Women — and men — are finding more options to combat breast cancer than ever before.
Breast cancer is like any other disease, the earlier it can be detected the greater the chances of survival. With Texoma residents having access to a state-of-the-art 3D mammography screen, those odds of survival increase significantly for women who get screened early, and often.
Angie Gregory, nurse navigator at Texoma Medical Center Breast Care Center, said the 3D technology is important to saving lives.
“The earlier we find the cancer, the better the outcome — the higher survival rate,” Gregory said.
Gregory said around 20 percent of the patients the center sees will have breast cancer. She said while the statistic is one in eight women will get breast cancer, of those she said the majority won’t have a family history.
“We always recommend to do self-breast exam regularly,” Gregory said. “See a doctor yearly. Get screening mammograms yearly. If anything is out of the ordinary, then you should get to a doctor immediately for further diagnosis.”
Gregory emphasized the importance of regular screenings.
“Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to prevent or stave it off, cancer does not discriminate,” she said. “The biggest thing is to be aware of your own body and get your annual screening. There isn’t much benefit to screening more often than once a year unless something was found. At that point, it would be essential to seek additional tests. If you find it early, the five-year survival rate is almost 100 percent. Breast cancer survival is based on five-year increments.”
Gregory said the 3D mammogram can find between 20 percent to 65 percent more breast cancer than a typical 2D mammogram. She said once a diagnosis is made, a patient would undergo additional testing to determine the best treatment options.
“Some of the common risk factors for women include age, most invasion cancer occurs over the age of 55,” Dr. Azmina Patel a physician with Texoma Oncology said. “Family history is also important. A woman who has a close, blood relative with the condition is more likely” to develop cancer.
She said diet and exercise are essential. Overweight and inactive women have a higher risk, especially women who have gone through menopause. Patel also talked about breast density as a risk factor.
“Certain women are told they have dense breast tissue,” Patel said. “Sometimes they will require closer monitoring or an MRI of the breast for screening purposes. When the breast tissue is dense in younger women, it can become harder to detect abnormalities.”
She also said other risk factors are starting menstruation early, before age 12, or late menopause, after age 55.
Radiation to the chest for another cancer diagnosis could increase the risk of developing breast cancer. She also said alcohol can be a contributing factor.
Experts agree early diagnosis is key. Doctors recommend women get annual mammograms and check their bodies regularly for any abnormalities. Patel said mammograms are key because the dense breast tissue of some women can make finding a lump more difficult.
“In general, October is breast cancer awareness month, early detection with regular mammograms is the single most effective way to combat the condition,” Patel said.
Brad Sidlo, director of radiology for Wilson N. Jones Regional Medical Center, discussed how the diagnosis process typically works.
“Any mammography department — Wilson N. Jones, TMC — can do the biopsy,” Sidlo said. “Then they can have the tissue sent to pathology, which could return a positive or negative test for cancer. If it’s positive they will find an oncologist, who will find the right plan for the individual patient.”
Sidlo talked about some of the warning signs to be aware of during the detection stages.
“Early detection would be a lump,” Sidlo said. “Another is a form of itchy breast, an inflamed breast that doesn’t have a rash but is very itchy could be an indicator. A swollen breast is another thing to look out for. (It) can be accompanied by red, patchy hot skin, extremely tender to the touch. A significant change in the size of the breast can be an indicator. Nipple discharge could be another sign. A dimple could also be an indicator where the nipple dips inside or inverts.”
Patel said treatment is based on the stage of the cancer and can be a combination of methods.
Treatment may involve surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, target therapy and hormonal therapy. A combination of treatments would be attempted, depending on the stage of the cancer.
“Stages are based on the grading of the tumor, 1, 2, 3 and 4,” Sidlo said. “It is based on how the cancer is growing and spreading. The worst is stage four. That would be an invasive breast cancer. That has spread from the breast to nearby organs. Advanced or metastatic are synonyms for stage four, the most severe form.”
Stage 1 is relatively small, contained within the breast. Stage 2 is where the cancer has not started to spread yet. But the tumor has grown larger than it was in stage one. In Stage 3, the cancer is larger and may have begun to spread to surrounding tissues. Stage 4 is where the cancer has spread to other tissues and even organs.