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When it comes to the newest innovations in breast cancer detection and treatment, it pays to be less-invasive.

“There has been a longstanding trend toward trying to do less-invasive treatments for breast cancer,” said Dr. Susan Branton, of UPMC Susquehanna. “This is largely done through attempting to detect cancer in its earliest stages and via innovation with surgical techniques.”

An example, according to Dr. Rosemary Leeming, of Geisinger, includes how localized biopsies are conducted.

“When doing these in the past, a wire was inserted into the breast. It was kind of barbaric, really,” she said. 

“But now, we can insert a marker in the breast that can be detected using radar technology. You no longer need the wire on the day of surgery. It has been very well-received by patients.”

Mainstream usage of 3D mammograms, or tomography, has been another breakthrough advance for area medical institutions.

“Pennsylvania law affords anyone who wants that type of screening to be able to get it, and we’ve learned a lot more about dense breast tissue and its connection to breast cancer thanks to the increase of 3D mammography,” said Branton.

“Every time we replace a mammography machine at Geisinger, we bring in a 3D mammography unit,” said Leeming.

Specialized breast cancer-related programs and clinics offer even more insight into the condition and allows medical staff to individualize treatment for each patient.

“We have instituted a specialized dense breast program,” said Branton. “If breasts are found to be dense, we make sure to offer appropriate screening beyond just the 3D. These patients may be candidates for a full-breast MRI or ultrasound.”

“Here at Geisinger, we offer a clinic for women who are high risk for developing breast cancer, and even a clinic for newly diagnosed breast cancer patients,” said Leeming. “This allows us to develop a tailored approach for anyone who comes in.”

Targeted therapy for each type of breast cancer is another growing trend among Valley medical programs.

“We can determine things, like if a cancer is hormone-fed, and treat it appropriately with minimal invasion into other areas,” said Branton. “There have been huge advances in this area of treatment lately.”

Another change includes a larger push to take preventative measures before a breast cancer develops.

“We are trying to raise awareness of what people can do in their lives to reduce the risk of breast cancer, such as instituting a healthy diet and overall lifestyles,” said Branton. “We educate patients on the benefits of exercise, better diet and the dangers of alcohol use and smoking. We emphasize that if a person improves the situations they can control, it can reduce the chances of breast cancer in some cases by 10 to 20 percent.”

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