McLeod Health breast surgeon talks about breast cancer, treatment options

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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in South Carolina, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC).

It is also the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women in the state.

Thankfully there are preventative measures to take, like getting a mammogram.

“It’s very important for women to get their screening mammograms because if this disease is caught early, it is very treatable and curable,” said Dr. Tasha Martin with McLeod Health. “We recommend starting your screening at age 40, and getting that annually going forward.”

Other preventative measures include doing a self breast exam every month.

“Just to make sure that you don’t feel any new lumps or bumps, skin changes, nipple discharge — look out for those type of things. A lot of times a woman will pick it up herself before she sees a physician or has any imaging done,” Martin said.

Otherwise, Dr. Martin recommends living a healthy lifestyle. Eat a low fat diet, exercise regularly and don’t smoke. It’s important to note family history can play a role.

“If you have a significant family history of breast cancer, we recommend women get screened with a physician around age 30, because they may need to get screening mammograms earlier than that,” Martin said.

However, that family history may not be the only contributing factor.

Martin said the top two risk factors for breast cancer are being a woman and getting older, but there are still things that remain unknown about the disease.

“There’s likely a genetic contribution as well as environmental factors that play a role. Most women who are diagnosed with this disease do not have any family history of it,” Martin said. “I think over 85% of women have no family history of breast cancer. It affects any woman. About 5% to 10% of breast cancer actually has a genetic link, or mutation, that we test for.”

Women are not the only ones who can be diagnosed with breast cancer. It can affect men as well.

Martin said “while there’s about 280,000 who get breast cancer annually, there’s about 2,600 men. It’s not enough to say that we need to screen men for the disease, because the risk of screening doesn’t outweigh the benefits, but men are also susceptible to breast cancer.”

If a woman has an abnormal mammogram, they may be referred to meet with a breast surgeon like Martin. It depends on what a biopsy shows.

“I’ll usually take the woman through surgery as well as recommending other treatment options, such as chemotherapy and radiation, if she would need that,” Martin said.

Besides surgery, chemotherapy and radiation can be other options, depending on what type of breast cancer the patient has.

“There’s many different types of breast cancer, and so depending on a woman’s specific type of cancer, she may or may not need those treatment modalities,” Martin said.

The Centers for Disease Control reports about 40,000 women die each year from breast cancer nationwide.

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