Advocate ReporterNEWARK -- The American Cancer Society estimates about 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop breast cancer sometime during their lifetime.But this startling fact is accompanied by another, more hopeful statistic: There are about 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S.
The breast cancer mortality rate has been declining in recent years, said Dr. Joseph Fondriest, chairman of the department of radiology at Licking County Memorial Hospital. One of the main reasons for the change has been increased awareness of the disease.
Awareness leads more women to do self-examinations and get annual mammograms, which help doctors catch the disease in the beginning stages.
"Successful treatment depends on early detection," Fondriest said.
Fondriest spoke Tuesday at a meeting of the Newark Rotary Club about some of the newest technologies in detecting and treating the disease, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
"(At LMHS), we stay at the forefront with the technology for diagnosing breast cancer," he said.
One major change has been the shift from film mammography to digital mammography, Fondriest said.
Digital mammograms have a much higher resolution and show much clearer images of breast tissue, he said. Studies show digital mammograms have a higher cancer detection rate.
"(LMHS) has been completely digital for four years," Fondriest said.
Digital mammograms also allow physicians to do computer-aided detection, which uses computer software to read mammograms and highlight problem areas.
"European studies looking at computer-aided detection equate it to having a second radiologist review each mammogram," Fondriest said.
If an abnormality is found in the breast tissue, doctors must determine if it is cancerous.
"The majority of things found are not breast cancer; about 60 to 90 percent of lesions are benign," he said. "It's important to be able to biopsy lesions in minimally invasive way."
In the past, biopsies required surgery, but now physicians can use a three-stage needle to get a tissue sample or remove the lesion, Fondriest said.
"There is no scar, a minimal risk of infection, it takes virtually minutes to perform and the patient can resume regular activities," he said.
If the lesion is determined to be cancer, it is important for doctors to see if the cancer has spread beyond the breast.
By performing a sentinel node biopsy, doctors can test one of the primary lymph nodes and determine if the disease has spread without having to test each lymph node, he said.
"Although we can't prevent cancer, we're making advances to help detect and diagnose breast cancer earlier and also minimize patient discomfort," he said.
Fondriest said he tells women to have their first mammogram at 35 and start having them annually at age 40.
This is also recommended by the American Cancer Society and the Mayo Clinic, he added.
"It has been discussed it can be delayed until after they hit 50, but that goes against what a lot of medical professionals say," he said.
He encouraged men and women to spread the word that early detection saves lives.
"Everyone has to be aware that breast cancer is out there and to see their physicians and openly discuss the risk," he said.