A local Doctor stresses the importance of genetic cancer tests

By Sheri Falk - bio | email | Twitter

Hattiesburg, MS (WDAM) - Throughout the month of October,  pink ribbons are everywhere to create awareness of how many women and men are effected by breast cancer.

"Early diagnoses of breast cancer is allowing us to improve the cure of breast cancer,"said, Hattiesburg Clinic General Surgeon, Dr. William Whitehead.

According to Whitehead, in 2009 the Hattiesburg Clinic Breast Center provided more than 16,000 mammogram's for Pine Belt women and men.

"We are very capable of detecting early breast cancer with digital mammography and breast MRI'S. Unfortunately, 20% of breast cancers don't show up on the mammogram."

Tammy King 36, was lucky, her breast cancer was initially detected with a self breast exam.

"I think it is absolutely essential that women are familiar with what their breasts feel like, they don't have to make a diagnoses" said Whitehead, "we don't want people to think they have to determine what that lump is but if it wasn't there last month and it's there next month then you need to see a Doctor."

After further testing Tammy learned the cancer had spread to 6 of her lymph nodes.

"One of the Doctors that I had seen told me, if I had been six months past when I came in and got diagnosed, it would have been through my entire lymphatic system which would of made me extremely sick."

In Tammy's case, there was no family history, she was shocked when she learned she had advanced stage 3 breast cancer.

Whitehead said,"one of her basic risk factors was age. The increased risk of genetic predisposition occurs in women that have a diagnoses of breast cancer before the age of 50."

Upon Whiteheads recommendation, Tammy had a genetic cancer test done so she could  see if her daughter or other family members may also be at risk.

"It has only been in the last three to five years that we have been able to put forth a real understanding of how to advise patients to utilize that information to their best advantage and to their families advantage. How to manage that risk if they haven't had the cancer, and  if they have had the cancer what decisions they need to make."

Tammy has been undergoing chemo therapy  for the last 4 months and when finished, radiation will follow.

Copyright 2010 WDAM. All rights reserved.