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National Breast Cancer Awareness Month - New Info

As a member of the bipartisan Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program ® of

the Prevent Cancer Foundation ® , I want to share the following information as we

observe National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

We know so much more about breast cancer now than we did when Breast Cancer

Awareness Month was established in 1985. Still, an estimated 268,600 women (and

2,670 men) in the U.S. are expected to be diagnosed this year and 41,760 women (and

500 men) will die of the disease in 2019. In Maryland alone, an estimated 5,290 women

will be diagnosed and 830 will die of breast cancer.

Although Breast Cancer Awareness Month brings more attention to the disease in

October, new information about the disease and screening options emerges year-round.

I urge you to take a few minutes to learn about updates you might have missed earlier

in the year.

Screening recommendations

This year the American College of Physicians announced new screening guidelines,

recommending that women ages 50 to 74 at average risk get mammograms every other

year and women ages 40 to 49 talk with their doctors about when to start. There has

been a lot of controversy in recent years over breast cancer screening guidelines, but

the Prevent Cancer Foundation ® and many other health organizations still encourage

women of average risk to begin annual screening at age 40 for the best chance of

detecting cancer early, when successful treatment is more likely.

BRCA testing

BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations can increase your risk for breast and several other

types of cancer. The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) now

gives a “B” recommendation for women with personal or family histories of breast,

ovarian, Fallopian tube or peritoneal cancers, or “an ancestry associated with breast

cancer susceptibility” (such as women of Ashkenazi Jewish descent), to receive familial

risk assessments. A positive assessment should be followed by genetic counseling,

which may result in a recommendation for genetic testing. Because private insurers are

required to cover services with USPSTF “A” and “B” ratings, this “B” rating gives more

women access to information about their cancer risk so they can better make decisions

about preventive services.

New screening technology

New technology is expanding screening options, especially for women with dense

breast tissue who may be at greater risk for breast cancer. (Dense breast tissue is also

harder to examine with traditional mammography.) 3D mammography enables

radiologists to view the breast from more angles, allowing for better detection.

Researchers are also exploring the use of molecular breast imaging in combination with

mammograms to better detect breast cancer, though this is not yet widely available.

Liquid biopsies are currently used to monitor disease progression in metastatic breast

cancer patients and may also be helpful in early detection and treatment.

As medical experts continue to explore ways to improve early detection and treatment

for breast cancer, you can reduce your risk by practicing healthy lifestyle habits.

Exercise at least 150 minutes a week, limit or avoid alcohol, maintain a healthy weight

and don’t smoke. (If you do smoke, talk to your doctor about quitting.) To learn more,

Nicole Beus Harris is the spouse of Representative Andy Harris, M.D. Statistics provided by the American Cancer Society.

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