Healthcare Experts Highlight Breast Cancer Awareness

HYANNIS – October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and health experts are advising women to be aware of breast cancer risks and consider annual cancer screenings.

According to Dr. Jill Oxley, Breast Surgeon and Director of Breast Care Services for Cape Cod Healthcare, Breast Cancer is the highest diagnosed cancer in women, and the second leading cause of cancer deaths behind lung cancer.

For 2021, the American Cancer Society estimates that over 284,000 cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed.

Massachusetts has above average rates of breast cancer compared to the rest of the nation, with Barnstable County and Nantucket County having the two highest incidence rates in the state.

Oxley stated that early diagnosis is critical in preventing breast cancer deaths.

“Stage of diagnosis is directly related to survival,” said Oxley. “While the overall five-year survival rates for breast cancer are very good around 90%, breast cancer that’s localized to the breast itself has a five-year survival rate of 99%, so if we can find these cancers at early stages we have much better long term outcomes.”

3-D mammograms are considered the gold standard for breast cancer detection, due to their ability to detect cancers even in women with dense breast tissue, but additional screening methods such as MRI exams are available for some cases.

According to Oxley, women with an average risk of developing breast cancer should get an annual mammogram at age 40, with screening for high risk individuals beginning as early as 25.

”Knowing one’s breast cancer risk allows us to know when to start screening, so anyone who is 25 or older should undergo a formal breast cancer risk assessment to further clarify that,” said Oxley.

Individual and family health histories can be used to determine whether an individual is at heightened risk, as well as other factors including onset of menstruation under the age of 12, late menopause after the age of 55, and lifestyle choices such as drinking alcohol and smoking.

Oxley said that rates of breast cancer increase with age, with 63 being the average age of diagnosis nationwide.

Cape Cod healthcare has a high-risk program at the Cuda Breast Care Center, with two surgeons and a nurse practitioner available to meet patients determined to be at high risk of breast cancer.

The high-risk program includes a comprehensive history and physical exam, as well as coordinated imaging tests.

Cape Cod Hospital has a multidisciplinary approach to breast cancer, with all newly diagnosed breast cancer cases being reviewed at a weekly multidisciplinary breast cancer case conference.

“Get your mammogram, don’t be afraid to bring something to medical attention if it’s concerning you, and tell your friends,” said Oxley.

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By, Matthew Tomlinson, NewsCenter

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