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Globally, breast cancer incidence continues to rise. At this time, our attention needs to turn to prevention. By preventing breast cancer, we can save lives and spare patients and their loved ones the trauma of a breast cancer diagnosis and debilitating treatment. Can this be done? In our generation we have witnessed the development of vaccines that have eliminated dreaded diseases like polio, and there is reason to expect that in the near future, we will see the elimination
of cervical cancer. Key to this success was the identification of causative agents.
Although breast cancer may have multiple causes, we have made huge strides in identifying the genes that are responsible for breast cancer. It is now time to build on this scientific progress, achieved largely at Johns Hopkins, to focus our attention to eradicating breast cancer through prevention.
Read more about prevention in our Breast Cancer publication, Breast Matters.
The John Fetting Fund for Breast Cancer Prevention will enable us to fund the most promising research in breast cancer prevention. Learn more about the Fetting Fund and Leslie Ries’s deeply personal commitment to this Fund.
Breast cancer survivor, Leslie Ries, writes a letter to her daughters describing her journey with breast cancer and her efforts to fund breast cancer prevention at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center. Watch the video, A Letter to my Daughters
To reduce your risk of developing breast cancer, our experts suggest the following:
The earliest sign of breast cancer is an abnormality that shows up on a mammogram before it can felt by the patient or health care provider. As the tumor continues to grow, physical symptoms including:
Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center features a Breast and Ovarian Surveillance Service BOSS to help patients understand their risks for developing breast cancer An expert team of physicians, genetic counselors and nurse practitioners is available to review family history and other risk factors to provide an individualized risk assessment. The service also offers clinical breast exams and can guide you on the best methods of prevention.
Women with a significant family history of breast cancer or others at high risk for developing breast cancer can take advantage of genetic counseling services, including testing for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations.
Johns Hopkins researchers are actively investigating risk factors for breast cancer and how to lower them. Dr. Kala Visvanathan, a cancer epidemiologist with appointments at Hopkins' Kimmel Cancer Center and Bloomberg School of Public Health, is highly interested in early detection and prevention of breast and ovarian cancers both in general and high-risk populations. She is conducting several studies evaluating both inherited risks for cancer along with environmental factors to determine who is likely to develop cancer and help women understand and change their cancer risk.
Medical Oncologist and Co-Director of the Johns Hopkins Breast and Ovarian Surveillance Service (BOSS) Dr. Kala Visvanathan discusses cancer as a family disease, who may be a good candidate for genetic testing, how testing is done, and what individuals need to know if they test positive for a genetic mutation.
We need to do a better job of ensuring that all women have their breast cancer risk assessed and are informed about preventive options available to them, says Visvanathan, who co-directs a clinic for women at high risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers. Women who have a family history of breast cancer or have family members who developed breast cancer at a young age may benefit from genetic testing, more tailored screening and prevention plans, and chemoprevention medications used to help prevent cancer development.
Most breast cancers are caused by cellular alterations that acquire over time; identifying ways to interfere with these cancer-causing alterations is the focus of much of her work. Visvanathan is a leading expert in the study of biomarkers or cellular red flags that can warn of a patient's predisposition for developing cancer and serve as a target for prevention or therapy.
Hormone replacement therapy during menopause was widely used to reduce menopausal symptoms and prevent heart disease in women. However, clinical trials conducted in the 1990s found that it increased breast cancer but, unexpectedly, did not reduce heart disease. As a result, hormone replacement therapy has been much less frequently used and breast cancer incidence has dropped.
In approximately 5-10% of patients, breast cancer results from a single gene mutation inherited from a parent. The two most common genes affected are BRCA 1 and BRCA 2. Not all carriers of these mutations develop breast cancer, but more than half do. If a woman has a BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 mutation, their probable risk is high enough to warrant treatment and/or close monitoring by a physician. Most women with breast cancer do not have any known risk factors for breast cancer. Johns Hopkins breast cancer experts are studying risk factors that may impact risk for developing the disease or its recurrence.
Fighting the “fat” in cancer. Leptin, a hormone secreted by fat cells, is known to spur breast cancer growth and metastasis. Johns Hopkins investigators are testing ways to block leptin’s effect on breast cells. They are testing three bioactive food components on their ability to prevent breast cancer.