By LEENA KAMAT, MD
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is an annual international health campaign to help increase attention and support for the awareness, early detection and treatment of breast cancer.
Breast cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the breast; it is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women. One in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, and it is the second leading cause of cancer death among women each year. Although breast cancer in men is rare, an estimated 2,470 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and approximately 460 will die each year.
Risk factors for breast cancer include female gender, age (getting older), genetic mutations (ie, BRCA1 and BRCA2), dense breasts, history of chest wall radiation, personal history of breast cancer, and family history of breast cancer. Risk is higher in a mother, sister, or daughter (first-degree relative) or multiple family members on either her mother's or father's side of the family who have had breast cancer; furthermore, having a first-degree male relative with breast cancer also raises a woman's risk. Modifiable risk factors include but are not limited to physical inactivity, being overweight or obese, hormone therapy use, etc.
Interestingly, death rates from breast cancer have been declining since about 1990, in part due to better screening and early detection, increased awareness, and continually improving treatment options.
Early detection of the disease remains the cornerstone of breast cancer control. When breast cancer is detected early, and if adequate diagnosis and treatment are available, there is a good chance that breast cancer can be cured. If detected late, however, curative treatment is often no longer an option. In such cases, palliative care to relieve the suffering of patients and their families is needed.
A mammogram is the only breast cancer screening method proven to save lives; this imaging modality has been shown to reduce mortality from breast cancer by 14 percent to 32 percent. Despite recent controversy in screening mammogram guidelines, the American College of Radiology - the professional organization most responsible for regulating the production and interpretation of mammograms - continues to recommend annual screening mammograms beginning at age 40 for the average risk woman. Annual mammograms should continue for as long as she remains in good health.
Studies indicate that the most lives are saved when screenings begin at age 40 rather than a later age. This is agreed upon by the professional organizations in the United States that provide screening mammogram guidelines including the American College of Radiology, the US Preventive Services Task Force and the American Cancer Society. In addition, supplemental screening with bilateral breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is encouraged in those women with dense breasts and increased risk for breast cancer.
The radiologists from Radiology Specialists of Florida at Florida Hospital are very well trained and experienced. We have radiologists specifically trained in breast imaging who interpret screening and diagnostic mammograms, interpret breast MRI exams, perform image-guided biopsies, and who perform wire and radioactive seed localizations prior to surgery. We keep up to date on the latest technology and information so that we can offer patients the best care. The Florida Hospital Care Network delivers seamlessly connected healthcare services for all ages. For more information visit Somedaystartstoday.com.
Leena Kamat, MD, is a board-certified diagnostic radiologist, sub-specialized in breast imaging for Radiology Specialists of Florida at Florida Hospital. She earned her medical degree at the University of Florida, College of Medicine and following graduation completed her residency at the University of South Florida and a fellowship in breast imaging at the Moffitt Cancer Center.