Currently, there are more than 2.6 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society. Yet breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, exceeded only by lung cancer.
Thanks to earlier detection due to screening and increased awareness, as well as improved treatment, death rates from breast cancer have been on the decline since about 1989, with larger decreases in women younger than 50.
“At Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare, we emphasize prevention and early detection above and beyond all things when we talk about breast cancer,” said Christine Gresik, M.D., breast surgical oncologist with Elmhurst Memorial Hematology Oncology Associates. “We ensure that high risk patients receive individualized screening plans so that if we do unfortunately diagnose a breast cancer, we catch it at its most early and treatable stage to optimize outcomes.”
In 2011, 84 percent of all breast cancers diagnosed at Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare were diagnosed at an early stage (Stages 0, 1, 2); ahead of the national trend of 81 percent. Due to advances in breast cancer research, a full spectrum of minimally invasive biopsy procedures including those performed via ultrasound, stereotactic imaging and MRI are now being used to prevent the pain and discomfort of open surgical biopsy.
For the nearly 12 percent of women in the U.S. who will develop breast cancer in their lifetime, breast surgeons are moving toward minimally invasive surgical procedures that not only helps patients recover quicker but provides optimal cosmetic outcomes.
“There are now many more reconstructive options for patients ranging from tissue expander implant based reconstruction to complex flap-based techniques which can use tissue from the abdomen, back, upper thigh or gluteus to recreate the breast form,” Gresik said.
Although some risk factors, like family history, cannot be changed, there are some things you can do to help reduce your risk of breast cancer:
• Control your weight. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of breast cancer. This is especially true if obesity occurs later in life, particularly after menopause.
• Don’t smoke. Accumulating evidence suggests a link between smoking and breast cancer risk, particularly in premenopausal women. In addition, not smoking is one of the best things you can do for your overall health.
• Limit your alcohol intake. The more alcohol you drink, the greater your risk of developing breast cancer. If you choose to drink alcohol, limit yourself to no more than one drink a day.
• Find out the risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy. Some women use hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to treat the symptoms of menopause. Ask your doctor about the risks and benefits of HRT and find out if it is right for you.
• Most importantly, be vigilant about breast cancer detection. If you notice any changes in your breasts, such as a new lump or skin changes, consult your doctor. Also, ask your doctor when to begin mammograms and other screenings.
Shauna Schuda wrote this article for Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare.