Breast Cancer Experts Answered Your Questions

KUTV’s Ask The Expert program answered questions from the community about breast cancer this October.

The Emotional Part of Breast Cancer

A diagnosis can be devastating. Dr. Jeremy Rinard, reconstructive plastic surgeon at McKay-Dee Plastic Surgery, knows and understands the sheer weight of the discovery.

“The second that diagnosis comes through it starts an entire process of biopsies, imaging studies and chemotherapy, radiation, lumpectomy, mastectomy, reconstruction,” said Dr. Rinard. “It’s such an overwhelming diagnosis. This is why it is so important for a woman to find a team that she feels she can work with.”

A support group of family and friends can help handle the emotional turns of cancer. Later in the program, Dr. Rinard talked about the options for mastectomy, lumpectomy and breast reconstruction.

“First and foremost we provide options – for a lot of women a lumpectomy alone might be the best option and for other women it’s mastectomies,” said Dr. Rinard. “It’s important that we can offer all the different options for reconstruction and the help them through that whole process.”

Hereditary Breast Cancer

Genetic research has shown that family history can help identify your cancer risk.

“Hereditary breast cancer is very common. So in general one in eight women do develop breast cancer. Out of those women five to ten percent have a hereditary form of breast cancer,” said McCall Larson, genetic counselor for Intermountain.

How can you know if you are at risk for hereditary breast cancer?

  1. History of two or more members of the family with breast, colon, ovarian, uterine, or pancreatic cancers
  2. Cancer diagnosed before the age of 50
  3. Rare cancers or cancers in the less-expected gender such as male breast cancer

“If you are at risk, definitely come see a genetic counselor,” said Larson. “A genetic counselor is a healthcare professional who analyzes family histories to see if genetics can be playing a role in development of cancer.”

Blood Tests for Breast Cancer Screening

New research from Intermountain has been looking at if a blood sample can help detect breast cancer tumors in earlier stages.

“What we are looking at is whether or not tumors shed DNA into the blood stream that can be detected at the earliest stage of breast cancer – which would be at your screening,” said Dr. Brett Parkinson from Intermountain Medical Center. “We do know that tumors do shed DNA into the proliferate blood. But what we want to see is if it early enough that we could detect it, comparably as we do in a mammogram.”

Dr. Parkinson said this is a promising next step in breast cancer advancements – which has seen survival rates go up in the last three decades.

“There has been a 40 percent reduction in breast cancer deaths since 1991. But we want to see that improve. So if we can find breast cancer earlier with a supplementary test to mammography – that would be great news. Which is why we are recruiting women for this study,” Dr. Parkinson said.

You can find more information in Intermountain’s Newsroom.