Local experts provide advice on breast cancer detection
By LISA MACNEIL,
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We spoke with Dr. Mary Li of Florida Cancer Specialists, who gave us some new and useful information on breast cancer prevention and detection. Bayfront Health Medical Group, also provided recent statistics and advice.
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, several local imaging centers are offering free, low-cost mammograms to those in need. Dr. Li advises eligible individuals to contact the Crescent Clinic in Spring Hill for information. Florida Cancer Specialists work with patients who are diagnosed with cancer to ensure that treatment is not delayed for financial reasons.
Everyone should watch their breasts for changes. Breast cancer is not as common in men, but the risk factors are the same. As with almost all forms of cancer, the key to remission and long-term survival is prevention and early detection.
“When screenings are delayed, diagnosis is delayed and treatment is delayed,” said Michael Baehr, MD with Bayfront Health Medical Group. “But the best chance of survival from any cancer is early diagnosis and treatment. Women shouldn’t be afraid to have a mammogram. Many strict safety precautions have been put in place at our imaging center to protect everyone from COVID-19, there is no reason to delay routine care – if you’ve postponed a mammogram, don’t. delay more. Mammography is the best screening tool we have for detecting breast cancer at an early stage. “
Diet, exercise and lifestyle choices affect so many aspects of disease prevention. The mantras “eat well, exercise, do not smoke, limit alcohol” are still relevant to everyone. Women who have a menstrual cycle should have a monthly self-examination right after the cycle. This consistency makes it easier to detect changes. Postmenopausal women should set a consistent date each month for their self-examination.
Dr. Li recommends annual mammograms for women over the age of 40. In the event that an abnormality is detected, computed tomography (computed tomography) or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) may be requested to obtain a better image.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or estrogen replacement was commonly prescribed to treat various symptoms of menopause, primarily loss of bone density leading to osteoporosis. Dr Li says this is no longer a common practice and that estrogen replacement could be a risk factor for postmenopausal breast cancer.
Recent studies have shown that two genetic mutations have been linked to the development of breast cancer, as well as ovarian, endometrial, colon and prostate cancers. Dr Li says it is very important to be aware that breast cancer linked to these genes, BRCA-1 and BRCA-2, accounts for less than 5% of total breast cancer diagnoses. BRCA-1 increases the risk of breast, ovarian and endometrial cancer, BRCA-2 increases the risk of breast, colon and prostate cancer.
Men can also pass on the mutation that causes breast cancer. Previous guidelines for women were to assess their risk based on the number of close women with a history of breast cancer. “Sometimes you can have a clear history from the mother’s side, but the gene is from the father’s side,” Dr Li said.
Breast cancer in men has an incidence of about 1 in 100. In men, breast cancer is easier to detect and the response to treatment is good. Dr Li said that men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer are tested for the BRCA gene and have responded to treatment which is also used for the treatment of breast and ovarian cancer.
The remaining 95 percent have no discernible cause, however, new information has shown that red wine specifically increases breast cancer risk. “A drink is fine,” Dr. Li advises, “but don’t go beyond that. Obesity is being studied as a risk factor because increasing subcutaneous fat (the layer of fat directly under the skin) causes the body to produce more estrogen.
COVID-19 lockdown procedures have resulted in numerous delays in early detection screening such as mammograms. Dr. Li told us that she saw an increase in the number of patients with advanced cancer during the year.
However, Florida Cancer Specialists remained open. It is crucial that the patient receive regular chemotherapy, so Dr Li and his colleagues have provided a safe environment with no days wasted due to COVID-19, despite the shortage of masks and gloves. They still apply safety measures to reduce exposure to the new coronavirus.
Dr Mary Li has cared for cancer patients in Hernando County for over 11 years. Author of numerous publications in neuropharmacology, Dr. Li continues her interest in DNA adducts and carcinogens. She maintains a keen interest in cutting-edge cancer treatments and remains firmly involved in clinical research as an asset to her practice in oncology and hematology.