The Latest in Breast Cancer Detection
New breast screening technologies are offering women more individualized care -- and a better chance at survival.
There is more hope for better diagnosing breast cancer thanks to new
Advances in screening technologies -- including digital mammograms --
combined with a better understanding of who is at highest risk means doctors
are able to find cancers earlier -- and prevent more women from dying.
"The fact that you cannot argue with is that breast cancercancer mortality has declined by 24% in the past
10 years -- and a lot of that is due to early detection," says Carol Lee,
MD, chairwoman of the Commission on Breast Imaging for the American College of
Radiology and professor of diagnostic radiology at Yale University School of
But it's not just screening advances helping to save lives. Experts say what
also matters is learning more about the disease itself and who is at greatest
"We are broadening our scope of the factors leading to the development
of breast cancer, so we can now determine with far more accuracy not only who
is at risk for this disease, but who is best served by various screening
techniques, including the newest advances," says Julia A. Smith, MD,
director of Breast Cancer Screening and Prevention at the NYU Cancer Institute
in New York City.
Risk and Screening: The New Links
Experts say that most women are familiar with at least some of the common
risk factors for breast cancer: A first-degree relative who has the disease,
for example, or excessive use of alcohol.
But now new research is shedding light on many more individual factors, and
in doing so driving both screening and treatment toward a more individualized
"I think one of the biggest advances we are seeing now is this move
towards individualized care, particularly when it comes to screening -- we are
getting better at determining which options are right for which women, and
that's a huge step forward," says Therese B. Bevers, MD, associate
professor in the department of clinical cancer prevention and medical director
of the Cancer Prevention Center and Prevention Outreach Programs at the
University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
One curriculum pioneering this approach is the Lynne Cohen Breast and
Ovarian Cancer Preventive Care Program. Currently available in four major
cancer centers across the United States, including Los Angeles, Houston,
Birmingham, Ala., and New York City, the goal is to identify more personal risk
factors for breast cancer and use that information to create individualized
programs of defense and prevention.
Smith, who directs the program at the NYU Cancer Institute, tells WebMD that
knowing your risk factors is one way to ensure you get the appropriate
screenings at the correct stages of your life.
"Thanks to programs like this, we have begun to understand family
history in a much better way -- what is really relevant, what needs to be
included and considered, what points to a specific genetic mutation or
inherited syndrome -- and most importantly, what other types of cancer in the
family put a woman at risk for breast cancer and what we can do to monitor
those risks appropriately," says Smith.