1 in 8 women born today will have breast cancer sometime within their life. You may have heard that statistic before, but do you realize the weight of it? It means based off the 2010 census, statistically speaking 1,287 female residents of Watertown will fight breast cancer. That number is larger than the population of Clark.
Providers at the Prairie Lakes Cancer Center are personalizing care to help patients become survivors. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month we challenge you to not only wear pink proudly, but to learn the facts.
Meet Drs. Ferdinand Addo and Jeffrey Brindle. Dr. Addo is a Medical Oncologist and Hematologist; he is a cancer physician who also specializes in blood disorders. Many patients who see Dr. Addo are planning on chemotherapy treatment. Dr. Brindle is a Radiation Oncologist, cancer patients who see him are planning on radiation treatment.
There are several types of breast cancer, like “Triple Negative”. What does it all mean?
Dr. Addo: Some breast cancers are rich in Estrogen and Progesterone hormones and are referred to as Estrogen receptor positive or Progesterone receptor positive cancers. These cancers can be controlled by medications that block Estrogen and Progesterone.
Another type of breast cancer is HER2 positive cancer. A gene which regulates cell growth becomes defective and allows the cancer cells to grow rapidly and uncontrollably. Fortunately, there are effective treatments for these HER2 positive cancers.
The third type of breast cancer lacks the Estrogen receptor, Progesterone receptor, and the HER2 defect. They are generally referred to as “Triple-negative” breast cancers. Because these cancers have no identifiable changes that drive their growth, they are almost always treated with chemotherapy.
Treatment today, it’s obviously come a long way in the past decades. In general what does modern treatment look like?
Dr. Addo: Modern treatment of breast cancer takes into account the genetic make- up of the individual, the changes that have occurred within the cancer cell, the behavior of the cancer, and the health of the individual. The one-size-fits all treatment of the past is quickly vanishing. Much of the successes in the treatment of breast cancer have come from individuals who volunteered to participate in clinical research.
And technology has a lot to play into the increase of survivors as well?
Dr. Addo: Surgical treatment techniques have evolved from radical surgeries to lumpectomies assisted by imaging procedures which identify and remove only those lymph nodes that are most likely to harbor cancer cells.
Dr. Brindle: Radiation therapy techniques have changed over the last 30 years. We understand the natural history of breast cancer better and are exploring treatment changes that use either faster schedules of radiation or, in some cases, smaller volumes of treatment other than the whole breast. Also, we can now use the Oncotype DX genetic profile to assess the need for radiation in cancer patients.
Dr. Addo: Beyond surgery and radiation therapy, some breast cancers are treated by medications that are designed to disrupt the growth of the cancer cells. These medications may be chemotherapy, hormones, or a newer class of medications known as Targeted Therapy. The target is often a vulnerable part of the cancer cell growth cycle that can be blocked by a specific medication.
Environmental causes of breast cancer. There is a lot of suspicion and varying degrees of statistics on the internet. What should I believe, what should I follow?
Dr. Addo: Genetic make-up cannot be changed, but lifestyle modifications within our grasp can decrease the risk of developing breast cancer. About 85% of breast cancers occur in individuals who have no history of breast cancer in the family. Healthy dietary choices, regular physical activity, weight management, adequate rest, management of stress, and avoidance of harmful chemicals have been shown to decrease the risk of developing breast cancer.
There are a lot of ads telling me to get a breast cancer screening. What are my options?
Dr. Brindle: Screenings are very important in the effort to control breast cancer. Newer imaging equipment including digital mammography, 3D mammography, ultrasound, and MRI have greatly improved the detection of cancers at a very early stage when they can be effectively treated and cured.
This article was printed in the Public Opinion October 16, 2015.