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Genetic testing can help spot breast cancer early
October 22, 2015 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis
Thanks to genetic testing, women today can have an even better predictor of potential breast cancer in their families.

“All genetic testing information, along with the mammogram, goes into the patient report for their physician,” said Dr. Stephen Johnnson, radiologist with Radiology Imaging of Nebraska, which provides all imaging services for Regional West Medical Center.
“Heredity information is part of the report and looks at lifetime risk of breast cancer. If it falls into a certain range, we’ll recommend additional imaging, such as an MRI. We also offer genetic counseling so the patient understands all her options.”

Johnson said not all family tendencies toward breast cancer pose the same risk because it depends on the familial relationship. If the tendency is in a mother or sister, the priority is higher than with an aunt or a cousin.

Another weapon used in the fight against breast cancer is digital imaging, which provides a much clearer image of the affected tissue.

“We’ve used digital imaging since about 2009,” Johnson said. “It’s state-of-the-art technology that’s done more for diagnosing early stage breast cancer than about anything.”

Johnson said the full service clinic offers mammograms, ultrasound, MRI and biopsies. The current recommendation is for women to practice regular self-examinations and schedule a mammogram yearly after the age of 40.

“The instance of breast cancer around the nation has been going down because of the technology,” Johnson said. “We’re finding cancers in earlier stages so the prognosis is better.”


Another technology just on the market is 3-D imaging that provides even higher resolution, and Johnson said they’re working on getting that technology to the local area.

A number of risk factors can contribute to the instance of breast cancer, such as alcohol, lack of exercise and weight, things that women can control.

“Instances of breast cancer are related to fat intake,” Johnson said. “Fatty tissue and estrogen are some of the factors that drive breast cancer. A modification in diet would help immensely.”
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