Early Detection Key to Fighting Breast Cancer

Article excerpt

Byline: Meta L. Levin Daily Herald Correspondent

Not long ago Vernon Hills resident Jill Koeppen had one of those experiences that made her day.

While waiting to give a speech at a local recreation center, a woman approached Koeppen and told her that she had had a mastectomy 20 years earlier.

"I said 'You just gave me hope,' " said Koeppen, whose own mastectomy was nine years ago. "She made my day, my week, my month."

Koeppen is a testament to the push for early detection. Her cancer showed up at a very early stage after a doctor recommended base line mammogram. At the time it was so small neither she nor her doctor could feel it.

That first mammogram was Feb. 3, 1988. Now she schedules one each year on Valentine's Day.

The American Cancer Society's 1997 Mother's Breast Cancer Awareness campaign is using Mother's Day cards to highlight the necessity of regular mammograms for women.

The cards are aimed both at mothers and grandmothers, since studies have shown that older women as a group do not have regular mammograms, despite the fact that cancer society information notes that the risk of breast cancer increases with age. In fact, the society has a list of FDA certified mammography facilities offering reduced cost mammograms during May. Call (800) ACS-2345.

"Early detection is most important," said Dr. Burton Miller, a Libertyville general surgeon who serves as vice president of the Lake County Unit of the American Cancer Society's board. "With the technology we now have we have the ability to detect it very early, before it becomes invasive. If we can detect it early, we can do something for it."

Koeppen's case is just what Miller means. She had DCIS or ductal carcinoma insitu, which means the cancer was contained in the breast's milk ducts and had not spread.

The results of Koeppen's mammogram were sent to a doctor who knew her, another important step, Miller said.

Often that is not the case. Current American College of Radiology guidelines call for patients to be notified directly of the results of any X-rays. Frequently a woman will hear that her mammogram shows nothing out of the ordinary and either skip her doctor's appointment or never make one. Some women do this even though they have found a lump or other abnormality.

"Not all breast cancer will show up on a mammogram, so a woman should get a screening mammogram and be seen by a physician," he said. "It is rare, but I have seen patients who have a normal mammogram and breast cancer."

American Cancer Society figures show that breast cancer rates among women in the United States rose about 4 percent per year between 1982 and 1987, but have since leveled off to about 110 in 100,000 women. Most of the growth is believed to be due to increases in detection because more women are getting regular mammograms, according to cancer society reports.

Mammograms have been in the news lately. The National Institutes of Health held a meeting and recommended that women over 40 have mammograms every other year. …