This September marks the 21st annual breast cancerawareness month, so who better to
ask about where we are in the war on this disease than Susan Love, MD?
At the forefront of breast cancerresearch
for almost 30 years, Love is the medical director of the Dr. Susan Love
Research Foundation in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and a clinical professor of
surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. She also penned the
bible of breast care books, Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is recommending sweeping
changes in its breast
cancer screening guidelines.
The USPSTF, which is a group of independent health experts convened by the
Department of Health and Human Services, reviewed and commissioned research to
develop computer-simulated models comparing the expected outcomes under
different screening scenarios.
Here are the USPSTF's recommendations, based on all that work:
Routine screening of average-risk women should...
The good news is that we're making strides, Love says. Big ones. She is
confident that researchers will find a cure for the cancer estimated to take
the lives of nearly 40,000 women and more than 450 men in 2006.
Here's why: Doctors used to think of breast cancer as one disease with one
treatment. Not anymore. Today, "we are realizing that all breast cancer is
not the same, and there are six different types based on the genetic material
[DNA] patterns," she says.
This means a new approach to treatment. "Instead of one-size-fits-all
treatment, we will start doing targeted therapies to match the tumor," Love
says. "Breast cancer treatments will be like trying to buy a dress.
Everybody doesn't fit into a size 12, and now we are saying certain-sized
dresses are better for certain-sized women."
And that's just the tip of the iceberg, according to Love. A new genetic
test can study genes within a tumor and determine whether the cancer will need
Earlier detection and prevention are also high on Love's priority list. She
has been spearheading a new procedure called ductal lavage, which can provide
an earlier diagnosis of cancerous and precancerous cells in the breast's milk
ducts. All breast cancers start in the milk ducts, so spotting them here may
help with earlier detection.
The bottom line, according to Love: "I think we are getting closer to a
cure, but we need to focus on prevention and earlier diagnosis."