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  1. ITV Report

Record numbers beating breast cancer as treatment improves

Liz O'Riordan was a breast cancer surgeon who became a breast cancer patient herself. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Improved treatment for breast cancer in the UK is leading to fewer deaths from the disease.

Analysis by the charity Cancer Research UK suggests the death rate for women with breast cancer has fallen by 44% in the past three decades and more than 130,000 deaths avoided.

The charity says the drop is due to major advances in diagnosis and treatment since 1989.

It said: "We have seen improvements in surgical techniques and use of radiotherapy, new drugs being made available and the impact of the national breast screening programme."

But despite the advances, the charity says there're still too many women dying and more funding is needed to find a cure.

  • Watch a report by ITV News Anglia's Hannah Pettifer

For the past year Liz O'Riordan has been clear of breast cancer.

She's a former breast cancer surgeon in Ipswich, Colchester, and Bury hospitals.

In 2015 Liz was diagnosed with breast cancer and she says she was all too aware of the irony of the doctor becoming the patient.

"I was a fit and healthy triathlete, I was a breast cancer surgeon with no risk factors and I was diagnosed with a large breast cancer at the age of 40, and suddenly I had every single treat that I'd put my patients through.

"I realised I had no idea what it was like, nobody does. I had 9 months of chemotherapy, a mastectomy and radiotherapy until I was given the all clear and it was exhausting.

"Treatment for cancer is really hard, you have no idea what it's like until you've been through it."

– Liz O'Riordan, Cancer patient and former breast cancer surgeon
Liz O'Riordan was a fit and healthy triathlete with no risk factors when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Credit: Submitted

In 2018 Liz had a recurrence of cancer on her chest wall and she underwent a mastectomy and radiotherapy.

She eventually had to give up her job, finding it too hard not to relive her battle with cancer through her patients.

But she put her energy into writing about dealing with the disease to help others.

"Our ongoing research into the biology of breast cancer is vital.

"With this increased understanding, we're developing new life-saving treatments; making them kinder, more effective, and more personalised to individual people.

"Diagnosing cancer early can save lives. If you get to know what's normal for your body, you're more likely to notice if something changes and can raise any concerns with your doctor."

– Michelle Mitchell, Chief Executive, Cancer Research UK

According to Cancer Research UK more than 11,000 people die every year from breast cancer. The number peaked in 1989 when 15,600 women died from the disease.

They say the significant drop in numbers over the past 30 years shows that their research is working, but is far from over.