Authored by Nathan Margolis, MD, Medical Director of the Ray W. Moody, MD Breast Center at Garnet Health Medical Center & Michele Worden, BSN, CBHN, Breast Center Manager
Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a great time to ensure that the risks, signs and basic facts of the disease remain top of mind for women. It is also the perfect time to begin a proactive approach to breast health for women of a certain age, and to let them know that they have access to detection and treatment options that are second to none, right here in Orange County.
What is breast cancer and what causes it?
Cancer cells really have to do with our DNA molecules. Without bogging readers down in too much biology, occasionally there is an abnormality – a mistake, if you will – in the way a DNA molecule is made, which can cause cells to divide rapidly. That mass of cells can become a lump or swelling. So, breast cancer is a disease occurring when cells in the breast grow out of control like this.
If they are not treated in time, those cancer cells can metastasize, which means travel to other parts of the body. Left untreated in any location, cancer can become lethal. At the Breast Center, we encourage people to be proactive with their breast health so we can try and catch cancers early. In the early stages, cancer can be more easily treated.
So, when dealing with breast cancer, early detection is the key.
What are some risks for breast cancer? Can they be reduced?
Some risk factors for breast cancer are beyond our control; among them are:
- Family history
- Previous radiation treatments
But, there are some risk factors that we can affect.
Estrogen & Hormone Therapy
We know that estrogen, the molecule that controls female hormones, can be fuel to the fire for breast cancer. So, being vigilant when under hormone therapy is important.
Maintaining a Health Weight
We also tend to see higher estrogen levels in obese or overweight people, so maintaining a healthy weight is important.
Smoking & Drinking Alcohol
Then, there is the data that shows carcinogens related to smoking, as well as drinking alcohol, can both contribute to developing breast cancer. Quitting smoking and tempering drinking are both highly recommended.
Staying Healthy & Regular Check-up’s
The best practice you can undertake to reduce your risk of having breast cancer also happens to be the best practice you can undertake for overall health – maintain a healthy diet and make sure to get daily exercise. The next best step, and this goes back to staying proactive, is to make and keep a schedule of regular check-ups with your doctor. That way, if a cancer is there, we can detect it early.
When should a woman begin to get mammograms?
There has been some debate on this over the years, but at the Breast Center we recommend beginning breast cancer screening at age 40, and having a mammogram and physical exam annually thereafter. Breast cancer becomes more common as women reach their late forties and early fifties, but even women in their early forties can develop breast cancer. And, since they’re younger, they have more estrogen circulating which can exacerbate the condition.
Again, it comes down to making sure we catch cancer as early as possible. Getting patients to visit annually gives us the chance to detect cancer at its smallest and most treatable state. If the cells are dividing and getting bigger but we catch it early on, treatment becomes much easier.
We’re fortunate to have some of the latest and greatest equipment for detecting breast cancer available to us at Garnet Health Medical Center. Just one example is our 3-D mammography, a huge advancement over 2-D for detection that has led to us seeing cancers being caught earlier. But, patients also need to understand that a cancer diagnosis is not a life sentence anymore. In fact, the disease is almost 100% treatable when caught early.
All this said, a woman should consult with her physician, someone who knows her personal medical history and health status, to devise the best course of action for them.
How does early detection affect treatment?
When we catch cancer early, those patients can be cured much more effectively than before, using less invasive surgery and less toxic chemotherapy. Not only have mammograms come a long way, but our colleagues in the oncology world have come a long way in terms of targeting the cancer cells with better treatments.
One example is the use of therapies that activate the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells. So, instead of administering a toxic chemical that would stop all cells from dividing, it is targeting cancer cells and leaving the rest of the body’s cells unharmed.
Patients can also undergo a lumpectomy, where just the lump is removed rather than all of the breast tissue. Early detection can also help them avoid having chemotherapy, which can have toxic side effects. Even more developments will be coming out in the next few years, and we are very excited to be a part of that at Garnet Health Medical Center.
Visit ORMC and see what we have to offer.
At the Ray W. Moody, MD Breast Center at Garnet Health Medical Center we are very proud to introduce the community to our doctors, the surgeons, the staff, and our latest technology, including:
- 3D mammogram
- Affirm® prone biopsy system, which employs advanced, proprietary imaging technology to visualize even hard to see lesions
- Brevera® system that streamlines the entire breast biopsy process with real-time imaging for instant verification and automated post-biopsy specimen handling.
- We have also introduced the SAVI SCOUT® system this month, which is a beautiful technique for wire-free localization going forward with lumpectomies.
This is technology on the leading edge, and we’re very excited to offer it to our community in and around Middletown, NY at Garnet Health Medical Center.
Garnet Health Medical Center’s Breast Center is home to a dedicated and passionate team focused on breast cancer. We provide access to new technologies that can help women be proactive with their breast health, both in detection and treatment. We’re happy to be here for our patients in the community.
About Nathaniel Margolis, MD
Dr. Margolis spent many years conducting breast cancer research at New York University School of Medicine, where he also served as a breast imaging Fellow and Chief Resident within its Department of Diagnostic Radiology. His medical degree was earned at the New York University School of Medicine. Dr. Margolis has co-authored and/or co-presented nearly 30 medical research topics and is co-author of a chapter on quality and patient safety in the forthcoming book, Quality and Patient Safety in Imaging. Dr. Margolis has been Medical Director of the Ray W. Moody, M.D. Breast Center at Garnet Health Medical Center since 2015.
About Michele Worden, BSN, CBHN
Michele Worden is a certified breast health nurse by the Oncology Nursing Society, and is also certified in Clinical Breast Examination. She received her Clinical Breast Care Nurse Certification from the Oncology Nursing Society Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation and her Clinical Breast Certification from National Consortium of Breast Centers. In 2010, she became the hospitals first Breast Patient Navigator
to advocate for, educate and support breast cancer patients. She established a bi-monthly Breast Cancer Support Group
and is a noted community speaker on matters of Breast Health and Breast Cancer. Michele is a 2015 and 2018 recipient of the Daisy Award for Extraordinary Nurses, and was voted among the top twenty for the 2016 Hudson Valley Magazine Excellence in Nursing Award.
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