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Ask Stanford Med: Surgeon taking questions on breast cancer diagnostics and therapies

Ask Stanford Med: Surgeon taking questions on breast cancer diagnostics and therapies

This month, a new California law went into effect requiring doctors statewide to notify women if their breast tissue is dense. Dense breast tissue has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer because it can make tumors more difficult to spot. As Stanford breast cancer surgeon Fredrick Dirbas, MD, and colleagues explained in a recent Stanford Hospital & Clinics video, this notification isn’t meant to alarm women, but rather to educate them about their bodies and empower them in making better health-care decisions.

To expand on the conversation on the breast density notification law and clear up confusion over recommendations regarding mammograms, we’ve asked Dirbas to respond to your questions about breast cancer screening and advances in diagnostics and therapies. As head of the Breast Disease Management Group at the Stanford Women’s Cancer Center, Dirbas works with an interdisciplinary team of radiologists, oncologists, pathologists, researchers and support programs to provide patients with a comprehensive treatment approach. His research focuses on improving breast cancer therapy by refining existing diagnostic and treatment options and introducing new methods that reduce side effects and improve patients’ quality of life.

A 2011 Stanford Hospital Health Notes article describes how Dirbas and colleagues are at the forefront of exploring new ideas for delivering radiation in a more targeted and accelerated fashion, including methods such as intraoperative radiotherapy and another approach using external radiation therapy after surgery.

Questions can be submitted to Dirbas by either sending a tweet that includes the hashtag #AskSUMed or posting your question in the comments section below. We’ll collect questions until Wednesday (May 1) at 5 PM Pacific Time.

When submitting questions, please abide by the following ground rules:

  • Stay on topic
  • Be respectful to the person answering your questions
  • Be respectful to one another in submitting questions
  • Do not monopolize the conversation or post the same question repeatedly
  • Kindly ignore disrespectful or off topic comments
  • Know that Twitter handles and/or names may be used in the responses

Dirbas will respond to a selection of the questions submitted, but not all of them, in a future entry on Scope.

Finally – and you may have already guessed this – an answer to any question submitted as part of this feature is meant to offer medical information, not medical advice. These answers are not a basis for any action or inaction, and they’re also not meant to replace the evaluation and determination of your doctor, who will address your specific medical needs and can make a diagnosis and give you the appropriate care.

Previously: California’s new law on dense breast notification: What it means for women and Five days instead of five weeks: A less-invasive breast cancer therapy
Photo by Army Medicine

8 Responses to “ Ask Stanford Med: Surgeon taking questions on breast cancer diagnostics and therapies ”

  1. Heather Says:

    I read last week that the military has developed a vaccine that appears to significantly reduce the risk that a woman’s breast cancer will return. Interestingly, all the women in the study were recovering from breast cancer surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy so it was presume the disease would likely return. What is your perspective on the trial? Could such a vaccine be on the horizon?

  2. Erin P. Says:

    Lawmakers in my home state are currently considering passing legislation similar to California’s breast density notification law. I understand that similar legislation was introduced in Congress in 2011 and is expected to be reintroduced this session. How would enacting a federal law benefit women vs. having each state decide the issue on its own?

  3. L. Kornfeld Says:

    A recent study using 3D technology in conjunction with traditional 2D mammography allowed doctors to more accurately detect breast cancer. Dr. Dirbas, what are your thoughts on this approach? Why do the two techniques have to be used together? Wouldn’t 3D mammography be inherently for effective for screening for the disease?

  4. Heidi Says:

    More and more women are choosing to have double mastectomies and many of those in this group are young women with early stage breast cancer. Some physicians have expressed concern that these patients are taken drastic measures that may not be warranted.

    Dr. Dirbas, What should patients consider when choosing between a double mastectomy and other forms of treatment? Does getting a double mastectomy guarantee that patients will ever develop breast cancer?

  5. Kristi Says:

    New research suggests intensity modulated radiotherapy offers better results than standard radiotherapy in patients with early breast cancer. I’m unfamiliar with this treatment.

    Does the scientific evidence support these results? The “better results” in this study are related to reducing cosmetic problems associated with breast radiotherapy, and I’m wondering if the treatment has other benefits.

  6. Nancy Says:

    Is there a link between dense breast tissue, cysts and breast cancer?

  7. S. Heller Says:

    I’ve read that regularly drinking coffee may decrease risk of breast cancer recurring among some patients. How important are nutrition, fitness and other lifestyle changes for breast cancer patients following treatment?

  8. Anne Lamb Says:

    I was diagnosed at age 55 with stage 3 breast cancer. My tumor was 8 cm and I had 9 positive lymph nodes. My question is why my previous mammogram which was 20 months earlier showed nothing. How could I have an 8 cm tumor in the interval? At 55 years old, I still had heterogeneous dense breasts. I am estrogen positive and her negative. At 3 years out from treatment, I have no sign of recurrence.

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