Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Risk Factors & Early Detection

SAYRE, Pa. (18 NEWS) - Currently in the United States, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lifetime. Even more concerning is the number of factors that can put someone in the "high risk" category. 18 News Reporter Samantha Lantz sat down with doctors and patients at Guthrie to learn more. 

"Particularly those who have young family members affected by breast cancer under age 50, that's a pretty big red flag for patients that have a familial component. Those patients can have an increased risk for breast cancer of about 20% and we definitely want to identify those patients early and offer additional screening modalities for those patients as well, " Dr. Geneva Ballard said. 

A risk assessment can help you and your doctor determine just how early you should start annual screenings.

"If you had a first degree relative with breast cancer, we want to start talking about screening you 10 years younger than that first degree relative's diagnosis. If you had several affected family members what we'd like to do is a little bit of a risk assessment, it assesses your family history as well as any other risk factors you may have personally and if it's about 20% for your lifetime we can start screening those patient as young as 30 with both breast MRI and mammography," Ballard said. 

Breast cancer does run in Margaret Zimmer's family, she's been getting annual mammograms for the past 25 years, the last one however was a little different. 

"I wish when I would have had mine that it was just a peace of mine thing, as it turned out it meant the difference between early detection of a stage one cancer and had it not been found at this point it would have been another year and we would be having a whole different conversation," Margaret Zimmer, a breast cancer patient said. 

"This was something that caught our eye, it wasn't there last year and it kind of caught our eye," Dr. Jennifer Bau said. 
 
Thanks to new and improved technologies, Margaret's cancer was found sooner than it ever would have been before, giving her a better than average prognosis. 

"This was a very, very tiny area and we could diagnose it so much better with the 3-D imaging because we could see all of the distortion around the area much better with 3-D imaging so that was another tool that we were able to use to find Margaret's cancer earlier and smaller which is always our goal," Bau said. 

Since her diagnosis, Margaret has had surgery to remove the tumor, and not needing chemotherapy, is already back to work awaiting radiation treatments with her doctors and family supporting her every step of the way.

"Dr. Ziauddin, when I first met him and he kind of reviewed the biopsy report and the films, he said to me if you had to choose a cancer to have this would be a good one to pick because of the size, and we knew it was stage one at that point he said you know it doesn't get much better than this," Zimmer said. 

"I think Margaret's story is very important because her cancer was diagnosed with a screening mammogram which is what we stress to women starting at age 40 yearly and we can find cancer when it's very tiny and very small and that's when we want to find them and we want to find them before they're causing any symptoms which is the definition of a screening mammogram," Bau said. 


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