Breast Cancer Care

October 01, 2012

Providence Provides Next-Generation Care for Today’s Seniors

Age shouldn’t stop you from doing the things you love, and it certainly shouldn’t stop you from pursuing the latest in breast cancer diagnostics and treatment. “Our goal is always early detection by mammography, and then to preserve the breast— no matter what a woman’s age,” says Shamel Sanani, M.D., FACP, an oncologist at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center.

Here, Providence physicians highlight three before-, during-, and after-cancer options available to seniors.

Before Cancer

Annual mammography is the best way to detect breast cancer, and this remains true for seniors. “There is no age cutoff. We don’t say that after a certain age, you don’t have to worry about mammography,” says Moshe Faynsod, M.D., a surgical oncologist with Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center in San Pedro.

Deanna Attai, M.D., a breast surgeon with Providence Saint Joseph and Providence Tarzana Medical Centers, agrees. “A lot of women who are older stop getting mammograms. They think, ‘I’m over 60 or 70. I’m safe.’ However, cancer risk increases with age.”

Not only can Providence handle your screening mammogram needs, but you’ll also have access to the latest in digital mammography. “Our computers have the ability to point out problems that the radiologist might not see,” Dr. Sanani says.

During Cancer

Breast conservation surgery, or lumpectomy, can be a great treatment option for seniors whose cancer is caught early. “Just because a cancer patient is 80 doesn’t mean she requires a mastectomy. We’ve gotten rid of the concept that older women don’t need their breasts,” Dr. Faynsod says.

Additionally, lumpectomy accompanied by radiation offers the same survival benefit as mastectomy, Dr. Attai says. “In other words, removal of the breast will not cause you to live any longer,” she says.

After Cancer

An important advancement, genetic testing is offered at the Roy and Patricia Disney Family Cancer Center at Providence Saint Joseph to identify your risk of breast cancer before the disease strikes.

However, it can be just as important after a breast cancer diagnosis.

Ora Gordon, M.D., director of cancer genetics at Providence Saint Joseph, explains. “We always want to test the person who has been affected with breast cancer, even if it was 40 years ago,” she says. “It’s a mistake to think, ‘I already took my hit. I had my cancer.’ ”

Here’s why: No. 1, the link between breast cancer and ovarian cancer is very important, and genetic testing might shape how you are screened as you age. No. 2, genetic testing could help identify what caused your cancer, which could, in turn, help protect your own daughters and granddaughters.