Program explores breast cancer dangers, treatment

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, November 1, 2006

A lunch program to make people aware of breast cancer, itsdangers and options available to those diagnosed with the diseasedrew about 20 women to the Crowley Room at King’s Daughters MedicalCenter Tuesday.

The program was part of the hospital’s Lunch and Learncurriculum. October was the national Breast Cancer AwarenessMonth.

Jim Kirchbaum, director of KDMC’s radiology department, saidbreast cancer was the most common malignancy among American women,noting that one in eight women who lives to age 85 will develop thedisease in her lifetime.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“The rate of breast cancer in Caucasian women is higher than inAfrican-Americans or Latinos, but the mortality rate is 2.2 timeshigher among minorities,” Kirchbaum said.

Physicians cannot explain the difference, he said. The favoriteamong current theories center around higher poverty amongminorities, which result in fewer patients locating the disease andfewer seeking treatment, he said.

Efforts to warn men of the possibilities also need to beemphasized, Kirchbaum said. Many men believe only women aresusceptible to the disease. Although women are 100 times morelikely to contract breast cancer than men, 1,600 men are expectedto be diagnosed with the disease this year and 400 are predicted todie.

“It is not unheard of for men to develop breast cancer,” hesaid. “I personally have witnessed six cases in men, including aclose friend.”

Kirchbaum said one of the leading indicators that should makewomen more wary is that there is a definite increase in risk amongwomen who have a close relative diagnosed with breast cancer. Dietshigh in fat content and obesity also increase the risk.

Breast cancer is detectable early and can be treated, he said.When breast cancer is found early, the five-year survival rate is96 percent.

“The first line of defense in diagnosis is the woman herself,”Kirchbaum said. “Most women discover it themselves during aself-exam.”

Early signs of breast cancer include a lump in the breast thatis firm and most often painless, a portion of the skin on thebreast or underarm swells and has an unusual appearance, veins onthe skin surface become more prominent on one breast, or adepression is found on the breast surface. Another indicator iswhen the nipple becomes inverted, develops a rash, changes intexture, or has a discharge other than breast milk.

Most masses discovered during a self-exam are not cancerous, hesaid, but should always be checked.

Hospitals have several options to diagnose lumps, Kirchbaumsaid. KDMC continues to use Mammography, a film-based X-ray devicethat remains the best technological option to detect a tumordespite several recent advances in the field.

All of the methods currently in practice require compression ofthe breasts, he said. A method using Magnetic Resonance Imaging(MRI) shows great promise and would not require breast compression,but it is still in development and not likely to be in general usein the near future, he said.