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Agencies unite for breast cancer awareness

Dr. Troy Kimsey, director of surgical oncology for the Phoebe Cancer Center, gives an address on breast cancer Friday at a luncheon at Darton State College. The event was held through a partnership among Phoebe, the Southwest Public Health District, Albany Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and the American Cancer Society.

Dr. Troy Kimsey, director of surgical oncology for the Phoebe Cancer Center, gives an address on breast cancer Friday at a luncheon at Darton State College. The event was held through a partnership among Phoebe, the Southwest Public Health District, Albany Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and the American Cancer Society.

ALBANY — The Phoebe Cancer Center, Southwest Public Health District, Albany Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and American Cancer Society joined together Friday to help spread the word on breast cancer.

The 2012 Breast Cancer Awareness Luncheon was held at the Darton State College Student Center, where attendees were served a complimentary lunch before hearing from guest speaker Dr. Troy Kimsey, director of surgical oncology at Phoebe Cancer Center.

“The greatest impact on outcomes come from screening,” said Kimsey. “Hopefully (additional education efforts) will translate into better outcomes.”

Kimsey’s presentation gave an overview of the evolution of breast cancer treatment since the 19th century, the pathology of disease as well as what the future might hold in fighting it.

Ductal carcinoma accounts for 76 percent of breast cancer cases, Kimsey said. In order to determine the best course of treatment for a patient, cancers are staged based on the tumor’s size, involvement of the lymph node basins and spread of the disease to other parts of the body.

“In general, small tumors that haven’t spread are stage one, and (cases where there is a larger tumor and the cancer has spread to solid organs elsewhere in the body) are stage four,” Kimsey said. “The areas in between are stage two and stage three.”

From the late 1800s through the 1950s, the standard method of treating breast cancer was a radical mastectomy — which included removal of the breast, chest wall muscles and lymph nodes, Kimsey said.

Eventually, research began on the impacts of radiation treatments.

By the 1980s, radical mastectomy was no longer the standard method in combating the disease — although physicians still take measures to treat the whole breast, Kimsey said.

The future for treatment will likely involve cancer stem cells, viral vectors and recombinant antibodies in order to more precisely target therapy, he said.

Kimsey also gave an overview of the risk factors for breast cancer — including age, gender, genetic predisposition, estrogen exposure and breast density in women 40-49 years of age.

In regards to screening, mammograms are generally recommended for women beginning at age 40 — or earlier for those at higher risk.

While there is some debate as to when women should start and stop making appointments for mammograms, there is strong consensus that the procedure should be done for those between the ages of 50-69, Kimsey said.

One method of screening Kimsey noted as being particularly important was self examinations. Breast cancer will usually grow faster in younger women, he added.

The program on Friday was made possible, public health officials say, by a health equity grant as a way to promote awareness and increase the number of cancer screenings in the area.

As part of this, events are being conducted by the district through May in an effort to increase awareness on breast cancer, cervical cancer and colorectal cancer with a focus on Dougherty, Terrell and Mitchell counties, officials say.

“Cancer itself is extremely prevalent. It is a universal disease,” said Jackie Jenkins, epidemiologist with the health district. “We want to give folks information (on cancer).”

As a way for the health district to continue its effort to promote breast cancer awareness, the health departments from Mitchell and Baker counties are hosting a Pink Tea Party at Mitchell EMC at 2 p.m. on Oct. 19.

While breast cancer has been known to occur in men, women have a 100 percent greater chance of developing the disease, Kimsey said.

Statistics available from the Georgia Center for Oncology Research and Education (CORE) show that breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer incidence among females living in the state.

Breast, lung and bronchus, and colon and rectum cancers account for 55 percent of all new cancer cases among females in Georgia, according to data available from Georgia CORE.