Breast Cancer: Prevention, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Breast cancer continues to be the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women. It occurs when the cells in the breast begin to grow out of control, forming a tumor that can be felt as a lump and seen on an x-ray. During this Breast Cancer Awareness Month, learn about breast cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatments from Premier Surgical Oncologist, Dr. Ana Wilson.

How important is early detection of breast cancer?
Dr. Ana Wilson, our newest surgical oncologist at Premier Surgical Associates in Knoxville, TN says, “Early detection is crucial. That’s why we want everyone to get their mammogram. If the cancer is detected early, the surgeries will be minimal as well as the recovery time, and there’s less chance of cancer cells spreading to other areas.”

For women at average risk of breast cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends doing an annual mammogram starting at the age of 40. Women age 55 and older can switch to doing mammograms every other year or continue to do it annually.

A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray for the breasts. Doing mammograms per the screening guidelines can help detect breast cancer at an early stage when treatment is highly successful.

For women who have a family history of breast cancer, the screening guidelines will depend on the result of the risk calculation.

Dr. Ana Wilson, Surgical Oncologist

This is what Dr. Wilson has this to say about that: “We calculate the patient’s overall risks and if it’s greater than 20 percent, they’re considered high risk. For high-risk patients, we will do screenings that involve MRIs.”

A breast cancer diagnosis is super scary and often confusing. How do you help your patients navigate the whole process?
“It is a complicated process, and we have a whole team of oncologists, we have radiologists, pathologists who will meet together to discuss the best plan for the specific patient. When I first meet a patient, I will go over every detail beginning with who each person is and his or her role during treatments. And once we have a general plan, then I will encourage the patient to focus on one step at a time.”

What are some things you feel a newly diagnosed breast patient should know?
“An important thing to know–it’s very common. 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer, so they are not alone. They can always join support groups, which are helpful. But the caveat to that is there are different types of breast cancers and treatments for each one. One woman’s breast cancer battle is not the same as the next woman. It’s very important that patients never compare themselves to someone they meet who also has breast cancer.”

How is diagnosing and treating breast cancer better now than it was, even 10 years ago?
“There is always new research being done. One of the biggest changes as it relates to surgery, we are doing more chemotherapy in the beginning whereas years ago, we would begin with surgery and then chemotherapy. For certain types of cancers, doing chemotherapy up front minimizes the amount of surgery. Another thing–looking at genomic features of a tumor will help determine who will benefit from chemotherapy, which helps us know who really needs chemotherapy.”

Anything else you’d like to add about breast cancer prevention, diagnosis or treatment?
“I think it’s important for patients to know that there has been new data coming out showing that patients who undergo breast conserving therapy live longer than those who have had a mastectomy. I know many women have a knee-jerk reaction of “just take it, I don’t want it!” They think getting rid of the cancer with a mastectomy will take away the cancer, but there are chances of the cancer coming back even after a mastectomy. It’s important to understand there are benefits to conserving the breast.”

Premier Surgical offers our patients innovative, state-of-the-art breast care. Our team of Breast Cancer surgeons is ready to guide patients through the diagnosis, treatment, and reconstruction phase. To learn more about the Premier Surgical Breast Cancer Team, visit https://www.premiersurgical.com/premier-surgical-services/breast-cancer-surgery/.

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