Advancements in the fight against breast cancer

Carla Fisher, MD, IU Health Physicians General Surgery – Simon Cancer Center

While a breast cancer diagnosis is a sobering experience for women and their families, advancements in early detection and treatment continue to provide hope for those affected by the disease. Breast Cancer Awareness Month offers an opportunity for healthcare providers to share the latest recommendations and treatment options.

Early detection is important. Mammography has been shown to save lives based on its ability to identify breast cancer at earlier stages when treatment is most effective. Today’s digital 3-D technology generates sharp images that improve accuracy and make it easier for radiologists to see small tumors, especially in women with dense breast tissue. While this technology may not be necessary for everyone, it’s important for women to know what type of mammogram they are receiving and if they may benefit from 3-D mammography.

Although breast cancer screening recommendations differ, it’s generally advised that women begin receiving yearly mammograms at age 40. Recommendations may differ based on risk, age and other factors, therefore women should talk with their primary care doctor to determine the optimal screening recommendations for them.

Developments in treatment offer new options. For women facing breast cancer, personalized medicine, precision health approaches and surgical advancements result in improved treatment options. Sophisticated testing on individual tumors has enabled many women to successfully treat their cancer without chemotherapy. Oncoplastic surgery, which combines cutting-edge plastic surgery techniques with breast surgical oncology, allows women to retain the natural appearance and shape of the breast, while achieving the same overall treatment outcomes.

Women diagnosed with breast cancer are encouraged to consult with physicians who specialize in the disease. Referrals from friends and family members are often helpful. Women facing breast cancer and other life-changing diseases also should not hesitate to get a second opinion. Most doctors understand the need for patients to be adequately informed and to feel comfortable with their decisions about how best to treat this disease. Finally, establishing a trust-based connection with a doctor is valuable during what is often a challenging and uncertain time.