Screening still critical for early breast cancer detection

October 12, 2012, University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center

Teresa Smith is a testament to how important both self-breast exams and mammograms can be in detecting breast cancer early, when it is most treatable. 

Smith, now 49, found a during her monthly self-breast exam in March 2011. She immediately scheduled an appointment to have it evaluated by a medical professional. 

"I was always very diligent about doing my monthly breast exam. One month the lump wasn't there, and then suddenly it was," Smith recalls. She was over 40, but had put off starting until age 50 because she had no family history of breast cancer that would put her at an increased risk for the disease. 

A mammogram and biopsy gave her an official diagnosis of stage 2B breast cancer. The news took Smith's breath away: She was one stage away from the cancer spreading to the lymph nodes, which would have required not only surgery and chemotherapy but also radiation treatments.  

"I urge all women to make self-breast exams part of their routine. I am certain it saved my life," Smith adds. 
She chose the University of Cincinnati Cancer Institute multidisciplinary breast cancer team for her treatment.  On July 18, 2012, she underwent  bilateral to remove her and surrounding lymph nodes followed by DIEP (deep inferior epigastric perforator) flap at UC Health University Hospital. The procedure creates new breasts using the patient's own tissue.

With the DIEP approach, tiny blood vessels from the transferred tissue are surgically reattached to the chest wall. The procedure spares the , reducing the risk for complications associated with traditional TRAM (transverse rectus abdominis muscle) flap reconstructive surgery. The result is a more natural breast.

A combination of factors—including Smith's type of cancer (estrogen-progesterone receptor positive.), stage of disease, general overall health—made her a good candidate for the dual procedure. Together, Elizabeth Shaughnessy, MD, PhD, breast surgical oncologist, and Minh Doan Nguyen, MD, PhD, plastic and reconstructive surgeon, performed her procedures. 

Smith says going into breast cancer surgery knowing she would lose her breasts but still appear feminine afterward made a huge difference for her. 

"I didn't want a foreign object (implants) after breast cancer surgery, but I still needed to feel like a woman," she explains. "I certainly don't look the same under my clothes, but I can wear a bra or a swimsuit, I can give someone a hug—and no one would know I'd had cancer unless I chose to share that information with them." 

Early Detection Through Screening

Women in Their 20s
 
Breast self-exams have been shown to play a small role in early detection, simply because women are more familiar with what is "normal" for them. Evaluation should be done monthly, typically after the menstrual cycle. Any changes should be evaluated immediately by a health professional.

Women in Their 20s and 30s 

This is a clinical evaluation of the breast, both in physical appearance and feel, by a trained medical professional. This evaluation can help identify changes from what is normal for that individual and guide interventions, as necessary. 

Women Age 40 or Older 

Although the U.S. Preventative Task Force recently revised its guidelines to suggest that women begin screening mammography at age 50 instead of 40, the American Cancer Society, Radiologic Society of North America and other professional medical organizations maintain that women should begin annual screening at age 40 and continue to do so as long as they are in good health for the best chances of early detection, and therefore cure. 

Since the introduction of screening mammography in the 1980s, there have been 15,000 to 20,000 fewer deaths from annually in the United States as compared with the pre-screening era. 

Explore further: New study supports mammography screening at 40

Related Stories

New study supports mammography screening at 40

November 29, 2011
Women in their 40s with no family history of breast cancer are just as likely to develop invasive breast cancer as are women with a family history of the disease, according to a study presented today at the annual meeting ...

Breast cancer survivors benefit from fat transfers after mastectomies

August 10, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- When Susan McLain, 49, underwent a double mastectomy, she never imagined that she would look and feel better after reconstructive surgery than she did before breast cancer.

Recommended for you

T-cells engineered to outsmart tumors induce clinical responses in relapsed Hodgkin lymphoma

January 16, 2018
WASHINGTON-(Jan. 16, 2018)-Tumors have come up with ingenious strategies that enable them to evade detection and destruction by the immune system. So, a research team that includes Children's National Health System clinician-researchers ...

Researchers identify new treatment target for melanoma

January 16, 2018
Researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have identified a new therapeutic target for the treatment of melanoma. For decades, research has associated female sex and a history of previous ...

More evidence of link between severe gum disease and cancer risk

January 16, 2018
Data collected during a long-term health study provides additional evidence for a link between increased risk of cancer in individuals with advanced gum disease, according to a new collaborative study led by epidemiologists ...

Researchers develop a remote-controlled cancer immunotherapy system

January 15, 2018
A team of researchers has developed an ultrasound-based system that can non-invasively and remotely control genetic processes in live immune T cells so that they recognize and kill cancer cells.

Dietary fat, changes in fat metabolism may promote prostate cancer metastasis

January 15, 2018
Prostate tumors tend to be what scientists call "indolent" - so slow-growing and self-contained that many affected men die with prostate cancer, not of it. But for the percentage of men whose prostate tumors metastasize, ...

Pancreatic tumors may require a one-two-three punch

January 15, 2018
One of the many difficult things about pancreatic cancer is that tumors are resistant to most treatments because of their unique density and cell composition. However, in a new Wilmot Cancer Institute study, scientists discovered ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.