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If you ask around, almost everyone can tell you about a friends’, family members’, or even their own fight against breast cancer.
With the staggering statistics—one in every eight women will develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetime (breastcancer.org)—most of us have had an intimate experience with the disease. Thankfully, there’s hope on the horizon.
EARLY DETECTION SAVES LIVES
Education and awareness are crucial, as early detection is one of the largest factors in breast cancer survival rates. Dr. Michelle Cherry, board certified OB/GYN with Marshall Medical, says that doing regular self breast exams, a key component to detecting breast cancer early, empowers women by making them familiar with their breasts and increasing their ability to detect a lump, skin dimpling, nipple discharge or a lump in the axilla (arm pit). Yet, Dr. Cherry stresses, “Routine screening mammograms [are] still the gold standard for detection of breast cancer.”
The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recently changed their guidelines, recommending mammograms every other year for women over age 50 while the American Cancer Society still recommends them annually for women over 40. This conflicting information can be both frustrating and confusing when trying to decide what the best approach to your breast health is. Dr. Cherry explains, “Studies show that, on average, cancers in women over age 50 grow more slowly and thus longer intervals between mammograms may be reasonable. However, coming from a family with a history of breast cancer, I will continue with the recommendations of the American Cancer Society and order yearly mammograms on my patients.” Dr. Cherry stresses that each patient’s case is different and the risks and benefits of mammograms should be discussed with your doctor.
Digital breast tomosynthesis, referred to as 3-D mammography, is the most advanced technology to date, providing better cancer detection by digitally reconstructing a 3-D image of the breast. It is used in conjunction with traditional 2-D mammography to create better imaging of the breast tissue, allowing radiologists to identify individual structures within the breast without the confusion of overlapping tissue images. This is especially important innovation for women with dense breast tissue in which clear imaging is harder to achieve.
Improved early detection
Reduced number of false positives
“Early detection is critical, and 3-D technology allows us to detect smaller and earlier stage cancers. This not only increases breast cancer detection by 25 percent, but decreases false positives or unnecessary callback examinations by 25 to 40 percent,” says Dr. Michael Norton, medical director of breast imaging at Radiological Associates of Sacramento (RAS). “RAS is the first and currently the only breast imaging provider in Sacramento and the Central Valley to offer 3-D mammography.”
PREVENTION: WHAT WORKS AND WHAT DOESN’T
With hundreds of health gurus touting their new miracle cure for cancer, it can be hard to decipher if there’s any truth to their claims. One thing we do know is that a diet rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables, with fewer meats and processed foods, is better for your overall health. So is frequent exercise and lower alcohol consumption. “It is interesting to note that the higher one’s weight at the time of diagnosis and the lack of physical exercise can increase one’s risk of breast cancer, its recurrence and mortality. So, eating a well-balanced diet, watching your weight (maintaining a normal body mass index), and exercising routinely may help prevent the occurrence of breast cancer,” Dr. Cherry says.
The Mercy Center for Breast Health offers flexible hours for mammogram appointments, rapid turnaround of test results, and the latest technology for minimally invasive procedures to help meet your needs while working around your busy schedule.
As for cancer-fighting foods, while the verdict is still out on their overall efficacy, the argument can be made that consuming healthy options on a regular basis certainly cannot hurt. Fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants, fiber and phytonutrients are considered the best for fending off breast cancer.
RESOURCES AND SUPPORT
The battle against breast cancer is one that should never be traveled alone. A pivotal component of treatment is utilizing the resources and support systems in your area. Quincey Roxburgh, RN, clinical director of the Mercy Cancer Institute (MCI), says taking advantage of the programs dedicated to helping patients through treatment can make a world of difference in their tolerance and overall emotional well-being. “People are beginning to realize the basics of life—rest, relaxation, healthy food and exercise—have a lot to do with their ability to cope during treatment,” Roxburgh says.
• Five to 10 percent of breast cancers are thought to be hereditary
• One in eight women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in their lifetime
• Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women, after skin cancer
• Having between two and five alcoholic drinks per day increases the risk of breast cancer in women one and a half times
• One to two hours per week of brisk walking can reduce the risk of developing breast cancer by 18 percent
The Institute offers a plethora of programs to meet the needs of cancer patients in all stages of treatment, including breast cancer support group meetings, which are often followed by a free yoga class to help manage the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. MCI also offers a Gentle Conditioning class, utilizing gentle stretching and lifting light weights, for those in treatment who might not be interested in yoga but are still working to retain their physical stamina and help with side effects like decreased appetite. “More and more, research is showing that complementary medicine helps patients through the side effects of their treatment journey. It has been shown to greatly reduce fatigue and anxiety and improve sleep.” Though these sound like basic components of general health, they often fall by the wayside while cancer patients are undergoing treatment.
Outside of the emotional challenges of battling breast cancer, the coordination and commitments of treatment can be overwhelming. MCI employs a two-pronged approach to patient support—with Nurse Navigators on one side, who help patients manage appointments and coordinate with specialists, and Peer Navigators on the other. MCI describes the Peer Navigator program as cancer survivors “trained to provide empathetic counseling to men and women who are experiencing cancer diagnosis and treatment.”
MCI Breast Cancer Support/Education Group Meetings:
First Thursday of every month
6:30-8 p.m.; yoga is offered one hour before meeting
Mercy Cancer Center
(3301 C Street, Suite 550)
Third Thursday of every month
4-5:30 p.m.; yoga is offered 5:45-6:45 p.m. at Mercy San Juan Medical Center (6501 Coyle Avenue, Conference Room 2, Russell Tower)
Party in Pink Zumbathon, October 3 910 Pleasant Grove Boulevard (Sam’s Club/Walmart parking lot) in Roseville 916-220-9985
Artists for the Cure, October 4, Elliott Fouts Gallery, komensacramento.org
Third Annual Carolyn Martinez Foundation Golf Tournament October 5, Bing Maloney Golf Course golfforecarolyn.com
Hot Pink Fun Run, October 6 Downtown Roseville, hotpinkfunrun.org
Making Strides of Sacramento, October 20, State Capitol, facebook.com/makingstridessacramento
LOCAL SUPPORT GROUPS
Breast Cancer Self Help Group. Meets the second Friday of the month from 7-8:30 p.m. at 681 Main Street in Placerville at Marshall Community Health Library (Apple/Pear Room).
Hooters: Breast Cancer Support Group. Meets monthly; led by breast cancer survivors. For meeting time and location, call 530-620-3436.
Look Good, Feel Better. Helps women going through chemotherapy enhance their appearance with makeup, scarves, wigs and turbans. Meets on the second Tuesday of every month from 1-3 p.m. at the Marshall Cancer Resource Center in Cameron Park (3581 Palmer Drive, Suite 202). To register, call 530-672-7050.
Reach to Recovery. Breast cancer survivors make individual visits to new breast cancer patients immediately after surgery to provide information on reconstruction, prostheses and support programs. For more information, call 1-800-ACS-2345.
UC Davis WeCARE! Matches newly diagnosed cancer patients with trained cancer survivors to provide special support on a one-on-one basis. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.