IMP Healthcare Thought Leadership


Integrated Medical Partners Blog

February 8, 2021

Breast Cancer surpasses Lung as the most commonly diagnosed form of the disease

For the first time ever, female breast cancer has surpassed lung as the most commonly diagnosed form of the disease across the globe, experts announced on Thursday. 

Clinicians diagnosed roughly 19.3 million new cancer cases worldwide last year alone, with 10 million deaths. Female breast cancer led the way in diagnoses with 2.3 million new cases (11.7%), followed by lung (11.4%), colorectal (10%), prostate (7.3%) and stomach (5.6%) cancers, the American Cancer Society noted.

The American Cancer Society (ASC) reported breast cancer cases are even rising in countries where rates have been historically low.  “Dramatic changes in lifestyle and built environment have had an impact on the prevalence of breast cancer risk factors such as excess body weight, physical inactivity, alcohol consumption, postponement of childbearing, fewer childbirths, and less bre

astfeeding,” Hyuna Sung, PhD, principal scientist in cancer surveillance research for the ACS noted American Cancer Society Journals 

Meanwhile, lung cancer remained the leading cause of cancer mortality at 1.8 million deaths (18%) in 2020, followed by colorectal (9.4%), liver (8.3%), stomach (7.7%) and female breast (6.9%) cancers. Experts are predicting an estimated 28.4 million new cancer cases will occur in 2040, a roughly 47% uptick from last year.  And these numbers do not even factor in the novel coronavirus, as they are based on extrapolations of data collected prior to the public health crisis. 

“Delays in diagnosis and treatment associated with the concerns of individuals, health system closures—including suspension of screening programs, and reduced availability of and access to care—are expected to cause a short‐term decline in cancer incidence followed by increases in advanced‐stage diagnoses and cancer mortality in some settings,” Sung and co-authors noted.  

Anecdotally, these trends are starting to materialize, Northwestern University radiologist Sarah Friedewald, MD, wrote in blog post shared Thursday. She’s heard reports of “unfortunate cases” where missed screenings are resulting in delayed breast cancer diagnoses. At the height of the pandemic, some had witnessed breast imaging volume declines as high as 94%, and data will eventually confirm the long-term ramifications of such interruptions.  

She’s expecting a drop in scheduled appointments from March to May this year, after patients weren’t screened at the same time in 2020. But Friedwald sees a “prime opportunity” to both reach out to patients who missed their mammogram, and court those who never had one.  Friedwald wrote on February 4, 2021, “Our outreach is critical to decrease the negative impact of COVID-19 on our patients.”