New treatment for women at higher risk of breast cancer
Twelve years ago, Carol Gilbert discovered a lump in her right breast. Being a nurse, she immediately thought, “Oh, no, I’m in trouble here.”
Though this was just four days after her screening mammogram, she took the proper precaution and called her doctor. Days later, upon evaluation of the lump, she got the news.
“There’s nothing worse than getting a cancer diagnosis,” Gilbert says. “It takes your breath away.”
The issue, she says, is that she’s always had dense breast tissue, which makes it more difficult for a routine screening mammogram to pick up small cancers deep within the breast. According to medical professionals, women with dense breast tissue are at a four to six times higher risk for developing breast cancer, simply because routine mammograms are unable to discover small tumors in time.
“Numerous studies have demonstrated that increased breast density makes cancer detection more difficult with mammography alone,” says Dr. Vanessa Wear, radiologist with the medical center’s Women’s Imaging Center. “As breast density increases, the accuracy of mammography slightly decreases.”
Dr. Wear says AWBUS, while not a substitute for screening mammography, can be used in conjunction with the test to improve the detection of small early cancers.
AWBUS uses ultrasound, not radiation, to scan the breast from all angles. Dr. Wear says it’s quick, painless and ultimately will help us find more cancer.
“With my cancer, I had a lumpectomy, thirty-three rounds of radiation treatment and five years of Arimidex drug treatment,” Gilbert says. “So I probably still glow in the dark. The fact that this new method doesn’t use radiation is a big plus for me.”
She says the AWBUS equipment overlapped its scans, further ensuring nothing would be missed.
“There was no pain, whatsoever,” Gilbert says. “It was easy and didn’t take much time at all. Shortly after, I got a call that everything was clear.”
She says she’s much more secure with the addition of AWBUS to her annual screening mammogram.
“I never felt confident with just the mammogram,” she says. “This gives me reassurance that if something is there, it will be seen quickly and it will be taken care of quickly.”
As a breast cancer survivor, Gilbert says the reassurance is particularly comforting for herself and her family, as breast cancer can recur even years after the initial diagnosis.
“I don’t like this hanging over my head,” she says. “This helps take the worry away for both my husband and me. Neither of us wants to have to go through that again.”
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health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.