October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Don’t forget – get checked

The statistics are frightening. According to cancer.org, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. In 2021 alone, almost 300,000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in the U.S. But, if diagnosed at a localized stage, meaning it hasn’t spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body, there is a 5-year relative survival rate of 99%. 

Luckily, we have one of the best cancer detection and treatment centers nearby. The Center for Breast Health and Disease Management at Barnabas Health Ambulatory Care Center in Livingston has the most updated equipment and care available.

“We have digital mammography with tomosynthesis,” says Dr. Linda Sanders, the medical director of the center, “This allows radiologists to see in more detail possible masses that may be hiding.” She adds they’ve also just received funding to upgrade to 3DQuorum tomosynthesis, which enables the reduction of radiation during screenings. This new tool is expected to be available sometime this fall or shortly thereafter.

The breast center also has a dedicated MRI, so instead of patients having to go to another department or building, it can be done quickly right there.

For diagnostic mammograms where there is a suspected issue, patients are always given their results before leaving. Or, if a patient is elderly or lives far away and would have difficulty returning if a problem is identified, they are given the results of their screening mammograms immediately as well.

“Otherwise, and we are one of the few places in the entire country who do this, patients will get their results by email [or by mail if requested] at the end of the day,” she says. “It’s amazing, and I pressed hard for this because patients get anxious while waiting for results.”

The breast center also has a high-risk monitoring program. Patients are given a history sheet to complete which determines their risks of breast cancer. If the percentage is 20% or higher, they will recommend further imaging with breast MRI.

“You want to catch your in situ cancer before it becomes invasive; you want to catch your invasive cancer before it spreads to your lymph nodes; and you want to catch cancers that have spread to your lymph nodes before they spread to the rest of your body,” says Dr. Sanders. “You want to catch it at the earliest stage since your prognosis will be better and the treatment less harsh. So, you might need less surgery, less chemotherapy and less radiation, or none of the above, if you catch it early enough.”

She says women need a mammogram every year starting at age 40. Men would only need a mammogram if they are at risk or feel a lump.

But, younger women are at risk too, which Stephanie Quinton knows all too well. When she felt a lump on her breast a few years back at the age of 28, and was told by her primary doctor not to worry about it, she went to the Center for Breast Health and Disease Management and was subsequently diagnosed with breast cancer. She worked with what she calls her “dream team” of oncologists, breast surgeon and plastic surgeon and is thriving today.

Make your appointment today. Go to https://www.rwjbh.org/barnabas-health-ambulatory-care-center/treatment-care/breast-care/ or by calling 973-322-7800.

[Fact 1]

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, except for skin cancers. It is estimated that in this year, approximately 30% of all new female cancer diagnoses will be breast cancer. (breastcancer.org)

[Fact 2]

At the time of diagnosis, approximately 63% of breast cancer patients have local-stage breast cancer, 27% have regional stage, and 6% have distant (metastatic) disease. (cancer.net)

[Fact 3]

If the cancer has spread to the regional lymph nodes, the 5-year survival rate is 86% and if the cancer has spread to a distant part of the body, the 5-year survival rate is 28%. (cancer.net)

Throughout the month of October, look for information to raise awareness about the importance of early detection and mammography in partner stores at the Mall at Short Hills.

Written for Chatham & Short Hills Lifestyle magazine in New Jersey.

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