Early detection key to battling breast cancer, doctors say
Advancements in genetic testing can help reduce a woman's risk
Advancements in breast cancer research and treatment can help women spot the cancer earlier than ever and help survivors lead relatively normal lives.
Thanks to advances in genetic testing, being able to identify the breast cancer gene can significantly reduce a woman's risk.
"We have the ability to screen then more aggressively so that if a cancer is going to happen, we find it at a much earlier stage," said Tara Namey, a senior genetics counselor for the Lehigh Valley Health Network.
But genetic testing is expensive, so doctors and insurance companies are selective. The criteria include women with significant family histories, women diagnosed under the age of 45, and those under 60 with a aggressive form of cancer known as triple negative.
Genetic testing advances also extend to fertility issues and the ability to screen embryos for the breast cancer gene during the invitro fertilization process.
As more women under the age of 40 are being diagnosed, there are increased concerns about premature ovarian failure after chemotherapy.
"There needs to be a discussion with her physician about can we harvest some eggs ahead of time," said Ulla Martz, a cancer social worker for L.V.H.N.
The risk of radiation on fertility is negligible, and mammograms are crucial, health officials said.
As part of this series on breast cancer, Lehigh Valley Health Network showed 69 News its newest, state-of-the-art diagnostic tool -- mammography technology that allows thin slices of imagery to form a three dimensional picture of the breast.
Tomosynthesis can detect smaller lesions that hide in dense breast tissue, which is a powerful tool in early detection.
"You cannot prevent yourself from getting breast cancer, but at least with screening, you can catch it possibly at an early stage where you don't have to have as much radical treatment," said Marie Hrinkonich, a mammogran technologist.
Once a woman reaches 40, doctors said she should have a mammogram at least once a year, but women in higher risk categories may need to start earlier.
One thing every woman should do on a regular basis is an at-home self exam.
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