Breast Cancer Overview
WellStar Health System provides superior care for breast cancer, offering a comprehensive spectrum of top-notch physicians, treatment options and diagnostic tools. In addition, it offers a wealth of supportive services to help patients and their families throughout this treatment journey, from counseling services to exercise and nutritional help.
WellStar has the first breast center in Georgia to be granted a full three-year accreditation designation by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC). In addition WellStar offers innovative advantages in the fight against breast cancer, including:
- Dedicated breast surgeons, who practice state-of-the-art care including minimally invasive biopsy procedures and less invasive surgery for breast cancer.
- Medical oncologists with special interest in breast cancer who provide patients with access to advances through clinical trials.
- Radiation oncologists offering the latest in treatment options including APBI or accelerated partial breast irradiation – which allows patients to complete their treatment in five days, versus the traditional five-to-six week regimen.
- Cutting edge digital imaging, including dedicated breast MRI and the ability to perform minimally invasive image-guided breast biopsies.
- Clinical trials - more than 200 patients are annually enrolled in WellStar programs.
- A comprehensive support network for cancer patients and their families that includes counseling, cosmetic support for the side effects of treatment, lymphedema prevention and management, and exercise programs designed for better health.
- One of the most active genetic counseling programs in Georgia.
Breast cancer is the second largest cancer killer of women, with about 40,000 deaths a year. (Lung cancer actually kills more women than breast cancer.) About 207,000 cases will be diagnosed this year, according to estimates from the American Cancer Society.
But breast cancer is highly curable in early stages, with about a 95 percent five-year survival rate of early disease. This is why WellStar physicians strongly encourage yearly mammograms after age 40 for women considered at average risk. Those women who have a mother or sister with the disease should talk to their doctors about earlier screening or genetic testing.
In some cases, women can detect a lump in their breasts upon self-examination, or BSE. In most cases, though, early-stage breast cancer has no noticeable symptoms. Thus, the American Cancer Society and WellStar physicians recommend an annual screening mammogram for women 40 and older.
While any woman is at risk for breast cancer, common risk factors include:
- Having a mother or sister who has had the disease.
- Carrying one of two identified genetic mutations known as BRCA1 and BRCA2.
- Having a first baby after age 30.
- Being overweight.
- Not breast-feeding.
- Consuming more than one alcoholic beverage a day.
- Onset of menstrual cycles before age 13.