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Ask the IU Health Expert: Breast cancer care starts with prevention, detection

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When diagnosed with breast cancer, patients have access to IU Health breast care surgeons and experts within 48 hours. Dr. Samilia Obeng-Gyasi, breast surgeon at IU Health, discusses care for breast cancer, which is one of the most common cancers in women.


How often should I be screened, and at what age?

For women who are at an average risk for developing breast cancer, we recommend beginning screening at age 40. For women who are high risk, we recommend screening at an earlier age. 

High risk includes women with a prior history of breast cancer or those identified as high risk based on risk models (e.g. Gail, Claus, BRACAPRO, etc.). These patients should talk to their primary care doctor or gynecologist about a referral to a high-risk clinic for closer monitoring. 


What can I be doing to lower my risk?

Risk prevention strategies for breast cancer include maintaining a healthy lifestyle and weight, judicious alcohol consumption and breastfeeding after pregnancy. Post-menopausal women should avoid combined estrogen and progestin hormone replacement therapy and keep their BMI in the normal range for additional risk reduction.


What is the first step after being diagnosed with breast cancer?

After a diagnosis of breast cancer, patients are usually referred to an oncologist for further management. The treatment of breast cancer is multidisciplinary, so patients are treated by a team that includes a radiologist, pathologist, surgical oncologist, radiation oncologist and medical oncologists.


Why is it important that a patient see an expert shortly after diagnosis?

Like all cancers, early detection and treatment improve overall outcomes for breast cancer patients. As expected, patients with early-stage breast cancers have significantly better outcomes than those with advanced-stage cancers.


What are the various treatment options?

The treatment for breast cancer is multimodal. Specifically, breast cancer is treated with a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and endocrine therapy. Based on your tumor biology, your medical team decides which treatment modalities provide the best outcomes.


What is holistic medicine, and what are its benefits?

The premise of holistic medicine is to treat the entire patient and not just their disease. By treating the patient as a complex and dynamic being, instead of just focusing on their disease, it enables the health care provider to develop a treatment plan that is in tune with the patient’s values.


What additional resources does IU Health offer to patients with breast cancer?

As the only academic center in the state, in addition to high-quality breast cancer care, IU Health offers patients the opportunity to participate in novel and cutting-edge therapies. ​

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