Physicians emphasize detection, treatment of breast cancer

Physicians emphasize detection, treatment of breast cancer

Design: Lorena Lopez/University of Miami
By Life@TheU

Design: Lorena Lopez/University of Miami

Physicians emphasize detection, treatment of breast cancer

By Life@TheU
During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, doctors at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center share their expertise on detecting and treating the disease, as well as address survivorship.

At Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center—South Florida's only NCI-designated cancer center—patients have access to more treatment options and more cancer clinical trials than most hospitals in the southeastern United States. Among the cancers treated at the center, breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in women, with one in eight women in the U.S. being diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in her lifetime. However, if detected early, the five-year survival rate is more than 90 percent.

The key is early detection.

When it comes to detection, monthly self-exams may help you notice changes in your breast, which you should share with your doctor. Mammograms can detect tumors before they can be felt, but since most young women do not get mammograms, most breast cancer is often detected upon noticing a lump or change in the look or feel of the breast, nipple, or underarm area. Self-exams cannot replace the need for regular mammograms, but being proactive about your health by incorporating self-exams into your wellness routine and making informed decisions with your doctor is important, said Dr. Carmen Calfa, a breast medical oncologist with Sylvester. Learn when and how to conduct a self breast exam. Read the article in Spanish.

If you notice a lump, tell your doctor.

While very rare, it is possible for men to be diagnosed with breast cancer—and the mortality rate is higher for men, which is mostly because of late detection. Men don’t think it can happen to them, so if they find a lump, they don’t think twice about it, according to Dr. Alejandra Perez, a breast oncologist at Sylvester. Men are not getting mammograms or doing self-checks. So, by the time they see a physician, the disease is advanced. Learn more about the importance of properly diagnosing and treating breast cancer in men. Read the article in Spanish.

Find the right treatment.

With more than 300 cancer-focused physicians and researchers, the team at Sylvester works to discover, develop, and deliver more-targeted therapies leading to better outcomes. Doctors continue to look for more options since there is no one best way to treat breast cancer. Among treatments, hormone therapy may help prevent hormones from attaching to receptors on cancer cells, which help them grow. This therapy may also decrease the body’s production of specific hormones that promote cancer growth, and reach cancer cells in other parts of the body, not just in the breast. Learn more about hormone therapy, including the different types and their goals

Proton beam therapy—or proton therapy—is a newer approach to delivering radiation to many cancers, now offered at the Dwoskin Proton Therapy Center at Sylvester. By offering greater accuracy, it reduces radiation exposure to nearby healthy tissue. This is vital for protecting critical organs in the chest, like the heart and lungs, as is the case with breast cancer, particularly of the left breast. The largest study to compare radiotherapy with proton therapy is currently underway with more than 1,200 patients enrolled nationwide. Based on the study’s findings, there may be new national treatment guidelines for treating breast cancer with proton therapy if the data shows equal recurrence reduction and fewer adverse cardiac events, according to Dr. Cristiane Takita, the proton breast program leader at Sylvester. Learn more about proton beam therapy for treating other cancers, such as those of the brain and spinal cord, as well as pediatric cancers.

Life after breast cancer.

Depending on the stage and type of cancer, five-year breast cancer survival rates are increasing. So, physicians like Dr. Kristin Rojas, a breast cancer and gynecologic surgeon, are focusing on less-talked-about aspects of survivorship, including sexual health and intimacy. With more targeted treatments that are changing the way women with advanced diseases are treated, many are living longer. But life-saving treatments like chemotherapy are impacting patients’ sexual health by altering estrogen production. Younger women, in particular, who are often diagnosed with more aggressive breast cancers, can experience premature menopause and have a higher risk of female sexual dysfunction. Learn more about possible solutions to female sexual dysfunction

Along with the trauma of a breast cancer diagnosis, mastectomy, chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment, many female breast cancer survivors have to make the decision to have or forgo reconstructive breast surgery. While some women opt for breast implants, an increasing number of breast cancer survivors decide to skip reconstructive surgery altogether. This decision is a personal one based on many factors, according to Dr. Alejandra Perez, breast program director at Sylvester. Learn more about the decision to go breastless after surviving cancer. Read the article in Spanish.

 

Access the cancer care you need at a Sylvester facility or via telehealth by scheduling an appointment. Find additional information about scheduling or call 1-844-324-HOPE (4673). 

Sylvester’s team of experts continues to address patients’ physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs before, during, and after cancer treatment. The cancer support services team operates a full calendar of virtual classes and events—which includes acupressure, seated yoga, songwriting, and pet therapy—along with videos available on YouTube. Learn more about cancer support services and how to request an appointment.

Live Well with UHealth is a series that highlights curated content from articles previously published on UMiami Health News, a site that shares health tips and insights into research discoveries that change lives. It is brought to you by the experts at the University of Miami Health System. This story highlights the following articles.