Whether you or a loved one is at risk for or has been diagnosed with breast
cancer, you most likely find yourself wanting to stay up on the latest
news regarding breast cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment. At the fall
Miracle of Living at the Beach program, attendees heard from two guest speakers who addressed just that:
Patricia Sacks, MD, radiologist and medical director of the
Vasek and Anna Maria Polak Breast Diagnostic Center, and
David Chan, MD, breast cancer specialist with
Cancer Care – Torrance Memorial Physician Network. Each shared the latest findings on this common and dangerous disease.
Despite mixed messages from recent studies and the media, both physicians
recommend getting a yearly mammogram beginning at age 40. “The biggest
hope is an early diagnosis, to allow much less aggressive treatment for
a cure,” says Dr. Chan. As Dr. Sacks continues, “Finding a
breast cancer early that is small in size, at 4 to 5 mm rather than large
at 2 inches, increases the chances for a cure.”
Torrance Memorial is transitioning its digital mammography equipment from
2-D (two-dimensional) to the latest technology called digital breast tomosynthesis
(also known as DBT), or
3-D (three-dimensional) mammography. This is a proven technology and the best screening tool available for
capturing breast cancer for most patients.
It allows radiologists to examine breast tissue one layer at a time, making
it possible to detect early stage tumors previously undetectable with
2-D mammography alone. This is especially critical for those with dense
breast tissue because their breast cancer risk is three times higher than
those with lower density tissue.
In addition to utilizing cutting-edge diagnostic screening, it’s
helpful for women to learn about their risk factors for developing breast
cancer. Some are not modifiable, meaning we cannot change them as mature
adults. Others are modifiable, meaning they are under our control to change.
Non-Modifiable Risk Factors:
- Increasing age
- Age when the menstrual cycle began, earlier increases risk
- Age at birth of first child, number of children and length of breast-feeding
- Heredity and family history
Modifiable Risk Factors:
- Lack of exercise
- Alcohol consumption
- Estrogen replacement
- High-calorie diets
Diagnostic Tests Important for Early Detection:
- Yearly mammograms starting at age 40—an important tool for early diagnosis
- MRI: Getting an MRI in addition to a mammogram if you are in a highrisk category
Lower Your Risk of Developing Breast Cancer:
- Frequent exercise—should include cardio and activities to increase
- Taking a low-dose aspirin daily may lower breast cancer and overall cancer
risk in general
- Having a normal blood level of vitamin D, which is low in most Americans
because it’s made from the interaction of sunlight on our skin
- Consider not taking multivitamins and supplements other than vitamin D.
Research over the past two decades indicate that multivitamins and supplements
don’t lower cancer risk and may paradoxically increase it.
Dr. Sacks: If your mother had breast cancer, start your screenings at least 10 years
before the age of her diagnosis. Don’t become complacent with getting
your annual mammogram. Some women may feel it is ok to take a year off;
it is not, as increasing age increases the risk of developing breast cancer.
Dr. Chan: Fear of breast cancer isn’t a good reason to not get yearly mammograms.
Breast cancer is a very curable disease when caught early, and many patients
can avoid mastectomy and chemotherapy with early diagnosis and treatment.