Did you know breast cancer affects 1 in every 8 women? This statistic might sound scary, but it probably does not come as a surprise. You can probably think of at least one person in your life who has been affected by breast cancer. The good news is the survival rate for people with breast cancer has been steadily rising since the 1990s. Julian Kim, MD, senior medical director of Oncology Services with Palmetto Health-USC Medical Group, shares information about breast cancer screenings and advancements in breast cancer treatment.
Dr. Kim said one reason the breast cancer survival rate is improving is because people are starting to detect it sooner. Two ways you can detect breast cancer are through a self-examination or a mammogram. “A mammogram can detect breast cancer anywhere from two to 10 years before that cancer grows large enough to be felt in an examination. Mammograms are key,” Dr. Kim said.
So, when should you get a mammogram? The guidelines around this can be confusing because they are constantly changing. Dr. Kim offers these tips:
- After the age of 40, you should be getting a mammogram once a year.
- If breast cancer runs in your family, consult your physician. It might be beneficial to start getting mammograms before the age of 40.
- If you have any questions, don’t skip your mammogram – ask your physician. It could save your life.
Dr. Kim said another reason the breast cancer survival rate is rising is because of the improvements in treatment. Not only are the treatment methods improving, but they are also getting more personalized. This means patients are getting treatment based on their
cancer, not someone else’s. For example, most breast cancer patients used to have to go through chemotherapy. Now, there is specialized genetic testing that can be performed on the individual’s breast cancer that can show whether the patient will benefit from chemotherapy.
Dr. Kim said, “This means fewer women in general will receive chemotherapy, and the improvement in
breast cancer survival will continue, so less equals more.”
Another example is Palmetto Health’s breast conference. “At this conference, each patient’s individual case is presented in front of a board of experts. Each patient gets multiple opinions on the treatment plan individualized for them,” Dr. Kim said.
Although cancer care is more comprehensive than ever, patients sometimes will want an additional opinion, and that’s normal. Dr. Kim said most physicians will gladly recommend a second opinion. This can help patients understand more about their treatment and maybe get a question answered that wasn’t answered the first time.
If you are a breast cancer patient, Dr. Kim said it’s important to ask your questions. Understanding more can make you feel better, have more confidence, have less anxiety and be able to trust that you are getting the treatment that is the best for you. The physicians, nurse navigators and everyone involved in your treatment is there to support you.
If you have a question or concern about breast cancer, ask your physician. If you need a physician, call 803-907-0350 to fine one who’s right for you.
Make an Appointment
Knowing how busy women and moms are today, each of our four Breast Center locations offers early morning and late afternoon hours for breast imaging procedures. To make an appointment, call us at 803-296-8888.