Importance of mammo screenings

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Leading the way: Dr. Mohamed Farhat (left) and Dr. Eduardo Braun lead the team of medical oncologists and nurse practitioners at Michiana Hematology Oncology in Crown Point. | Supplied photo


It’s not breast cancer as usual.

Doctors have long stressed the importance of mammograms to help detect breast cancer early. Now, with treatment options becoming more effective than ever before, the chances of survival can be as high as nearly 90 percent — if the cancer is caught early.

Area doctors say it’s enough of a reason to continue to push for easy access to mammograms.

In Northwest Indiana, a woman has a one in eight chance of developing breast cancer, which mirrors the national average. The goal of screening exams like mammograms is to find cancers before they start to cause symptoms.

“Women can feel confident about the benefits associated with regular mammograms for finding cancer early,” says Dr. Mohamed Farhat who, along with Dr. Eduardo Braun, leads the team of medical oncologists and nurse practitioners at Michiana Hematology Oncology in Crown Point. Their work with breast cancer patients is comprehensive and spans from diagnosis to long-term survivor care.

Breast cancers that are found because they can be felt tend to be larger and are more likely to have already spread beyond the breast. In contrast, breast cancers found during screening exams are more likely to be small and still confined to the breast. The size of a breast cancer and how far it has spread are important factors in predicting the outlook for a woman with this disease.

According to the American Cancer Society, recent evidence has confirmed that mammograms offer substantial benefit for women in their 40s. Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam (CBE) as part of a periodic (regular) health exam by a health professional, at least every three years. After age 40, women should have a breast exam by a health professional every year.

“If a person is afraid of a mammogram, or feels a lump but is frightened of the treatment, it’s important to find someone to help,” Dr. Farhat says.“The longer they wait, the more difficult it can be to treat. It’s why we continue to fight for early detection.”

Dr. Farhat also serves as the medical director of the Burrell Cancer Institute at Franciscan St. Anthony Health in Crown Point. “Breast cancer is still a major public health concern, but it isn’t oncology as usual,” he says. “We know so much more now. The research is phenomenal and clinical trials are providing the very latest in treatment options, which is very positive for the patient.”

Dr. Braun is particularly encouraged by the advances in treatment options in the past several years. “It’s very important for the general population to know that over the past couple of decades there has been an increase in a breast cancer patient’s overall survival rate,” he says. “Better treatments are evolving at a dynamic speed.”

Doctors can now zero in on cancer cells so closely that they can customize treatment on a molecular level in certain patients, says Dr. Braun, who also sees patients at his Westville office.

“We’re learning more about tumors, and how to treat them individually,” he says. “We can adapt treatment around a patient’s life, their work schedule. There is no one recipe to follow, rather there are many treatment paths we can take that are more successful and less harsh on the patient. It’s a major reason that survival rates are higher.”

“Never before has there been such progress in one cancer area,” he continued. “It’s very exciting. We just want them to remember to get mammograms and catch any changes early.”

More information on cancer screenings:

Provided by Michiana Hematology Oncology