Ananthakrishnan

Sneak Peak: Breast Cancer and Bridging the Gap

by Columbia Surgery on December 4, 2013

Bridging the GapOn Saturday December 7th, Columbia University Department of Surgery is hosting its annual breast cancer awareness event, Bridging the Gap: Enhancing Breast Cancer Prevention, Screening and Wellness. We spoke with Preya Ananthakrishnan, MD, one of the key members of the planning committee, for a sneak preview about what we can expect at this year’s event.

The event focuses on “living well and survivorship.”  What does this mean?

My team and I understand “living well” as meaning more than just your physical well being – it’s about nourishing your mental well being as well. It combines a variety of factors including diet, nutrition, and exercise to leading a happy life and having a positive outlook. We try to foster these ideals through the physicians’ lectures as well as through our patient testimonials, in which they speak about their own experience. After all, they are our best examples of living well and survivorship. Overall, if our attendees leave with one message, we hope it is: be educated, make good choices, but always remember to enjoy life.

Another goal of the event is to help promote breast cancer awareness among minority communities. Why is it important to raise awareness of breast cancer in minority communities?

179695267Currently, breast cancer is the most common cancer in African American women. Statistics have shown that African American women have a higher incidence at younger ages and higher mortality rates in every age demographic. Through events like this one, we are trying to reverse this trend.

Our hope is that through teaching about risk factors, early detection, and treatment options, we can help empower women not only to better themselves but also to spread what they’ve learned among their community and family. We encourage that community feeling by making it fun and social. Our speakers and attendees are a very lively group, and we are all eager to help one another in the fight against breast cancer. We are a stronger force to help raise awareness together.

It has been almost a year since Angelina Jolie had a preventive double mastectomy. What changes have you seen in your practice due to the increased awareness of the BRCA gene and genetic screening for breast cancer? How will this be discussed at this year’s conference?

By sharing her story, Angelina Jolie has dramatically helped increase awareness of familial genetic syndromes – not just of the BRCA genes but also of other genetic mutations that correlate with increased cancer risk as well. Today, many patients with strong family histories of breast cancer are interested in receiving genetic testing to help better assess their personal risk. In addition, more patients are becoming more proactive with reducing their risk. Especially among younger patients, we are finding that many women diagnosed with breast cancer are opting for bilateral mastectomies to remove both the affected and non-affected breasts and reduce the chance of recurrence and to reduce the risk of developing a new primary cancer in the future.

Believing you may be at an increased risk for breast cancer can be a scary situation to navigate. We hope this event can provide a good stepping point to your journey. At this year’s conference, we will provide more information about genetic testing and who should consider it. We will also discuss the most recent advances in surgery, such as nipple-sparing mastectomy, and the new options they afford patients. Our keynote speaker, Dr. Christine Rohde, will also be highlighting advances in breast reconstruction.

What are some of the newest imaging and treatment options available to patients?

An overarching theme of this year’s conference is individualized treatment. No two patients are alike, and it is important that we tailor treatments. We are excited to be discussing some new treatment options and detection tests that will help us provide individualized treatment, such as:

    • Intraoperative Radiation Therapy (IORT) – IORT delivers a dose of radiation, concentrated on where to the tumor was removed, immediately after surgery. Focusing the radiation rather than applying radiation to the whole breast has been shown to be as effective as whole breast radiation, according to research comparing the two methods. We just started offering this at NYP this year and we’re excited to let people know about this new technology.
    • Laser ablation of breast cancer As opposed to conventional surgical removal, laser ablation therapy targets and heats the tumor to extreme temperatures in order to destroy it. This technique is still part of clinical trials but will be discussed at this year’s event.
    • Diffuse Optical Tomography (DOT) – Unlike traditional mammograms which uses x-rays, DOT uses light waves to produce images of the breast tissues. Dr. Mango will discuss this new imaging technique, along with other new advances.

148460306With the increasing popularity of Breast Cancer Awareness month and the Internet, there seems to be an overwhelming amount of information available. What is your advice to someone newly diagnosed to begin to sort through the information?

The Internet can be a great educational tool, but it also can be overwhelming and unintentionally misleading. Breast cancer tumors run the gamut between not aggressive and highly treatable to more aggressive and requiring a complicated approach. Turning only to outside resources without context from your doctor can be frightening and unhelpful.

Have an informed discussion with your physician. Our job as doctors is to provide you with an understanding about your personal situation and work with you to feel comfortable with your treatment. We encourage you to bring questions to your doctor appointment. Use reliable websites with frequently updated information, such as the American Cancer Society, to obtain background knowledge to help guide what questions you want to ask your doctor. The Internet will help you find the right questions to ask about your condition and your doctor will provide guidance.

