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Breast Cancer Awareness Month story ideas

-added 10/4/10

Ann Arbor - This year, an estimated 209,060 Americans will hear their doctors say, "You have breast cancer."More than 40,000 will die from the disease.

As October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month, here are some of the hot topics in breast cancer from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center:

New service helps women avoid additional surgery

Traditionally, breast cancer patients who undergo surgery wait several days for laboratory results to determine whether another operation will be necessary. At least 30 percent of women who opt for breast-conserving therapies will require more than one operation.

A new service at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center minimizes that uncertainty. Now, as soon as a tumor is removed, it's immediately sent to the pathologist for an intraoperative consultation. The surgeon remains in the operating room with the patient still under anesthesia until results are back.

If additional tissue needs to be removed, the surgeon can do so immediately.

"Intra-operative diagnosis can help us plan our surgical therapy and decrease the likelihood that a patient will have to come back for a second procedure. We have improved communication during the surgical procedure, and a team approach acting in real time as opposed to in sequence," says Tara Breslin, M.D., a breast cancer surgeon and an assistant professor of surgery.

Interview opportunities: U-M surgeons and patient who benefited from not needing additional surgery

Sorting through the mammography controversy

A year after a government panel revised its recommendations for breast cancer screening, many professional organizations have not followed suit.

Where does this leave the average woman?

"Experts agree mammography saves lives, and all major organizations still recommend regular mammograms. The disagreement is in what age to start, what age to stop and how frequently you should have it done," says Mark Helvie, M.D., director of breast imaging at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Interview opportunities: Experts in radiology, surgery and gynecology

Testing for breast cancer gene: No simple answers

A genetic mutation can significantly increase a woman's risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer. But does that mean everyone should be tested?

"While the test is a very easy thing to do -- it's a simple blood test -- the interpretation of the results can sometimes be very complicated," says Mark Pearlman, M.D., vice chair and professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the U-M Medical School.

In fact, experts estimate only 2 percent of the population should be tested for these mutations, which occur in genes called BRCA1 or BRCA2.

Women who seek genetic testing should work with a genetic counselor and a physician who is specially trained to help people understand what their test results mean for their cancer risk, and what they can do to reduce that risk.

Interview opportunities: U-M specialists who provide genetic counseling and follow-up care to women at high risk of breast cancer

U-M marks 25 years of multidisciplinary breast care

Twenty-five years ago, breast cancer specialists at the University of Michigan got together in a novel way. Instead of shuttling patients from one type of doctor to another, the doctors started meeting as a team - with representatives from surgery, medicine, radiation, radiology and pathology - to discuss each patient's situation and recommend the best treatment plan.

This was one of the first multidisciplinary breast care centers in the country, and an early example of cancer doctors collaborating in that way. Now, multidisciplinary care is the gold standard in cancer care. At U-M, 14 cancer clinics offer multidisciplinary care.

"Our Breast Care Center gathers all of our specialists to bring their expertise and knowledge to each patient's care so that we deliver the best care possible. Meanwhile, patients come to only one place and still get the benefit of seeing multiple specialists," says Lisa A. Newman, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Breast Care Center.

An anniversary celebration will be held from 2-5 p.m. Oct. 21 at Ford Auditorium, inside University Hospital. Media interested in attending can call 734-764-2220 to arrange.

Interview opportunities: U-M Breast Care Center co-directors, patient advocates

Resources

U-M Cancer AnswerLine™, 800-865-1125

Clinical trials at U-M

 

Written by Nicole Fawcett

 

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