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Mammograms are Key to breast cancer awareness

Dr. Ruth E. Lamar, Tennessee Oncology, for the Advertiser News, Spring Hill

October is breast cancer awareness month. That’s the month we see pink ribbons T-shirts, soup cans and just about every product imaginable to promote aware and raise money for breast cancer research.  The message behind this pink bonanza is that early detection by screening mammography really does improve cure rates.

Randomized studies have shown that yearly mammography for women age 50 to 69 has a 10 to 23 percent lower risk of dying from breast cancer than their peers who did not have screening mammograms.

Mammography for women age 40-49 saves lives but the benefit for younger women may be less than for older women. Some of the reasons for this may be that younger women may have more aggressive cancers and may have dense breasts, making mammography a less than optimal screening tool.

Despite this, most major health organizations, including the American Cancer Society and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, still recommend yearly mammograms, starting at age 40.

According to statistics from the ACS, only 61 percent of women over age 40 in Tennessee report having had a recent mammogram. Take advantage of several facilities in our area offering discounted or even free mammograms for those who qualify during the month of October.

While much attention during this month is given to early detection, we also need to “be aware” and support funding for metastatic breast cancer (cancer that has spread beyond the breast).

While great strides have been made in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer, this is still a devastating disease and for more women incurable.

Our greatest hope for modern breast cancer treatment probably lies in the area of targeted therapy. Targeted therapies are drugs or other substances which block the growth of cancer by interfering with specific molecules involved in tumor growth.
Many new targets are being discovered as well as opportunities in this area for treatment through participation in clinical trials.

We are making progress in the fight against breast cancer, so “be aware,” get your mammogram and support breast cancer research when you can.