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This week, on OnCall with Dr Darria, I had Dr Michael Wertheimer, the director of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Breast Care Center, and Mrs Ellen Calmas, a breast cancer and melanoma survivor who is now a major advocate for other patients, for breast cancer prevention, and treatment.  The words “Breast Cancer” frighten us all–and with the recent confusion about changes to screening recommendations, there was so much to discuss! For details on how to reach Dr Wertheimer and Mrs Calmas, go to the “On TV-OnCall with Dr Darria” tab!

Dr Darria’s Docket of the 7 Key Points from the Episode:

  1. Breast Cancer is the main cause of death of women 40-59 years old in the US
  2. The majority of women diagnosed with breast cancer had NO identifiable risk factors.  If you’re female, then you’re at risk. That’s why screening is SO important!
  3. Despite recent arguments about mammography, the American Cancer Society,  National Cancer Institute, and the majority of cancer doctors (including our guest, one of the preeminent doctors in the field of breast cancer), advise that patients without any risk factors start regular mammography at age 40.  (If you do have risk factors, speak with your doctor, as you may need to start mammography or other tests earlier). 60-70% of all breast cancers that are diagnosed are tiny, curable tumors that can ONLY be found on mammography.
  4. Do  breast self exams.  I know, you forget, they’re uncomfortable…excuses excuses.  As much as we all hate to admit it, breast cancer can strike at ANY age–and certainly way before you turn 40.  Our guest, Ellen, found her cancer at age 39 herself.  So do them. Every month.  Period.
  5. Hormones play a role– studies found that hormone replacement therapy after menopause SIGNIFICANTLY increased the risk of breast cancer
  6. Some chemicals in the environment can mimic the effect of hormones in the body, which many researchers believe can increase the risk of breast cancer.  One culprit is BPA, found in many plastics and the liners in cans.  The FDA has ruled to obtain more information, but BPAs have been declared as toxic in Canada and the EU already.  If you want to protect yourself, stick to glass for food storage, don’t microwave in plastic, and don’t put it in the dishwasher.  As a major proponent of leftovers and microwaving myself, I have found some GREAT glass storage pieces–you can find them at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, or any home goods store.
  7. The other “C” word with Cancer is “Cure”.  Every day doctors and scientists are treating breast cancer better and improving survival.  Early and prompt diagnosis is a major reason for this– and something that is within YOUR power.

Take care, Keep up the good work, and enjoy the show!  —- Dr. Darria

 

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1 Comment

  1. Darria-
    Great topic as we need to get the truth out there. However, there are a couple of issues with your key points.
    1. For women less that 50 the risk of false positives is very high. By screening all women less than 50 many women WITHOUT cancer will end up being diagnosed with cancer and having treatment. This is a key point which you should try to explain as it is confusing to many women.
    2. Breast self exams have not been shown to reduce breast cancer morbidity or mortality. They lead to more false positives. We are not even clear if breast exams by physicians are effective, as there are no clear studies.

    Doctors need to be leaders in getting out the message that all tests are not good tests. Some are good for many, but not for all. This is the case for breast cancer screening.

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