Newell: New technology & techniques advancing breast cancer care

Komen Race for the Cure is tomorrow, Saturday Oct. 19

Newell Normand
October 18, 2019 - 5:48 pm

Newell said his show today may be "the most important one I do all year." Friday morning, he gathered a roundtable discussion to talk about breast cancer.

"It's the most common cancer among women in the United States," Newell began, "Accounting for 30% of all newly-diagnosed cancers. And you men are not immune from this at all. We all need to come to the realization that early detection and effective treatment can save your life!"

The 2019 Susan G Komen Race for the Cure is tomorrow, October 19th. Newell's roundtable included Dr. John Colfry, a breast surgical oncologist, Dr. Elly Zakris, the Director of Radiation Oncology at Touro, Susan G Komen New Orleans Affiliate Director Lisa Plunkett and breast cancer survivor Tracy Dreiling, who also chairs the Kids Tent at the Race for the Cure.

"When you think that one in eight women will be diagnosed with cancer - those numbers are staggering, but I don't need to scare the bejesus out of everyone. So tell me - am I overstating this?"

"No. Even for women that are at average risk of developing breast cancer, with no family history, the chance of developing it is between 12 and 13%. You're right. That is staggering," Dr. Colfry said.

"To echo what you said earlier - early detection is the key, and if they find it, your life can be saved," said Dr. Zakris.

Newell asked Dreiling how her cancer revealed itself in the hope that her story can inspire others to get checked.

"I was fortunate," she said. "Mine was detected in the early stage. I went in for my very first mammogram - I'm sort of the poster child for that - I was 40 at the time with three small children and kept putting it off. I went in for a routine mammogram and they had some suspicious imaging, and I went back and lo and behold they said that I needed a biopsy, and with that it was confirmed it was cancer, early state. I had to take a pause and think about what my treatment options were, but also to reflect on the fact that I was very lucky because it was so early and my prognosis was very good. That was ten years ago. During that time, I've learned so much, my family has learned so much... it's really important to talk about your family history. A lot of people we've met don't really know their family history and in some places it's a little taboo to have these conversations, so we encourage people to talk about it all over the dining room table. Again - the key is early detection."

"In some cultures it is still taboo to do that," Dr. Colfry agreed. "It's really good to delve into your history and ask questions so that you are empowered. 90% of the breast cancers that are diagnosed are actually not genetic, but instead come from some sort of environmental stimulus. We do put a lot of weight on knowing the history and getting genetic testing... typically obesity predisposes a woman to breast cancer. That's probably the thing that I see the most."

"So then it would be fair to say, caution to those that are dealing with being overweight. This is a byproduct of that?" Newell asked.

"100%. We like people to be doing cardio 30 minutes a day, at least three days a week. From a breast cancer standpoint, when you do that, you're burning extra fat cells, naturally lowering your estrogen levels, which will decrease your chance of getting an estrogen-type breast cancer."

Newell asked Dr. Zakris how big a factor is breast density in determining risk.

"Is there a higher propensity with breast density, or is it more of a challenge to make the diagnosis through the examination?"

"It's dangerous for two reasons; one is that in the mammogram, you can't see as much. It looks more white. It's not the fat tissue, it's the fibroglandular tissue that makes a breast dense, and it's sometimes very hard to tell by physical exam, and you can really only tell by mammography. Two, some clinicians feel you have a higher chance of developing breast cancer, so more frequent image tests are recommended, sometimes ultrasound, sometimes an MRI."

Plunkett discussed one of the programs that Komen rolls out to help facilitate exams and educate folks about what they do.

"We don't only do it in October, we do it year-round. Anyone can call the Susan G Komen office here in New Orleans and find out where they or a loved one can go for a screening mammogram. We fund programs here that can do 3D mammograms right here and across the greater New Orleans community and we want these people to be able to call our office throughout the year to find the support they need."

Sometimes there is difficulty with insurance or the lack thereof, and this is where Komen comes in to help with that challenge. These programs are extremely necessary.

"It really is," Plunkett said. "Even with all the changes in insurance, people can call our office for friends, family, themselves to find out where they can go get screenings where its affordable or free, and also get treatment services. Sometimes cancer survivors need those extra funds undergoing treatment, and we're happy to help women through the process and navigate them through it. We fund screenings, treatments and education programs throughout the community.

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