Breast cancer patients have more options for services and treatment
Vice President and Medical Director for Mission Cancer Care — Almost everyone has somehow been affected by breast cancer — either directly or through a loved one. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women (except skin cancers), affecting approximately one in eight, according to the American Cancer Society.
The ACS estimates about 232,340 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer again this year. While this number is alarming, due to increased awareness, preventive screening and advanced treatment options now available, the overall five-year survival rate for women is nearly 90 percent.
Preventive screenings — checking breasts for cancer before there are any signs or symptoms — are the best defense against breast cancer. Five-year survival rates are 100 percent when breast cancer is diagnosed in Stage I of the disease, 93 percent in Stage II and 72 percent in Stage III, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Mission Health offers a variety of preventive services, including mammograms and hereditary cancer screenings. While recent research has spawned a debate about the appropriate age to begin regular breast cancer screenings, the ACS recommends women start scheduling annual mammograms at age 40.
Genetic counseling and testing are also useful screening tools for hereditary cancers, which result from mutations or changes in a dominate gene that is inherited from generation to generation. About 15 to 20 percent of breast cancers are caused by a combination of genetic and environmental influences, and about 5 to 10 percent are genetic.
In breast cancer, the majority of genetic mutations occur in two specific genes, called BRCA1 and BRCA2. However, other gene mutations can also contribute to hereditary breast cancer, and researchers believe additional gene mutations that have not yet been discovered might also play a role.
Genetic counselors at Mission Health’s Fullerton Genetics Center can provide insight about a patient’s cancer risk based on family history of breast cancer, current breast cancer cases in relatives and results from genetic testing.
If a patient is diagnosed with breast cancer through screenings, Mission Health offers many treatment options and specialized services. The Mission Hospital Breast Program, which is part of Mission Cancer, uses a multi-disciplinary treatment approach to assess each patient’s unique needs.
The patient’s findings are reviewed at a pretreatment conference of specialized caregivers, including a genetic counselor, medical oncologist, nurse navigator, nutritionist, pathologist, plastic surgeon, radiation oncologist, radiologist, research nurse and surgeon.
After the group agrees on a course of treatment, a primary care physician reviews the findings with the patient. A nurse navigator (who attends the pretreatment conference) also works closely with the patient to provide education, guidance and support throughout the entire patient experience.
Mission Hospital’s Breast Program also offers services to promote the healing process. During treatment, the patient may be referred to Mission Hospital’s physician therapy services for help in reducing pain and increasing strength. Mission Cancer also offers support groups, such as In Good Company, for breast cancer patients, their families and the survivor’s network.
The diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer is never an easy thing to cope with, but Mission Health strives to provide patients with the best possible care and resources to make their journey comfortable and successful. For more information please visit the Mission Hospital Breast Program.
Jeremy Geffen, MD, FACP is Vice President and Medical Director for Mission Cancer Care