A Sunset Cliffs resident and medical oncologist is sharing information about advances in battling the disease during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.
“Unfortunately, one in eight women in their lives are going to be diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Dr. Carrie Costantini, breast medical oncologist at Scripps MD Anderson Cancer Center and a Scripps Clinic physician. “In 2021 alone, an estimated 281,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States. Though the number of deaths per year has gone down to about 43,000, that’s still way too much.”
Breast Cancer Awareness Month started in 1985, in part to raise awareness about the importance of early detection. Data clearly shows treatments tend to be much more effective when the cancer is caught in the early/localized stage, as opposed to when it spreads regionally or distantly throughout the body.
Costantini said new cutting-edge research and treatments such as immunotherapy “have improved outcomes allowing patients to live longer and without their cancers coming back.”
Leading a healthy lifestyle has also proven conducive to cancer treatment, noted Costantini,
“General health, diet, and exercise are beneficial,” she said. “Studies have shown that women who’ve had breast cancer who do 150 minutes or more of moderate exercise a week that gets their heart rates up, that helps reduce their risk of cancer coming back.”
There are other ways to cut down on cancer-risk factors too.
“Studies have shown that women drinking less than a glass of alcohol a day have a reduced risk of not only breast cancer but many other cancers as well,” said Stephen Carpowich, Scripps Health public relations manager.
Pointing out breast cancer is more common as women age, Carpowich said that underscores “the need for continued monitoring.”
Such monitoring is done at the Prebys Cancer Center on the campus of Scripps Mercy Hospital San Diego, part of Scripps MD Anderson Cancer Center, a clinically integrated cancer care program that treats patients countywide.
The 40,000-square-foot, four-story, $59 million Prebys Cancer Center, named for the late Conrad Prebys, who earlier donated $25 million to support the facility, is the second of two regional cancer hubs. The new outpatient center there will offer a wide range of advanced cancer treatments and patient support services.
“The opening of Prebys Cancer Center represents a pivotal step in our journey to provide advanced, individualized cancer care to the residents of San Diego County and the Southern California region,” said Scripps president/CEO Chris Van Gorder. “Patients will find this to be a truly exceptional facility in every sense, from the sophisticated medical technology and collaborative approach to care to the comforting environment and personal support services we offer.”
The newly opened Prebys Cancer Center is part of the Scripps MD Anderson Cancer Center program. Prebys Cancer Center is located at Scripps Mercy Hospital in Hillcrest. It is Scripps’ first comprehensive cancer center located south of Interstate 8 serving patients in the central and southern part of the county.
Breast oncologist Costantini talked about breast mammograms noting the general guideline is that “women need to start doing mammograms by age 40.” She said additional risk factors, like a family history of breast cancer, puts women at even higher risk, making mammograms and self-exams for early detection even more necessary.
“It’s important to be aware, and if a woman feels a mass, they should not delay in getting medical care,” Costantini concluded.
BREAST CANCER AWARENESS
The first organized effort to bring widespread attention to breast cancer awareness occurred in October 1985 with a week-long event in the United States co-founded by the American Cancer Society. Since then, campaigns to increase awareness and educate people about methods of prevention and early detection, and to raise money to support research, have extended worldwide.
Globally, breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women. In 2018, more than two million new cases were reported worldwide.
Throughout Breast Cancer Awareness Month science forums, educational programs and informational pamphlets and posters disseminate information publicly. A number of special events are held including National Mammogram Day in the United States, which focuses on screening and early detection of breast cancer.
Fund-raising activities such as walks, runs, auctions, concerts, and other charity events are also held worldwide. The money collected typically goes toward local, national or international funding for breast cancer research.
At this time there are more than 3.8 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S. including women still being treated, and those who have completed treatment. Five-year relative survival rates for breast cancer are as follows, based on women diagnosed between 2010 and 2016:
Localized – 99% five year relative survival rate.
Regional – 86% five year relative survival rate.
Distant – 28% five year relative survival rate.
All stages combined – 90% five year relative survival rate.
Targeted therapy twice as effective:
New data shows a targeted therapy called ENHERTU was twice as effective as the existing standard of care in controlling HER-2 positive breast cancer, an especially aggressive disease. Results revealed that fewer than 25% of patients treated with ENHERTU showed disease progression or death after 12 months of treatment, compared to 65% of patients treated with the standard-of-care therapy. The study results could open the door for ENHERTU to become the new standard of care for patients with HER-2 positive metastatic breast cancer following their initial therapy.
Immunotherapy approved for high-risk breast cancer:
In July 2021 the FDA approved the immuno therapy Keytruda for high-risk, early-stage triple negative breast cancer. It is approved in combination with chemotherapy as a “first step” treatment to help shrink the tumor before surgery and also to help reduce the risk of the cancer coming back. Recent clinical trial data showed patients treated with Keytruda and chemotherapy as a “first step” treatment had longer overall survival (23 months) compared to those receiving chemotherapy alone. This is the first immuno therapy approval for early-stage breast cancer.