The first in a three-part series of Blog Talk Radio shows sponsored by the Columbia University Department of Surgery Clinical Breast Cancer Program covered prevention, screening, and family history.
Sheldon Feldman, MD, Chief of Breast Surgery and Associate Professor of Surgery, New-York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, began the 45-minute long program by stating, “Although I’m a surgeon, my great preference is to prevent breast cancer, not to have to operate. My favorite topic is preventing breast cancer, rather than treating it.”
According to a Journal of Clinical Oncology 2007 study, people with diets high in fruits and vegetables and daily vigorous physical activity had the lowest rates of breast cancer, Dr. Feldman explained. Maintaining a low body weight and reducing alcohol intake also help prevent breast cancer.
“A lot of prevention involves things that we know are very good for us in general, particularly a low fat diet and exercise. In fact, those habits also reduce recurrences of breast cancer.”
Dr. Feldman next discussed factors that increased the risk of breast cancer. Hormone exposure—through hormone replacement therapy or because a woman has had no children, did not breast feed, or started her menstrual cycle early and went through menopause late—increases risk. So does having a mother, sister, or daughter who has had breast cancer.
In terms of screening, Dr. Feldman believes digital mammography is “the gold standard. It’s also critically important for women to be aware of their body, do self exams, look for any new lumps, discharge, or unusual pain.”
NYPH/Columbia’s recommendations for screening are as follows:
- Women with no family history: a baseline mammogram at 40
- Between 40-50: annual mammogram only if at risk,
- At age 50 and beyond: annual mammogram
That said, Dr. Feldman explained that the accuracy and sensitivity of a mammogram can vary depending on the density of breast tissue. If a woman has dense breast tissue, usually an ultrasound or sonogram is done as well. “We want to screen patients carefully using best tools possible,” he said. “The good news is that we are making lots of progress and finding breast cancer earlier and earlier.”
A few of the questions listeners called in to ask included:
- How long is safe is it to wait after finding something on a mammogram
- How much risk do I have if I have been on tamoxifen?
- What is the risk of breast implants?
- If my mother 70 when her breast cancer was diagnosed, am I still at higher risk?
- Is ductal carcinoma in situ cancer?
- How should men screen for breast cancer?
What You Need to Know About Breast Cancer: Early Diagnosis Part 2 continues with two more segments on July 11th at 12:00 PM ET and September 5th at 12:00 PM ET. Be sure to follow the Columbia Surgery Blog Talk Radio Show Channel and call into 347-539-5189 on the day of the show.