Progress in understanding and treating breast cancer in recent years has
been uplifting, to say the least. Just last year, findings by the Johns
Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center confirmed a strong link between diabetes
and later stage diagnoses of breast cancer, suggesting that women with
diabetes may be predisposed to more advanced stage breast cancers, which
may account for their higher cancer mortality rate.
Recently, researchers have learned that your body's immune system can
actually work both for - and against you in fighting cancer. PhD research
at the Netherland's Cancer Institute shows some immune cells play
a role in the spread of cancer (metastasis), while other cells could be
activated to strengthen the effects of chemotherapy.
Why these cells act the way they do is still part of that investigation,
and one ongoing at the University of Michigan. There, researchers used
a cancer cell-interaction technique to map a protein which controls how
breast cancer cells spread, and make themselves at home in other parts
of the body. Those proteins (tyrosine kinase receptors) are implicated
in many types of cancer, and from this data promising inhibitor treatments
are being developed.
A blood test that spots cancer-linked DNA could soon be widely used to
identify breast cancers at higher risk for recurrence, and also track
the success or failure of treatment. This could help patients avoid potential
side effects, cost and wasting precious time.
Until the research becomes reality, early detection continues to be our
best bet for surviving breast cancer. The Breast Center of St. Mary's
Medical Center has earned the Women's Choice Award as one of America's
Best Breast Centers, as well as accreditation by the National Accreditation
Program for Breast Centers. We place a premium on care that can buy our
patients that precious time, and best odds of beating a disease that effects
one-in-eight women during her lifetime. It's a team approach, and
ladies, you are part of that team.
• Know your risk for breast cancer - it's the first line of defense
against the disease. St. Mary's offers online risk assessment at stmarys.com
to determine if you may be at risk of developing breast cancer. This survey
takes very little time and provides you and your doctors valuable insight
into your personal risk of breast cancer. If you answer yes to any of
the questions, you may want to fill out a hereditary risk assessment also
offered on our web site. This may also qualify you for high-risk genetic testing.
• Learn how to examine your own breasts - No matter your age, take
a few minutes each month to determine if anything physically has changed.
• Get a mammogram - At present, mammography remains our best tool
for early detection and increased survival rates. We've gone to a
3-D system to get the most out of this tool. The American Cancer Society
recommends mammograms every year for women ages 40 and older. At St. Mary's
you can even walk-in for mammography services, Monday-Thursday, 8-11:30
a.m., and 1-4 p.m. and - you do not need a physician referral for screening
If a mammogram reveals any issues, you may be referred to further tests
• Breast ultrasound is an imaging technique using high frequency sound
waves to scan the breast to locate and measure abnormal changes or lesions
in the breast. This test also can determine if a breast lump is solid
(tumor) or filled with liquid (cyst).
• Breast MRI captures multiple images of the breast generating detailed
images, which display not only the size and shape of a lesion, but differentiate
benign and malignant tissue.
• Galactogram is used in the cases where nipple discharge is present,
to view breast ducts and diagnose breast cancer. Injections of a contrast
material delivered into the duct reveal if the nipple discharge is the
result of a lesion.
If any of these tests lead to a biopsy, you'll have a certified Breast
Patient Navigator to support you through the entire process. In 2017,
an estimated 255,180 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected
to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 63,410 new cases of the
Except for skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women
in this country. While deaths from breast cancer have declined over time,
it remains the second leading cause of cancer death among women.
-- Dr. Linda McCormick, D.O., is in Family Practice through St. Mary's
Medical Center and can be reached at 816-228-1000.