Perhaps no type of cancer has drawn more attention than breast cancer, and the awareness has paid off with more lives saved, according to Dr. Irving LaFrancis, MD, who sees patients at Mercy Clinic Oncology and Hematology – Carthage and Mercy Cancer Center in Joplin.
“Diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer has progressed substantially during my career,” said LaFrancis, who has practiced for 25 years. “One of the ways that it’s changed is we’re finding the disease much earlier, which has been critical to improving survival. Key to that has been mammography.”
Mammograms, in fact, have been proven statistically to save lives, LaFrancis said. While 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, most will survive and return to active, healthy lives due in large part to earlier detection with mammograms and advances in treatment. Technological improvements in mammograms, for example, have resulted in lower doses of radiation and clearer images.
A key is knowing at what age to being getting mammograms. Because the variables are many, LaFrancis recommends consulting with your doctor.
According to the National Cancer Institute, there will be an estimated 246,660 new cases of breast cancer in 2016, with about 40,450 deaths. From 2006 to 2012, 89.7 percent of breast cancer patients were surviving five years after diagnosis.
A mammogram X-ray of the breast often can find tumors that are too small for you or your doctor to feel. Other screenings include a clinical breast examination and a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the breast.
If your doctor thinks you have breast cancer, you may have more mammograms or other tests:
• An ultrasound if a lump is found during a clinical breast exam or on a mammogram
• An MRI of the breast to get more information about a breast lump or to evaluate problems in women who have breast implants
• A breast biopsy to remove a small sample of the lump and look at it under a microscope to see whether any cancer cells are present
Based on the results – along with other factors such as your family history and your overall health – possible breast cancer treatment options will be presented:
With surgery, one option is a lumpectomy, a breast-conserving surgery to remove only cancerous cells. Another option is a mastectomy that removes the entire breast. Your medical team will discuss your options and help you reach the decision that’s right for you.
Breast conservation therapy, the combination of a lumpectomy and radiation, has become the preferred treatment and proven over the years to be quite successful, according to LaFrancis.
“For the past 20 years, there’s been a trend away from mastectomies,” he said. “If you choose to do a lumpectomy, you’ll also need to undergo radiation because of the chance of a lumpectomy leaving behind microscopic bits of cancer.”
After a lumpectomy, radiation on the remaining breast tissue sterilizes any disease left behind, LaFrancis said.
“I’ve seen many women who’ve had a lumpectomy with radiation achieve excellent results,” he said.