For more information about this event, please contact Christine Rein at 201.346.7014 or e-mail her at: cmr2146@columbia.edu. You may also visit our events page.

We are looking for items to raffle off at Bridging the Gap to help support this and future breast cancer awareness community events. Please contact cmr2146@columbia.edu for more information.

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This year’s Bridging the Gap: Enhancing Breast Cancer Prevention, Screening and Wellness event covered topics such as disparities in health care, alternative medicines, survivorship studies, genetics and other concerns for breast cancer patients, survivors and caregivers.

At the end of the day, audience members were asked submit their questions to expert speakers. Below are some of the more popular questions submitted to Preya Ananthakrishnan, MD, of the Clinical Breast Cancer Program

Question: Is radiation always required after lymph node surgery?

Answer: No, radiation is not always required after lymph node surgery. Radiation is standard treatment after lumpectomy or breast conserving surgery. Radiation is usually given to the axillary region if 4 or more lymph nodes are involved with cancer, and may be considered (particularly in premenopausal women) if 1 to 3 lymph nodes are involved with cancer. Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and antiestrogen medication are all components of a comprehensive breast cancer treatment program. Decisions about which further therapies are necessary after surgery are made by the multidisciplinary treatment team.

Q: What are the signs of breast cancer in men?

A: Breast cancer in men is rare, yet men have a small amount of breast tissue that can develop cancer. Symptoms of breast cancer in men are similar to those of women and include:

  • a lump in the chest
  • bleeding from the nipple
  • skin rashes or lesions in the breast, nipple, or areola

Diagnosis of breast cancer in men is also similar to women and is diagnosed with:

  • a physical exam
  • mammography and/or ultrasound
  • biopsy.

Treatment of breast cancer in men is also similar to that of women. Therapies include:

  • surgery
  • radiation treatment
  • chemotherapy
  • and/or endocrine therapy.

It is important for men to be aware of any changes on self-exam, and to immediately bring these to the attention of their doctor for further work-up.

Q: What does NYP/Columbia do to raise awareness of breast cancer in minority communities?

A: Breast cancer occurrences in Black, Asian or Latina women are less frequent than in Caucasian women, but when found, breast cancer is often more aggressive with higher rates of mortality in these minority communities. Therefore, outreach efforts are made to promote early screening and detection in minority communities. Once a cancer is diagnosed, we highlight the availability of clinical trials and the latest treatment options through the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center Program’s Research Recruitment Minority Outreach (RRMO) program. This program is targeted towards increasing minority enrollment in clinical trials.

For several years, NYPH/Columbia has held breast cancer awareness programs similar to Bridging the Gap. The Department of Surgery Clinical Breast Cancer Program also participates in the Columbia University Breast Cancer Screening Partnership. For more information about these programs please click on the links included in the text of this post. To learn about upcoming Bridging the Gap events contact Christine Rein at cmr2146@columbia.edu.

Related Links:
Bridging the Gap: Enhancing Breast Cancer Prevention, Screening & Wellness Q&A (1 of 4)
Bridging the Gap: Enhancing Breast Cancer Prevention, Screening & Wellness Q&A (2 of 4)

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Bridging the Gap: Your Questions & Answers on Breast Cancer from Dr. Preya Ananthakrishnan Part 2

June 22, 2011

TweetAttendees of the breast cancer awareness symposium “Bridging the Gap: Promoting Breast Cancer Prevention, Screening and Wellness” were given the chance to submit questions on breast cancer in the minority community. This is the second part of these questions answered by Dr. Preya Ananthakrishnan, Assistant Professor of Clinical Surgery and a host of the event. […]

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Bridging the Gap: Your Questions & Answers on Breast Cancer from Dr. Preya Ananthakrishnan Part 1

June 22, 2011

TweetAttendees of the breast cancer awareness symposium “Bridging the Gap: Promoting Breast Cancer Prevention, Screening and Wellness” were given the chance to submit questions on breast cancer in the minority community. This is the first part of these questions answered by Dr. Preya Ananthakrishnan, Assistant Professor of Clinical Surgery and a host of the event. […]

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June 2011 Breast Cancer Symposium at Club 101

June 20, 2011

TweetOn Saturday, June 4, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center hosted a free community breast cancer awareness symposium called “Bridging the Gap: Promoting Breast Cancer Prevention, Screening and Wellness.” More than 200 women, many of whom were breast cancer survivors, attended the event. Held at Club 101 in Manhattan, NY, the symposium involved more than just […]

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