October has been Breast Cancer Awareness Month- We see football players wearing pink sleeves, soccer players in pink socks, pink ribbons and candy, even pink pumpkins! But I want to take a moment to address this disease, which is the most common cancer to affect my patients.
•1 out of 8 women in Orange County will develop breast cancer in their lifetime
•Cases of breast cancer in younger women is rising
•Family history accounts for LESS than 10% of all breast cancers
•1% of all breast cancer occurs in men
•There are multiple forms of breast cancer
•The earlier the diagnosis is made the earlier the stage and the greater chance of cure
•Breast cancer is a curable disease
With those facts in mind, I would like to give you my perspective. I have been in private practice for 17 years in Newport Beach. I have diagnosed breast cancer during clinical exams, including during a six week post partum visit. I have screened patients for the BRCA gene (same mutation Angelia Jolie has) and have diagnosed half a dozen patients who have then gone on to have life preserving surgery. I have ordered thousands of mammograms, ultrasounds, and MRI’s which have led to the diagnosis of breast cancer in hundreds of patients, many under the age of 45. I have not had a single patient die of breast cancer.
I am a grateful for my colleagues in radiology, oncology, and breast surgery, who continue to strive for best ways to care for these patients. I believe a comprehensive breast center, such as Pacific Breast Care or Hoag Breast Center provides the complement of services and counseling to best serve my patients in a compassionate and timely manner.
I continue to advocate the guidelines supported by the American College of OBGYN: Women should start screening mammograms at age 40 or sooner based on their history. Personal risk assessments should be provided to ensure adequate imaging, including ultrasound or MRI, as in the case of dense breasts.
I am disappointed in the manner in which the Preventative Task Force and the American Cancer Society announced their new guidelines to the press, recommending mammograms at age 50 and 45 respectively. With this, they have added confusion, promoted loss of funding for these services, and most importantly they have failed to emphasize their recommendations based on a cost/benefit analysis.
I am offended that they cite increased anxiety due to unnecessary biopsies as a reason to put off screening mammograms until later. Moreover, as a woman, I would be more anxious knowing that no screening tests were being done.
In sum, Breast Cancer is a common, prevalent, and curable disease. I encourage my patients to advocate for their own healthcare. Each individual in my practice is valuable and maintaining their optimal health is my priority.
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