Fairbanks oncologists discuss advances in breast cancer research for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Published: Oct. 11, 2021 at 4:23 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and research has yielded interesting results in the last few year.

According to Dr. Andrew Cox, Medical Oncologist, Fairbanks Cancer Care Physicians, data on breast cancer cases have shown an interesting trend over the last few years.

“Interestingly, in the last several years there’s been an increase by .5% per year of the chances of a woman getting breast cancer,” Dr. Cox explained. “That’s being accompanied, however, by a decrease of 1% per year in terms of a woman dying of breast cancer. So why the improved mortality data? It’s most likely a combination of two things -- first is earlier diagnosis, and second is better treatments.”

And according to Dr. Jacqueline Cox, Medical Oncologist, Fairbanks Cancer Care Physicians, even as recently as a month ago, there have been advances in breast cancer treatment.

“So breast cancer treatments are constantly evolving and improving,” Dr. Jacqueline Cox elaborated. “Today’s breast cancer treatments are more targeted, allowing patients less toxicity and more quality of life as they’re going through their treatment. Recently, in the last month, there have been a lot of interesting improvements - one of which is using immunotherapy up front in the earlier setting with breast cancer. In addition, there’s a lot more expanded genetic profile testing that we are offering to patients now as well.”

There are several risk factors that can impact breast cancer patients, with some being modifiable.

“I like to think of risk factors as the ones that are fixed and the ones that are actually modifiable and we can change,” Dr Jacqueline Cox elaborated. “For instance, the risk factors that are fixed are things such as our age, our gender, the age of first menarche, the age of our first birth of our child, family history, ethnicity - those are obviously things we can’t change. So the modifiable risk factors are things that we can change - and that would be things such as obesity and our diet, increasing our exercise, decreasing alcohol intake, and also choosing or not choosing to take hormonal treatments.”

Dr. Jacqueline Cox also noted that the majority of breast cancer discoveries are from patients themselves.

“Interestingly, most women actually palpate a lump in their breast and bring it to the attention of their physician,” she said, “And because most of the diagnoses are made that way, we do encourage women to do self breast exams at least quarterly in addition to getting mammograms every year.

Regarding the road ahead for the newly diagnosed, Dr. Jacqueline Cox said, “A diagnosis of breast cancer can be overwhelming. For most women, they will be meeting with and consulting with a surgeon, a medical oncologist, and a radiation oncologist. All of that information can be a lot for a patient to absorb. So as the medical oncologist, I really feel that I’m sort of that point person or that captain to kind of help them go through all of that information, and comb through it, and decipher what their individual plan will be.”

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