October, the month turns «pink» for breast cancer prevention.
Also this year, the Gynpoint team is at the forefront of breast cancer prevention through information and screening.
Each year, approximately 6000 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in Switzerland. Thanks to research, women who receive a new breast cancer diagnosis can face this challenge with confidence and security.
Today, breast cancer can be treated more successfully than in the past with more targeted and often less stressful methods. The cure rate has increased in the last 10 years due to improved early detection, new therapy concepts (surgical, radiotherapeutic and medicinal) and interdisciplinary care in certified centers.
Breast cancer: the importance of prevention
Breast cancer prevention is a special focus of gynaecology. New strategies have been developed to identify those at risk (family history, presence of precancerous lesions, metabolic disorders, etc.). The first approach to these strategies is primary prevention.
Primary prevention means reducing the risk of getting sick. Several studies show that lifestyle is important. Obesity, a high-fat diet, lack of exercise, alcohol and nicotine consumption are also risk factors for breast cancer that we can positively influence.
From a biological perspective, several mechanisms may play a role in explaining the possible link between dietary factors and breast cancer development. One example is IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor), a chemical mediator involved in antigen activation.
Numerous studies have demonstrated the link between breast cancer and glycemic load through the interaction between sex hormones, insulin, and other mediators such as IGF.
Secondary prevention: the importance of early detection
Detection of early breast cancer, when it is still small and not palpable, means a high probability of complete cure with minimal surgical and pharmacological treatment. Diagnosis is based on clinical and diagnostic examinations, which are essential in screening as well as follow-up. Mammography and breast ultrasound are components of imaging for early detection of breast carcinoma.
The radiation dose used in today’s mammography equipment is considered very low and can be safely used to diagnose breast cancer in patients over the age of 40. In addition, the advancement of technology allows a three-dimensional examination, tomoy synthesis, which complements digital mammography. This increases the sensitivity of the radiological examination and thus provides a more detailed picture of the breast. The ultrasound technique is a safe method that does not require the use of X-rays. Many studies have shown that the additional use of breast ultrasound in patients with high mammographic breast density leads to an increase in the detection rate of breast cancer by 13 to 28%.
Breast magnetic resonance is not a standard imaging modality for senological screening. However, an MRI scan may be critical for the diagnosis of breast cancer in selected cases. Patients with a high familial risk, implants, unclear findings near a surgical scar, for example, may benefit from a breast MRI.
With the help of all these methods – mammography, ultrasound, magnetic resonance – the constant technological development makes it possible to take targeted samples
(punch biopsy or vacuum biopsy) of a breast lesion that is not yet palpable.
Breast cancer diagnosis: what have we learned about the disease and what challenges remain for research
Increasing knowledge about breast cancer and advances in therapy are putting women more and more at the center of treatment strategy.
The patient who receives a new diagnosis of breast cancer is followed by a multidisciplinary team of experts who work together to develop the most individualized therapy possible.
Attention to women and their body image has led to an improved conservative approach to breast surgery, as well as axillary lymph nodes. Even in cases where complete removal of the breast is required, increasingly sophisticated plastic surgery techniques allow immediate reconstruction of the breast.
Quality of life also means less stressful medical treatments and radiotherapy.
In the last one, a trend towards shortening (hypofractionation) of radiotherapy has prevailed.
Finally, the most impressive results of breast cancer research have been achieved in the field of medical therapies and immunotherapy in particular.
The combination of conventional chemotherapeutic agents with new molecules of immunotherapy (monoclonal antibodies) represents a new, highly effective molecularly targeted therapy and a therapeutic option also for more aggressive forms of breast cancer.
The challenge of modern oncology is to understand the genetic and molecular mechanisms of breast cancer.
Dr.med. (I) Alessandra Moscarolli, Master in Senologie