Eating my breakfast this morning and reading the Wall Street Journal, I came across an article titled “New Screening Tests for Hard-to-Spot Breast Cancers”. Of course I eagerly began to read, as I was curious what new information was going out to the general public.
Firstly, how excited was I to see quotes in the article from my two “breast buddies”, Dr. Nancy Cappello and Jan Kritzman! Two amazing women from here in Connecticut, working hard to promote dense breast tissue notification laws and dense tissue awareness.
The WSJ article discusses various imaging techniques for patients with dense breast tissue. While mammography is the only “breast-screening” modality proven to save lives, it is limited in patients with dense breast tissue. Approximately 50% of women have dense breast tissue and these women have a 4-6x increased risk of breast cancer due to the dense tissue itself. Full-field digital mammography is an excellent modality for imaging dense breast tissue and there is minimal radiation exposure with this exam. In patients with dense tissue, a screening bilateral breast ultrasound is an extremely helpful imaging adjunct. Ultrasound allows the radiologist to see further into the dense tissue and it detects cancers, usually the small ones that hide on the mammogram. For each cancer found, some false positives will result and this can create patient anxiety. However, as my friend Jan says, “I’d rather be scared for a couple of days than dead.” Ultrasound is quick, easy and adds no additional radiation exposure.
New imaging technologies are being promoted to the public, including breast tomosynthesis (3D mammography). In an age where people are concerned about their health and exposure to radiation, this test doubles one’s radiation dose. While it is being promoted as a method for detecting more cancers, it is only of value in patients with dense breast tissue. And many of these patients will gain more benefit from a screening ultrasound, or may require an ultrasound for a specific area seen on the 3D images. Many insurance companies feel 3D mammography is an unproven technique for detecting additional cancers and few are paying for this study. Additional costs to the patient are often at least $50-75, whereas routine full-field digital mammography is completely paid for by insurance.
Other imaging modalities such as MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and MBI (molecular breast imaging) are available for specific cases. MRI is time consuming, expensive, and produces many false positives. MBI is not yet widely available and is costly, with limited insurance coverage.
Approximately half the patients I see in my practice have dense breast tissue. I honestly feel that a full-field digital mammogram and bilateral breast ultrasound are the best imaging modalities for screening these women for breast cancer. The two tests combined are precise and diagnostic, with little radiation exposure and cost to the patient. In my private practice, I personally perform all the breast screening ultrasounds. Of the hundred or so done, 4 patients have been diagnosed with small invasive cancers, not seen on mammography. While mammography may be the “proven” screening modality for breast cancer detection, I can personally attest to the value of screening breast ultrasound for cancer detection. Both mammography and breast ultrasound save lives!
Julie S. Gershon, M.D.
To view the WSJ article click here. Also, be sure to check out Are You Dense.org.
This past summer I read a book titled, Then Came Life, by Geralyn Lucas. It was an inspiring novel written by a woman diagnosed with breast cancer at age 27. This is Geralyn’s second book and in it she talks about her everyday life, living with breast cancer, in a humorous manner, often relating back to her treatments and diagnosis. While predominantly light-hearted and funny, the novel also takes a more serious note in the discussion of Geralyn’s first cousin being diagnosed with breast cancer and her eventual passing. As a radiologist, frequently diagnosing women with breast cancer and seeing many survivors, this book hit home to me. I thoroughly enjoyed every chapter and found myself both laughing and crying along with Geralyn. Every woman who has undergone treatment for breast cancer is a hero to me and a symbol of courage and strength.
Yesterday evening I had the opportunity to speak with Geralyn over the phone and to hear her enthusiasm and fun loving personality. She is very excited about speaking in our community next month. I invite everyone to join us at the Mandell JCC for the Jewish Book Festival event on Sunday, January 11th. It is going to be a truly wonderful experience for all who attend!
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month...be sure to check out a special pull-out section on "Breast Cancer Awareness" in this coming Sunday's Hartford Courant. An article on Dense Breast Tissue will be included, featuring Nancy Cappello, PhD., Jan Kritzman, and myself.
Published in today's New York Times..."Dense Breasts May Obscure Mammogram Results". Our hometown hero Nancy Cappello is recognized!
Click here to view the article.
Hundreds participated in the annual Race for the Cure at Bushnell Park in Hartford this past Saturday. It is always an inspirational event to see men, women and children, of all ages, supporting such a worthy cause. This year, as in years past, Gabrielle and I ran for Team P & J and were proud to be a part of such an amazing group of people.
Congratulations to Patty & Jeanne for another successful year! Team P & J was once again a top fundraiser for the event, collecting over $15,000.
Well done ladies!!!
"We live here. We race here. We save lives here."
Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure
Hartford June 7, 2014
Join us for the annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure at Bushnell Park, Saturday, June 7th! We will be there supporting Patty Fox as a member and sponsor of Team P&J. If you would like to be a part of this great event and Patty's team, click here to register .
This year, official team caps will be on sale at The Crown Market on Sunday, June 1st, beginning at 9:30 am. All proceeds go towards Patty's team and the fight against breast cancer.
Thank you for your support and we hope to see you there!
Julie & Gabrielle Gershon
A great article published in today's Op Ed section of the Wall Street Journal! Take a look...
Click here for article!
J Gershon Breast Imaging is now offering genetic consults and genetic testing in cooperation with Myriad Genetics Laboratories. If you, or a family member, have been diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer, or you are of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, you may be eligible for genetic testing. Knowledge of a mutation in the BRCA genes can be helpful in making informed decisions about care for oneself and your family members. To find out more about our new service, please feel free to call the office at 860-673-1955.
Julie S. Gershon, M.D.