www.cancer.org/cancer/types/breast-cancer/understanding-a-breast-cancer-diagnosis/breast-cancer-survival-rates.html. Accessed May 9, 2023.
  1. National Cancer Institute. Physical activity and breast cancer. Available at https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/obesity/physical-activity-fact-sheet#. Accessed May 9, 2023.

we are here for you

For more information or to schedule an appointment,
call 844-346-7222. You can also schedule an appointment by calling the RCCA location nearest you.

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