Rachana Yendala, MD, Hematologist-Oncologist
What is new research telling us about treatment of breast cancer?
With new research that is occurring, we are able to give hope to those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Current research is examining cancer at the molecular level and the growth of new non-chemotherapies such as targeted therapy, immunotherapy, and hormone therapy. We are identifying patients who need more or a different type of treatment, as well as those who don’t benefit from an aggressive treatment. In other words, not every woman diagnosed with breast cancer should have mastectomies and chemotherapy.
What are the general guidelines surrounding breast cancer screening? How early should women begin mammograms?
The majority of women are at an average risk for breast cancer. In general, US Prevention Services Task Force guidelines recommend mammogram screenings for all women ages 50 to 75, every one to two years. There is some debate on the benefit from screening early in your 40s, although the American Cancer Society recommends to start at age 45 with annual mammograms until 55, then decreasing to every two years. I recommend patients have a conversation with their physicians about when to begin breast cancer screening.
Are there additional tests or screening that you recommend for women that help detect the presence of any type of cancer?
Yes, all women should have cervical cancer screening with Pap Smear every two years for ages 21-29 and every three to five years after 30, with or without additional HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) testing respectively. Additionally, HPV vaccines are now recommended for both men and women ages 11-26.
All men and women are recommended for colorectal cancer screening from age 50 with risk based interval colonoscopy. Additionally, individuals ages 55-74 who currently smoke or quit within the last 15 years should have lung cancer screening with a low dose CT chest. Periodic skin exams are also recommended for those at high risk for melanoma.
Are there other signs of breast cancer?
A: Breast cancer, and cancer in general, can be unpredictable. I tell my patients to be aware of unusual symptoms such as unexpected weight loss and tiredness, new body lesions, any bleeding after menopause, or abdomen swelling in women as some of the concerning symptoms for a potential cancer. A delayed presentation often misses an early diagnosis influencing cancer outcomes in several patients.
Are there any guidelines surrounding when to have a mastectomy?
A: In general, mastectomy is indicated for patients who are not candidates for breast conservation like in those with large tumors, suspicious lesions across the breast, inability to get radiation treatment after conserving the breast and in women who prefer mastectomy by choice.
Dr. Rachana Yendala practices at the Conway Regional Multispecialty Clinic, located at 525 Western Ave. Suite 305 in Conway. For more information, call 501-358-6145 or visit https://www.conwayregional.org