Women and Cancer: Breast Cancer

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Breast cancer is the most common cancer found in women and one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. In the last few decades, survival rates have increased significantly due to early detection and better treatment therapies. There are many different types of breast cancer and each may require a different combination of surgery, medication and chemotherapy. The most common types of breast cancer are:

  • ER-Positive – the cancer cells grow in response to the hormone estrogen.
  • HER2-Positive - the cells make too much of a protein known as HER2. This type of breast cancer is typically fast-growing.
  • Triple-Negative - they don’t have estrogen and progesterone receptors and don’t overexpress the HER2 protein. Most breast cancers associated with the gene BRCA1 are triple negative.

Specialists are studying the connection between triple-negative breast cancer and young women, especially since it is so common among young, African-American women.

Mammography remains the “gold standard” in the early detection of breast cancer. Women should begin going for yearly mammogram screenings at the age of 40.  However, some individuals with a strong family history of breast cancer may need to start getting mammograms earlier than age 40. 3D mammograms and MRIs are sometimes recommended for women with dense breasts, as they provide greater visibility so radiologists can see the breast tissue in greater detail, and they can scan for abnormalities that a regular mammogram may not be able to pick up.

Whether a 3D mammogram or an MRI is recommended is mostly dependent on a woman’s family history of breast cancer. An MRI provides the greatest detail and may be recommended for women with strong family histories of breast cancer.

Cancer treatment can be a difficult time for patients, and traveling far for treatment can put excess strain on an individual and their family. Over time, cancer treatments have become standardized, and most individuals can now find great care close to home! Cone Health is committed to making patients wholly better and has an entire team of support staff at the Cone Health Cancer Center at Annie Penn dedicated to helping patients through treatment with state of the art equipment and therapies.

Spokesperson Background:

Dr. Shannon Penland is a medical oncologist and hematologist at the Cone Health Cancer Center at Annie Penn Hospital and a member of Cone Health Medical Group. She received her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Pittsburgh in 1993. Dr. Penland completed medical school at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 2000 and completed her residency at Mercy Hospital of Pittsburgh in 2002. She completed a Hematology and Oncology fellowship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2006.