The only breast cancer screening method proven to save lives

    By Suzanne A. Hoekstra, MD FACS

    Growing up, I always enjoyed science and biology. But it wasn’t until medical school that I realized what I really wanted to do.
    ThinkstockPhotos-839295568.jpgWhile in my residency at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, I had the privilege of working under Dr. James Edney, who became my mentor. While we worked together, he directed one of the few centers in existence that focused solely on breast care. What I didn’t realize at the time is that the work we did back then would eventually become the accepted practices of today. The lessons I learned watching Dr. Edney help people drove me to do the same, and I am forever grateful for the experiences he and others have given me.
    Now, as a breast surgeon at Mercy Hospital, I get to do what I love. I coach patients on the best preventative measures to avoid breast cancer. And on the occasion that an abnormality is detected, I work with them to establish a roadmap to healthy outcomes.
    I’ve spent my entire career as a surgeon, focusing exclusively on breast cancer. If I could pass along just one word of advice to women, it’s to take breast cancer screening seriously. With October being national breast cancer awareness month, this message must be shared loudly.
    When it comes to screening, it’s important to know that mammography is currently the only method proven to save lives. While opinions and guidance on when to get them varies, I always recommend that women over 40 get an annual mammogram. And it’s important not to wait—20 percent of breast cancer occurs between ages 40 and 50.
    In addition to mammography, I also work with my colleagues at Mercy to educate patients about the benefits of genetic counseling and testing.
    Breast cancer is a common hereditary cancer, which is a type of cancer that develops due to an inherited gene mutation that was passed from a parent to a child. If someone inherits such a gene mutation, they inherit an increased risk to develop cancer. Our genetic testing procedures arm patients with this knowledge so that we can adjust screening schedules and preventative measures to promote the best outcomes.
    My goal is to provide every patient the chance to detect cancer as soon as possible, get treatment, and become a survivor. Please help me spread the word.
    Hoekstra-Breast-Health.jpgSuzanne A. Hoekstra MD FACS is a board-certified general surgeon with special training in breast surgery and is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons. She practices at Mercy Hospital’s Breast Care Specialists of Maine, located at 195 Fore River Parkway, Suite 250, Portland, Maine.