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October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It’s the second most common kind of cancer in women. Men can also develop breast cancer, although breast cancer is about 100 times less common among men than women.
About 1 in 8 women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point. The good news is that many women can survive breast cancer if it’s found and treated early.
The research battlefield has seen new efforts in the fight against breast cancer as the prevention, detection and treatment cogs continue to grind forward in search of answers.
Areas of research include causes, risks, lab tests, imaging tests and treatment.
Studies continue to uncover lifestyle factors and habits along with inherited genes that affect risk. Several studies examine exercise, weight gain (or loss) and diet for new information. Genetic testing, gene variations, environmental impact and a long-term study known as the Sister Study.
Researchers look for medicines that help lower breast cancer risk, especially in women who are at high risk. Hormone therapy drugs and Fenretinide are two drugs that may help reduce the risk of cancer. Clinical trials, dietary supplements and other supplements are also being studied.
Lab tests can predict which patients will have recurrences, but it may not help patients live longer. For advanced breast cancer patients, tests may potentially help to tell if treatments are working.
Studies are also looking at new imaging methods which will evaluate abnormalities that may be breast cancers. Scintimammography or molecular breast imaging studies reveal the potential for accuracy may be equal to an MRI.
Some doctors are combining cancer surgery and plastic surgery techniques known as oncoplastic surgery. A group of newer drugs, called Targeted Therapies specifically target gene changes in cancer cells that help the cells grow or spread. Some drugs can now help treat the spread of cancer to the bones and might even help prevent it.
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