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Upstate physicians encourage screenings during Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Upstate physicians encourage screenings during Breast Cancer Awareness Month

SYRACUSE, N.Y.-- In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, Upstate Medical University physicians are encouraging women to talk to their healthcare providers about breast cancer screening and their personal risk of breast cancer.

“Great strides have been made in early detection and treatment of breast cancer, and many women diagnosed with the disease are living long, healthy lives.  Still more exciting is our progress in decreasing a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer in the first place,” said Jayne Charlamb, M.D., Upstate assistant professor of surgery and medicine. Charlamb is leading Upstate’s participation in a multisite study to determine if daily intake of a vitamin D supplement for one year will decrease breast density, as seen on a mammogram, and alter other markers associated with an elevated risk of breast cancer.

“During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we urge women to consult with their healthcare providers to learn more about their risk of breast cancer and to develop an appropriate plan for breast cancer screening and prevention,” Charlamb said. “In addition to screening, we can now offer women information about lifestyle choices and medications that could decrease her risk of developing breast cancer.”

While there are differences among official published breast cancer screening guidelines, the American Cancer Society recommends annual mammography beginning at age 40 for women at average risk of breast cancer.  “Every woman should talk to her doctor about what screening regimen is right for her,” Charlamb said.  “There is no ‘one size fits all’ strategy for screening and risk reduction.”

Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women in New York state. (Lung cancer is the leading cause of death). According to the state Department of Health, on average, more than 14,000 women in New York are newly diagnosed with breast cancer each year, and more than 2,700 women die annually from the disease.

Although the causes of breast cancer are still unknown, the following factors are associated with an increased risk of the disease:

- Female gender

- Advancing age

- Having a first menstrual period at a young age

- Starting menopause at an older age

- Never giving birth or having delayed giving birth to a first child until age 30 or older

- Lack of breastfeeding

- Having a personal or family history (on the mother’s or father’s side) of breast cancer, especially early (premenopausal) breast cancer

- Having certain gene mutations such as BRCA 1 or BRCA 2

- Being overweight or obese

- Drinking alcoholic beverages (the level of risk rises as the amount of alcohol consumed rises)

- Being sedentary

- Having a history of significant radiation exposure to the chest

- Taking a hormone replacement therapy for an extended period of time.

Even if a woman has one or more of the risk factors for breast cancer, it does not mean that she will be diagnosed with the disease. Conversely, many women diagnosed with breast cancer do not have any risk factors or unusual symptoms, which is why screening is important for all women. Those who do have a personal or family history of breast cancer may want to consider genetic counseling to determine if they are at greater risk for developing the disease.

Although research on the causes of breast cancer is ongoing, there are many ways to improve outcomes related to cancer. These include not smoking and avoiding exposure to secondhand smoke, making healthy food choices, getting regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, and specifically for women, breastfeeding their infants and getting recommended cancer screenings.

The Upstate’s Numann Breast & Endocrine Surgery Center is the only center of its kind in Syracuse to be accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers. The center provides consultation for women and men with both benign and malignant breast conditions. The center also provides:

- Second opinion consultations for abnormal findings or a new cancer diagnosis

- High-risk screening

- Genetic counseling services

- Lactation consultation with CNY’s only physician certified in lactation problems

Visit Vitamin D for more information about Charlamb’s Vitamin D study or contact Linda Ellinwood, RN, at 315-464-1852, leave your name and telephone number.

Caption: Cathy Lavalley, CNMT, at the controls of the new positron emission mammography (PEM), located at Upstate Radiology Associates.