Oklahoma woman proves that youth should not preclude breast cancer screening
BY SHANNON MUCHMORE World Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
3/19/13 at 7:25 AM
At the age of 39, doctors told Denisa Baker she was too young for a routine mammogram, but she insisted on one after finding a lump last year during a self-examination.
Baker of Lone Grove found out she had stage-three invasive ductal carcinoma that had spread to her lymph nodes. She has now had eight rounds of chemotherapy and was scheduled for her 25th dose of radiation Tuesday.
"I'm feeling really, really good and just ready to have all this behind me," she said.
She's eager to talk to other women and encourages them to be vigilant and do self-checks.
"Make sure (you know) whether it runs in your family or not," said Baker, who had no family history of breast cancer. "You need to be aware of it and get checked out."
More young women are being diagnosed with breast cancer that has already spread to other parts of the body, according to a recent study.
At the same time, however, fewer people are dying from cancer overall, according to other statistics.
In the past 10 years, the average age for breast cancer diagnosis has decreased while the mortality for breast cancer for all ages has also dropped. This is likely because of earlier diagnoses, more awareness and better treatments, said Dr. John Frame, breast surgeon at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
The center recently received a three-year accreditation from the National Accreditation Program for Breast Cancers and is the only center in Tulsa to have the distinction.
Frame said the center set the goal for accreditation about two years ago. It had to demonstrate how quickly patients go from diagnosis to treatment, how often breast reconstruction is done, how often needle biopsies are performed as opposed to surgical biopsies and how often genetic testing is performed, among other factors.
One of the biggest issues studied was how collaborative doctors at the center were, he said.
At CTCA groups of doctors meet together with patients, and doctors are right down the hall from one another and can consult easily, he said.
The process was educational and rewarding, he said.
"We learned as an institution along the way," he said.
Nobody knows why advanced breast cancer has increased among women aged 25 to 39, and there are limitations in the data used for the study published recently in The Journal of the American Medical Association, said Laurie Flynn, breast surgeon at Hillcrest Medical Center.
If the population that was sampled - less than 30 percent of the women surveyed from 1976 through 2009 were from the U.S. - is not representative of all of the United States, then it may not be a true result, Flynn said.
"If this study in fact represents what is going on right now with young women with breast cancer, we need to find the cause sooner or later so that we can prevent this occurrence," she said.
Self-examinations haven't been shown to be beneficial to the populations as a whole, but they could affect an individual young woman who hasn't yet had a mammogram, Flynn said.
The data and more to be gathered could help determine the cause behind the more frequent diagnoses, she said.
"By sharing my data into a registry, someone else can use all those numbers together to come up with some trends," Flynn said. "And then, once we find a trend, we can act upon it."
Breast cancer study
Cases of highly advanced or "distant" invasive breast cancer among women younger than 40 have tripled in the U.S. over the past three decades, a trend that researchers said has "been increasing at a steady or even accelerating rate."
Advanced breast cancer in women 25 to 39 rose to 2.9 cases for every 100,000 women in 2009 from 1.53 per 100,000 in 1976, a small though statistically significant increase, according to a study published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association. When the findings are applied to the U.S. population, data indicates more than 800 cases of advanced breast cancer occurred in this age group in 2009, up from 250 in 1976.
The analysis found the percentage of advanced cases increased annually and at a faster rate toward the end of the study, researchers said. The rise was independent of race and ethnicity. There was no corresponding increase among older women, the study found.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in 15-to-39-year-old females in the U.S. and accounts for 14 percent of all cancer in women and men in this age group, the authors of the study wrote. Those diagnosed with the disease at a younger age have a higher risk of dying than those who are older. The national five-year survival rate for 20-to-34-year-olds diagnosed with advanced breast cancer is 31 percent, compared with 87 percent for women with less aggressive forms of the disease, researchers said.
- FROM STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS
Original Print Headline: Never too young
Shannon Muchmore 918-581-8378
Dr. John Frame, a breast surgeon, hugs Denisa Baker, a stage-three invasive breast cancer patient, after a chat, at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World
Denisa Baker of Lone Grove is among a rising number of women younger than 40 diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. But in the past 10 years the mortality rate has dropped thanks to earlier detection. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World
Dr. John Frame, a breast surgeon, walks out of the doctor's office with Denisa Baker, an invasive breast cancer patient whose lymph nodes are at stage three, at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World