October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
This year, the American Cancer Society estimates 214,000 American women will hear the words you have breast cancer. Sadly, about 41,000 women will die from the disease during 2004. To help get the word out about breast cancer, October has been designated Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
There is power in knowledge. For those women who have a family history of breast cancer, learning whether you are at high risk for developing this disease gives you the power to reduce your risk and maybe even prevent it.
The Breast Cancer Risk Evaluation Program at OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center helps women with cancer in their family who may be at risk for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. It offers one-on-one care and consultation with a staff of caring health care professionals.
Dr. Kent Hoskins, director of the Breast Cancer Risk Evaluation Program, is a medical oncologist experienced in counseling people and families about cancer risks. His ongoing research focuses on identifying and analyzing the genes responsible for both inherited and sporadic forms of cancer. He has studied the BRCA1 gene, which is thought to play a role in 40 percent of inherited breast cancers, as well as the BRCA2 gene.
Many women want to know if they have inherited a tendency to develop breast cancer. Others simply want to know how to protect themselves, without being told whether or not they have an inherited risk, says Dr. Hoskins. If a woman is eligible for genetic testing, the choice is hers whether or not to be tested. Our program provides education and counseling to help each woman make the decision that is right for her.
The good news about breast cancer is that even for those at high risk, physicians have options including new medications that reduce the incidence of breast cancer in certain high-risk women. Early intervention is so important, says Dr. Hoskins. Treatments have improved, and we can even prevent breast cancer in some women.
Dr. Hoskins reminds women with no family history of breast cancer that the greatest risk factor is not genetics; it is simply being a woman. For women without a family history, monthly self-examinations and regular physician exams should begin during their early 20s. Yearly mammograms should start no later than age 40. Women who have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer should discuss the issue with their physician as soon as possible.