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 Annual 2011

Annual 2011

 

           

Beat Breast Cancer

Reduce Your Risk for Starters

     It’s been a year since the United States Pre­ven­tative Services Task Force, or USPSTF, revised its recommendations for breast cancer screening stating they don’t routinely recommend mammograms for women ages 40 to 49, yet many physicians and medical organizations continue to question the findings.
     “This debate arises because we are dealing with an imperfect technology that forces us to make tough choices. It is undeniable that mammography can catch breast cancer early enough to save an individual life,” says Katherine McKenzie, Ph.D., of the California Breast Cancer Research Program. “Yet we also know that mammography has led to a great deal of anxiety, unnecessary biopsies, over-treatment and has actually caused some cancers, particularly in women younger than 50.”
     Most experts agree that women should discuss the benefits and risk of mammograms with their doctors and make a decision based on their individual health history and risk factors.
     “It’s important for women to talk to their own providers to make an informed decision about whether to pursue mammogram screening before age 50,” says Scarlett Gomez, Ph.D., a research scientist at the Cancer Prevention Institute of California, or CPIC, in Fremont.
     Although breast cancer is the most common form of cancer affecting women, local researchers say there’s a number of diet and lifestyle modifications that can help women reduce their risk of developing breast cancer.
     “At CPIC, we have done research showing that increased exposure to vitamin D protects against the risk of breast cancer, while too much alcohol consumption (more than an average of two drinks per day) increases risk,” Gomez says. “In addition, our research into changes in breast cancer incidence patterns over time support the evidence that taking hormone replacement therapy increases risk of breast cancer.”
     In addition, Gomez notes that previous research has shown that getting exercise, limiting consumption of dietary fats, increasing consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables and breastfeeding can all reduce a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.
     In addition, over the past several decades the number of women receiving mammograms and doing self-exams has increased, raising the odds of early detection, while new research and treatments continue to lower the mortality rates and improve quality of life for breast cancer survivors.
     “This is a very exciting time in breast cancer research,” McKenzie says. “We are rapidly developing new technologies that allow us to perform research that couldn’t even be envisioned 10 years ago. For example, 15 years ago, gene sequencing was a major undertaking, but new technologies have allowed us to perform these tasks 100 times faster than expected, and the field has moved forward ahead of predicted timelines.”
     Other advances in the field of breast cancer research include breast cancer specific gamma imaging, digital mammograms and MRI breast exams, as well as improvements in radiation, chemotherapy and surgery.
     “Researchers are now attempting to understand the basic character of breast cancer, which is actually more than one disease,” McKenzie says. “These studies take the inter-relationship of different cell types and genetic changes to help physicians and patients make better choices about diagnosing and treating breast cancer.”
     Despite the progress being made in the field of breast cancer research, McKenzie says scientists continue to work diligently to eradicate the disease.
     “Ideally we’d like to move past drugs and cancer cures and instead get to the root causes of breast cancer,” she says. “We’d like to reach a time when no one dies from breast cancer because no one gets it to begin with.”


Resources

■    Markstein Services provides free
clinical breast exams and collaborates with the Carol Ann Read Breast Health Center for free mammograms for uninsured or underinsured women. Call  (510) 869-8833.

■    CPIC provides educational seminars for cancer patients, their families and the community. The 10th Annual Allison Taylor Holbrook/Barbara Jo Johnson Breast Cancer Conference will be held on March 5, 2011, in San Francisco and the 7th Annual African American Breast Cancer Conference is slated for May 7, 2011, in Oakland. For more information, call (510) 608-5000 or visit www.cpic.org.

■    The Women’s Cancer Resource Center of Oakland offers support groups, a cooking club, events and other information. Call (510) 420-7900 or visit www.wcrc.org.

■    The St. Joseph’s Medical Center Mobile Mammography Unit is a full-service, self-contained mammography clinic on wheels housed in an 18-wheel tractor-trailer and featuring the latest in state-of-the-art digital mammography technology and service. The mobile clinic provides low-cost mammograms and is presented through a partnership between Catholic Healthcare West-St. Joseph’s Medical Center and the Safeway Foundation. To find out when the mobile clinic will be
in your area, contact Marivel Costa at (866) 430-8222.
 

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