Richmond County Daily Journal
One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
That’s a startling statistic, but because the disease is so common, more and more physicians and cancer advocacy groups are focusing on early detection.
Thursday night at Sandhills Regional Medical Center, Dr. Timothy A. Jessie, a general surgeon who’s been with the hospital since July, spoke to a group of about 30 women about the importance of self-breast exams, yearly mammograms and what to expect if you’re diagnosed with the disease.
“Breast cancer is not a death sentence,” Jessie said. “The earlier we catch it, the better.”
In a detailed slide show, Jessie presented the women with clear facts regarding the appearance of breast cancer, surgical procedures and treatment.
Jessie told the women that breast cancer is the most common cancer, world-wide, with cervical cancer is a close second. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death, but lung cancer is still first.
He said all women, no matter their age, family background and environmental risk factors are at risk for developing breast cancer.
But the earlier you catch it, the higher your survival rate. For women diagnosed at stage one or two of breast cancer, there is a 95 percent survival rate. For those diagnosed with stage three, 86 percent. Sadly, for women diagnosed with stage four breast cancer, there is only a 26 percent survival rate.
Jessie said statistics also show white women have an 88 percent survival rate overall but black women are at 74 percent. Jessie said doctor’s aren’t quite sure why there’s the 14 percent difference but said it’s likely a cultural difference versus a genetic one.
Some of the risk factors of developing breast cancer Jessie touched on included early menstruation, oral contraceptives, having children after the age of 30 or having no kids at all, late menopause and long-term hormone replacement. Being 55 or older, having had previous breast cancer or family history, some type of breast disease or having dense breast tissue also puts women at risk.
To reduce your risk of developing breast cancer, eat your fruits and veggies, if you’re going to drink, limit it to one a day or less and avoid smoking and second-hand smoke.
The population most at risk for developing the disease are women with a family history of breast cancer, women who were diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 45 or have had a member of the family diagnosed before that age, or are of Jewish heritage.
The best way to fight the disease however is with early detection. Jessie, and the American Cancer Society, suggest breast exams every month beginning at the age of 20. Clinical breast exams by a doctor should be done every three years for women 20-39, annually for women who are 40 and older, and for women 40 and older, you should be getting yearly mammograms.
If you notice a painless lump, thickening, swelling, nipple pain or retraction, irritation or dimpling of the skin or spontaneous nipple discharge get to a doctor immediately.
Once you’re at your doctor’s there are several ways to diagnose it. A breast MRI is a newer technology being used, but the most common are mammograms or ultrasounds. Then there are biopsies which can be small needle biopsies that require only general anesthesia, or a more surgical biopsy where the whole lump is removed and sent to a pathologist for results.
Once diagnosed with breast cancer there are two options for women, a mastectomy or a lumpectomy. Both have about the same success rate as far as remission goes, but women who have a history of the disease or carry the breast cancer disease often feel the more radical approach of a full mastectomy is the best option.
A mastectomy removes the entire breast and lymph nodes from the woman’s chest. There is still muscle tissue there however that can develop breast cancer later. If it’s going to happen, it’ll happen with or without the mastectomy.
A lumpectomy is just the removal of the cancerous tumor as well as a perimeter of tissue surrounding it. Several lymph nodes from under the arm are also removed at this time, but it’s not as drastic as with the lumpectomy.
Once the surgery has been done women who opted for the lumpectomy will require radiation and sometimes chemotherapy. Both treatments can also be done prior to surgery to reduce the size of the tumor. Radiation is done following the procedure.