Source: Mary Alford, The News-Enteprise
The Hardin Memorial Health Cancer Care Center receives about 950 new cancer cases each year, Medical Director of Cancer Care Services Dr. Adam Lye said. Of those cases, about 200 are breast cancer cases.
“Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers that we see,” he said.
And, it’s not just at HMH that breast cancer is the most common form of cancer seen. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, 1 in 8 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime and it is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women. It also is the second leading cause of cancer death among women.
Lye discussed breast cancer with The News-Enterprise.
N-E: What is a mammogram and at what age should women begin having mammograms?
Lye: A mammogram is a low dose X-ray. The start date is controversial. The United States Preventative Task Force, their guideline recommendation is age 50. But there are other guidelines that recommend 45 or even 40. I would say, probably a good idea is, to talk to your doctor about your risks and what age you should start based on those risk factors and then also your comfort level as far as starting early or waiting.
N-E: How effective are mammograms?
Lye: Mammograms detect about 85 percent of early breast cancer. The whole idea for a mammogram is to detect breast cancer early before it spreads and while it is still curable.
N-E: When talking about early detection, do self-breast exams help?
Lye: Self-breast exams have not been shown to be effective. They are not recommended by most guidelines. Most women, if they have a mass, they detect it doing other things, exercising, picking up something. (Self-breast exams are) not as effective as a screening mammogram.
N-E: Does a family history of breast cancer put someone at a higher risk? What are the most important risk factors for breast cancer?
Lye: Yes. There are actually online calculators that oncologists use. Patients can come in and see me and I can calculate their lifetime risk for breast cancer. Many of those calculators take into account family history of breast cancer. … Family history increases your risk, previous biopsy increases your risk, abnormal mammogram increases your risk.
N-E: What is treatment typically like for someone with breast cancer? How long are they treated?
Lye: We like to get people started on treatment within a couple weeks after diagnosis, that is our goal. … The treatment itself can range anywhere from three months of treatment all the way up to five months of treatment. Then there is one type of breast cancer that we actually do at least a year of treatment and that is just for chemotherapy. Also, the most common type of breast cancer feeds off of estrogen. So after all the treatment is done, surgery, radiation and chemo, we put them on estrogen-blocking treatment, which are pills. They will stay on that for five to 10 years depending on the type of pill they are on and breast cancer.
N-E: What is the likelihood of the cancer returning?
Lye: (According to) the five-year survival data, which is an oncologist benchmark for long-term outcome, if the breast cancer is just in the breast, you have a 99 percent chance of cure. If it’s in the breast in a lymph node, then your chance of cure is about 85 percent. Then, if it has spread, the chance drops significantly. It’s really important to catch breast cancer early. Mind you, that percentage is with getting all the recommended treatment. If it’s in the breast, we catch it early, we treat it appropriately, its a very high chance of cure.
N-E: What’s the most common misconception about breast cancer you’ve encountered?
Lye: I think that one of the misconceptions is that people think, “Well, if I get chemo, it’s just chemo.” There is kind of a one size fits all and it’s not. The treatments are really tailored now to the type of breast cancer you have (and) the stage of breast cancer you have. The treatments are very different depending on that. That is actually a very important part. We want to make sure women are on a treatment that is tailored for them and their type of breast cancer.
N-E: What is the biggest help to someone going through breast cancer?
Lye: Support from family and friends. That appears to be just tremendous.
N-E: What is the best advice you give to those battling breast cancer?
Lye: Stay optimistic and know that there is very good treatment. We’ve come a long way in the last 10 to 20 years in understanding breast cancer and being able to cure breast cancer. I think just trusting in your medical team and keeping a positive attitude is really important in going through treatment.