For Your Family: Research and treatments in fight against breast cancer

October 15, 2012 4:33:42 AM PDT
Rita Nanda, an oncologist with University of Chicago Hospital, talks to ABC7 about the latest in the treatment and research for breast cancer.

Q:
We've heard so much lately about getting a mammogram, not getting mammogram? what's the bottom line of what doctors are recommending?

A:
We recommend that the average women begin having mammograms at the age of 40. Women who have strong family histories of early onset breast cancer may benefit from starting screening at a younger age or might benefit from breast MRI screening, so I would encourage women who are at high risk because of family history to discuss this concern with their primary care physician, who may wish to refer them for screening earlier than age 40.

Q:
Just 2 weeks ago, we heard about this major breakthrough on the genetics of breast cancer? does that offer new hope for better, more targeted treatment?

A:
We've known for some time that breast cancer is NOT one disease and that multiple subtypes exist. The subtype of breast cancer a woman has is important in determining the appropriate therapy. However, within the subtypes of breast cancer, some women do better than others. By being able to study the expression profiles of thousands of genes within any given tumor is giving us insight into why some tumors may behave differently than others. This technology has provided us with a great tool to begin to understand why even within a subtype some tumors respond to treatment better than others. Many clinical trials trying to identify better treatments based on expression profiling are ongoing and will help us begin to learn how we can translate this technology more effective and more tailored treatments for women with breast cancer.

Q:
It's always stunning to hear the numbers, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer? is that number increasing/decreasing, any rhyme or reason?

A:
Yes, in recent years the incidence of breast cancer has been declining. We know from the women's health initiative study that prolonged hormone replacement therapy increases the risk of developing breast cancer, and experts believe that the decline in incidence of breast cancer is related to decreased use of hormone replacement therapy for peri and postmenopausal women.

Q:
Any new research/breakthrough on prevention or a cure for breast cancer?

A:
Women who are genetically predisposed to developing breast cancer can reduce their risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer by undergoing prophylactic removal of their breast and ovaries. Anti-estrogen therapy has also been shown to dramatically reduce the risk of developing breast cancer in women who are at high risk. Studies are ongoing nationally and at the University of Chicago investigating the roles of vitamin D, flaxseed and green tea on preventing breast cancer.


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