Mind & Body
Breast Cancer Awareness
10/2/2018 8:53:55 PM
Breast Cancer Awareness

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, prompting us to consider the health of "the girls.” In 2018, an estimated 266,120 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 63,960 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer. While we think of breast cancer as a women’s disease, men can also be at risk. A man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 1,000, with 2,550 new cases expected in men in 2018. In this special section, we highlight the latest technologies to diagnose breast cancer, as well as tips to help prevent the disease.

Advancements in Breast Cancer Diagnosis & Management
by Christine Fisher

As is the case for most cancers, the earlier the disease is detected, the more likely a positive recovery. According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year relative survival rate for women with stage 0 or stage I breast cancer is close to 100%. For women with stage II breast cancer, the survival rate is about 93%. A diagnosis of stage IV breast cancer drops the prognosis to a grim 22% chance of five-year survival. Clearly, early detection is key. And technologies to diagnose breast cancer are continually improving.

One of the most powerful diagnostic tools available is genetic testing. It can identify if someone is at an increased risk for diseases such as breast cancer. When a blood relative such as a grandmother, mother, or sister is diagnosed with breast cancer, it can cause concern not only for that individual but also for other relatives who may be at higher risk. "Genetic testing gives more information which is helpful in making future decisions,” says Rhonda Ryker, Breast Health Navigator at West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital, where genetic testing for breast cancer is available. "If it’s determined that your chances of developing breast cancer are higher, you have time and the option to do something, if desired.”

However, it is important to note that only five to ten percent of cancer cases are genetic, meaning passed from one to another within the family through blood relatives. 

The genes linked to breast cancer are BRCA1 or BRCA2. Carriers of these genes have about an 85 percent chance of developing breast cancer. "Finding out if you have a genetic mutation means you can help prevent breast cancer or find it early, when your chances for successful treatment are highest,” says Ryker. Determining if genetic testing is appropriate for an individual requires careful thought and a discussion with their physician to weigh the pros and cons. 

Another procedure in the field of breast cancer management is the sentinel lymph node biopsy. If breast cancer is diagnosed, it is important for physicians to know the scope and location of the cancer cells. Breast cancer can spread to other parts of the body through the lymph nodes near the armpits, shoulders, and upper arm. Consequently, it was once routine to remove the bulk of the lymph node tissue – about 15 – 30 lymph nodes – that drain from the breasts. Removing them can complicate recovery as lymph nodes are part of the body’s fluid management system. "Trauma to the lymphatic system may result in lymphedema, which frequently causes swelling, burning, and pain in the arms next to the tumor site,” explains Ryker. 

Sentinel nodes are the first lymph nodes to which cancer cells are most likely to spread. A sentinel lymph node biopsy allows the surgeon to remove the sentinel nodes, typically one to three, and send them for examination to determine whether cancer cells are present. "By identifying these lymph nodes, the disease’s progress can often be accurately determined. If the nodes are free of cancer, nearby lymph nodes can remain intact and undisturbed,” Ryker explains. 

Mammography remains one of the best tools for identifying suspicious lumps which could be breast cancer. The American College of Radiology recommends yearly mammograms for women starting at age 40. West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital recently acquired the Smart Curve 3D technology for mammography screenings. It is designed to provide a more comfortable mammogram screening without compromising image quality. "Women tell us daily how much more comfortable the Smart Curve technology is compared to their traditional mammogram,” says Ryker. "The Smart Curve has a curved design that encompasses a woman’s breast to reduce pinching. It also provides uniform compression which is more comfortable.”  

For more information about genetic testing for breast cancer or to schedule an appointment for a mammogram, call the West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital Breast Health Center at  (337) 527-4256.

Learn about PET Imaging at Upcoming Breast Cancer Support Group

PET imaging, or positron-emission tomography, will be the topic at the upcoming Pink Crusade breast cancer support group, hosted by West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital. The group will meet Thursday, October 11 at 6 p.m. in the hospital’s board room.  PET imaging is a nuclear medicine functional imaging technique that is used to observe metabolic processes in the body as well as aid in the diagnosis of disease. This month’s speakers are Sam Lipre, PD (Nuc), Ph. and Bethany Ellender, BSRT, RN, CNMT. The group is open to the public and light refreshments will be served. 

For more information, call (337) 528-7320.

Cancer - Reduce the Risk
Simple Steps Women Can Take to Lower the Odds of Developing Breast Cancer

When it comes to breast cancer prevention, most women are probably aware of the need for self examinations and mammograms, as well as awareness of a family history for breast cancer. But other factors that can help women avoid breast cancer may not be as well known, or at least not as often discussed. With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, this might be the right time to discuss them.

"Although breast cancer is a significant concern, every woman should keep in mind there are things in her control that can help reduce her odds of developing the disease,” says Dr. Pawan Grover, a Houston pain management specialist and medical correspondent for CNN who has treated cancer patients.

For example, it’s important to understand the effect estrogen has in increasing your risk of breast cancer – and how you might encounter estrogen more than you realize, he says. "What many women may not be aware of is that, because of the pesticides and hormones in our food, we are bombarded with estrogen.”

That’s why diet, nutrition, and exercise can be so important in breast-cancer prevention. That may sound simple enough, but the number of common things people routinely consume that may put women at greater risk for breast cancer can be surprising.

No need to panic, though. These items don’t necessarily need to be eliminated entirely from your diet, but a little moderation may be in order.

Many people already avoid sugar for other health reasons, but breast cancer could be added to the list of reasons, so it might be worthwhile to avoid or at least limit sugar intake. Too much sugar leads to excess weight gain and being overweight can increase the risk of breast cancer because fat cells produce estrogen.

Numerous studies have shown a connection between drinking alcohol and breast cancer. The more a woman drinks, the more the risk of breast cancer increases, according to the National Cancer Institute. A woman who drinks one to two drinks per day is 11% more likely to develop breast cancer than a woman who doesn’t drink, according to the Susan B. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

Studies have shown that soy could increase the risk of breast cancer because it can stimulate the genes that cause cancer to grow. But soy is likely not a problem if consumed in moderation. Although it’s unclear from research just how much of a concern soy should be, Grover suggests it doesn’t hurt to be cautious. "I would recommend minimizing it because there is still a question about the risk,” he says.

About 12 percent of women – or one in eight – will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of their lifetime, according to Breastcancer.org. About 40,920 women in the U.S. are expected to die in 2018 from breast cancer, though death rates have been decreasing since 1989. There could be several reasons for that decline, including treatment advances, early detection, and more public awareness.

 "Regardless of statistics, the important thing to remember is that you can take a primary role in protecting your own health,” Grover says. "Continue to educate yourself, adopt an overall healthy lifestyle, and your odds of leading a long life will definitely go up.”
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