Ounce of Prevention
Advice from Baton Rouge General medical director of breast cancer for Breast Cancer Awareness Month
While doctors have made great progress in keeping breast cancer patients alive, Louisiana still has the second highest death rate for breast cancer in the United States. It’s a source of frustration for doctors in the region. Dr. Everett Bonner, Medical Director of Breast Cancer at Baton Rouge General, gave us a list of five things Louisiana women need to know about the disease and staying healthy.
Starting at age 20, women should perform a monthly self-exam and receive a yearly physical exam from a doctor.
Yearly mammograms should begin at age 40, unless there is a family history. In that case, mammograms should begin 10 years before the youngest age a family member was diagnosed. However, no one under 25 should receive a mammogram.
Increased weight and alcohol consumption are risk factors, and Louisianians are known for loving their food and drink.
Dr. Bonner added that the high number of chemical plants and oil refineries might increase the amount of carcinogens in the area. Louisiana is not a transient state, he said. Many people are born here, live here and die here, so any genetic tendencies towards breast cancer might be increased or magnified. “If you look at the things that are risk factors, we have a lot of them,” Dr. Bonner said.
A recent study published in “The New England Journal of Medicine” indicated that chemotherapy may not be necessary for some women with early stage breast cancers.
Previously, only women who scored a 10 or lower (out of 100) on the test that measures the risk of recurrence could avoid chemo. Now, researchers believe that women under age 50 with a score of 16 or less can avoid chemo and women over age 50 with a score of 25 or less can avoid chemo.
A common misconception.
Dr. Bonner often hears that breast cancer is only an issue for patients with a family history of the disease. While genetics play a part, many women with no family history still get breast cancer.