Health & Fitness

By Katie Laurentiev

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and to toast the remarkable women in our lives who have fought – and still fight – this terrifying disease with courage and grace; we’ve prepared a cocktail of cutting edge info to help you continue the cause. So, without further adieu, we give you the new:

Treatment Hot Spot

Last month, Manhattan Diagnostic Radiology’s Women’s Imaging Division became the first place in NYC to offer an advanced technology called PEM (Positron Emission Mammography) from Naviscan. PEM is much more refined than the Mammography equipment currently being used by most other facilities (it can detect a tumor the size of a grain of rice) and can therefore catch the cancer even earlier, a crucial fact considering the current 98 percent survival rate for women who detect breast cancer in its earliest stage.

(A doctor performing a PEM on a patient)

“We recently received prestigious designation as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence from the American College of Radiology acknowledging our commitment to providing the highest level of breast care to our patients,” said Senior Partner and Director Craig H. Sherman in a recent Dateline interview. Also at the forefront of the field in spot compression, ultrasound, and breast MRI technology, there is no better place than MDR to get the annual mammography recommended to all women.

Test to Take

In September, the Mayo Clinic of medical research released promising results for a new method of breast cancer detection called MBI, or molecular breast imaging. Unlike mammography, MBI scans the patient from the inside out. A shot of a “tracer” that collects in abnormal cells is given, which “glows” under a radiation scan. This precise method can pinpoint bad areas missed by mammograms.

MBI is still being developed and therefore more costly and complex, therefore it is not currently recommended over mammography for the average woman. However, it could be a life-saver for women with dense breast tissue – a condition which increases with age and makes accurate mammography difficult. If you are one of these women, make sure to ask about getting an MBI.

Question to Ask

They’re still tough to find, but a growing number of breast cancer surgeons have acquired the skills to do reconstructive surgery at the same time they perform the cancer removal – saving women a trip to the cosmetic surgeon and a lot of anxiety about returning to normal life after cancer. The procedure (called oncoplastic surgery) is a lot less expensive than the combined cost of cancer and cosmetic surgery. It is mostly for women undergoing a lumpectomy (also called partial mastectomy), which only removes a portion of the breast, and usually involves a restructuring of both breasts with the remaining tissue to ensure a slightly smaller but natural-looking bust line.

So how do you find out if your doctor is capable of such marvelous feats? There isn’t yet a profession certification for oncoplastic surgeons, so it’s best to ask a lot of questions about your surgeon’s cosmetic experience and skill. Also, some cancer surgeons pair with a plastic surgeon that completes the latter part of the surgery.

And in case you’re still on the fence about asking, keep this in mind. According to a study conducted by plastic surgeon Amy K. Alderman of the University of Michigan Medical School, only a third of breast cancer patients are asked by their cancer surgeon about reconstruction options before the surgery. Don’t let yourself become a part of this tragic statistic – just ask!

Food for Thought

Studies connecting healthy vitamin D levels to lowered breast cancer risk have abound for the last several years, but this summer the Moores Cancer Center at University of California, San Diego released the first study using global cancer analysis data to show a significantly data-backed connection between good vitamin D levels and reduced breast cancer risk. To be specific, it’s the D3 type of the “sunshine vitamin” that seems to have such glowing potential.

D3 is formed naturally by the body when it is exposed to sunlight, and can also be found in fatty fish (like salmon, tuna and sardines) and eggs. Although milk is usually fortified with vitamin D, it is not a good primary source for getting your daily value, plus not all milk is fortified with D3 (check the label). In terms of soaking up the sun, getting just 15 minutes of direct sunshine a day should be enough to produce your daily recommended D3 – so don’t skimp on sunscreen for long outdoor days. Those with dark complexions may want to consider a supplement (again, check multi-vitamin labels for D3, it can be tough to find).

Originally published October 2008
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