Nearly 180,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed this year with breast cancer. Beating it means catching it early.
Dr. Lang Perdue of the Cotton-O'Neil Cancer Center says doctors have many new weapons to help women find breast cancer earlier. He calls magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, one of the biggest recent breakthroughs in breast cancer diagnosis.
Dr. Perdue says MRI compliments mammography. While it's exact role is still being defined, he says he sees its benefits. He says it looks through dense breast tissue better than mammography and he says it seems to work better on women with genetic risk factors.
Dr. Perdue says the use of MRI and digital mammograms makes it easier to spot potentially cancerous tumors when they're smaller, and more treatable. He says ten to 15 years ago, a small tumor would have been two centimeters. Today, he says, two centimeter tumors are the exception - rarely are they found that large.
That's because more women are getting the recommended screenings. It's recommended all women get an annual mammogram starting at age 40. Those at higher risk may start earlier and may be steered toward an MRI as well.
A genetic counselor can help your doctor determine if you're in that high-risk group. Genetic Counselor Lenna Levitch, MSCGC, says she'd recommend a consultation for any person who's had a close relative, such as a mother, sister or grandmother, with breast cancer, or for someone who's had breast cancer himself or herself and is concerned about a recurrence.
An evaluation involves an extensive questionnaire. Levitch says environmental, reproductive and family history all play a role.
With early detection, 90-percent of people with breast cancer survive. But a challenge remains for those unable to afford screenings.
Dr. Perdue says a test is only as good as its usage. He says if a woman doesn't have access to care or no insurance and they have to pay for a screening themselves, they're more likely to not have proper screening and therefore the chance of their cancer being found early is much worse.
The Race Against Breast Cancer provides mammograms for area women who can't afford them. The community can join the 5K run or walk Saturday morning, Sept. 29, at Washburn's Law School. A link to registration information is on the www.wibw.com home page.