Fighting for lives

Geisinger Health System is stepping up its efforts to prevent breast cancer.

A new high-risk breast clinic has opened at the health system’s main campus in Danville to offer a more pro-active approach to preventing the disease.

Meanwhile, Geisinger Medical Group, a clinic at 780 Broad St., Montoursville, now is offering mammography to the area population.

“I’m really excited about all this,” said Dr. Rosemary Leeming, director of Geisinger’s Comprehensive Breast Program. “We have a real systemwide program.”

The high-risk clinic will reach out to those with a family history of breast cancer or who are concerned about their own risk for the disease.

Leeming said the first step is to get a referral from a family doctor for an appointment at the clinic.

The clinic, open two days a week, specifically can help women who fall under a number of risk factors:

Those with extremely dense breasts which normal mammography may have problems detecting for cancer.

Those with a family history of breast cancer.

Those with previous breast biopsies showing suspicious changes

Those who are concerned about breast cancer or whose physicians are concerned

“Remember that the majority of women who get breast cancer have no risk factors we can identify.” Leeming said.

An evaluation will provide a risk assessment and risk reduction strategies, she added.

Women with dense breasts, comprising about 10 percent of the population, are more at risk for breast cancer. Dense breast tissue indicates a greater amount of gland tissue than fatty tissue.

Gov. Tom Corbett last year signed into law the Breast Density Notification Act. The law dictates that all state residents who undergo mammograms receive notification of their breast density.

Leeming said the majority of women don’t realize their risks for breast cancer.

Many others don’t have the classic risk factors for the disease.

“It (high-risk clinic) is designed

to operate as a ‘one-stop shop’ with a comprehensive evaluation based on genetics and family history, breast density and other risk factors,” she said.

With the introduction of mammography at Geisinger’s Montoursville site, local patients no longer will have to travel to Danville for screenings.

“It’s a great service to offer close to home,” Leeming said. “We aren’t offering diagnostic mammograms.”

Leeming noted that early detection of breast cancer is the key to the successful treatment of cancer.

All women are encouraged to have yearly mammograms beginning at age 40 and to regularly conduct self-breast examinations.

The American Cancer Society has cited certain lifestyle choices that can increase one’s risk for breast cancer, including: smoking, alcohol consumption, being overweight or obese, use of hormone therapy after menopause and use of certain types of birth control.

The chances of getting breast cancer increase with age, family history and personal history of the disease.

Caucasian women are more likely to get breast cancer than African-American, Asian, Hispanic and Native-American women. African-American women are more likely to die from breast cancer, however.