Thursday, October 16, 2003

Diagnose breast cancer early

Stephen P. Povoski
Guest columnist

There was some heartening news about breast cancer in the National Cancer Institute's most recent "Report to the Nation" released last month. The report - a handy reference to the latest trends in the number of new cases and deaths from cancer - says fewer women are dying from breast cancer, although a slightly increasing number of women appear to be getting it.

Studies tell us the average woman stands a one in eight chance of developing breast cancer at some point during her lifetime. But for some women, the risk is much higher than that. Some women are what we call at high risk. A woman's chances of developing breast cancer actually depend upon a number of variables she may or may not have any control over, including things like ethnic heritage or inherited genetic abnormalities.

It is important to know if you fall into a high-risk group, because if you do, there are some things you can do now to lessen your chances of developing cancer later on.

How do you know if your risk is higher than average? Start with the checklist at the bottom of this column. If you fall into any of these categories, entry into a high-risk and breast cancer prevention clinic or program may be the right path for you. A high-risk clinic can offer you comprehensive care - everything from evaluation by a breast specialist and a genetic counselor to recommended diet and exercise programs and access to the latest diagnostic tools.

Check and see. Do you have:

• A close relative with breast cancer, especially if it was diagnosed before age 55?

• Several close relatives with breast, ovarian, prostate or pancreatic cancer?

• A relative with both breast and ovarian cancer?

• A male relative with breast cancer?

• A relative who has tested positive for a known cancer genetic mutation?

• Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry?

• An abnormal breast biopsy result indicating atypical hyperplasia or lobular carcinoma in situ?

• Personal prior history of breast cancer?

If you answered yes to any of these categories, mention that to your primary care physician at your next appointment - or better yet, schedule that appointment today.

Stephen Povoski is the director of the high-risk and breast cancer prevention clinic program at Ohio State University's Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute in Columbus. For more information about the clinic, call 800-293-5066 or visit www.jamesline.com.

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