Hospitals

Why I will ask my doctor to use a new breast cancer test

I do not get annual mammograms, even though I am 42. I got a baseline in my late 30s in preparation for regular mammograms in a few years. That was before the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force revised its recommendations about the benefits of mammograms for women my age. The more I read about overdiagnosis […]

I do not get annual mammograms, even though I am 42. I got a baseline in my late 30s in preparation for regular mammograms in a few years. That was before the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force revised its recommendations about the benefits of mammograms for women my age. The more I read about overdiagnosis and overtreatment, the more I agreed with the task force.

The last time I went in for my annual OBGYN checkup, my doctor and I argued about this. She had recently helped both her mother and sister through a breast cancer diagnosis, and refuted my “no family history” argument with: “We have no family history and my mom just had a double mastectomy. Don’t talk to me about family history.”

After writing about Atossa Genetics and the ForeCYTE test, I am back on board with annual screening. When I go in for this year’s exam, I will request this test, pay for it myself if necessary and search until I find a doctor who will use it.

It is not an exaggeration to say that this test could erase breast cancer by 2020, as the company founder Dr. Steven Quay predicts. It absolutely has the potential to reduce breast cancer rates just as pap smears have cut rates of cervical cancer.

The test analyzes nipple aspirate fluid for cancerous and precancerous cells. The test is everything that modern medicine should be:

  • Minimal — there is no radiation
  • Noninvasive — there are no needles
  • Convenient — it can be added to the standard annual OBGYN exam, which means no extra trip to a mammogram clinic
  • Smart — it tells you exactly what is going on in the cells of your breasts
  • Targeted to the individual — women and doctors will know exactly who needs treatment and who doesn’t

It even erases the “but it hurts” objection to mammograms. Quay said that on a discomfort scale used in clinical trials, mammograms are rated 4.5, breast feeding is 2.1, and his test is 1.5. The collection process can be done in a doctor’s office and takes only a few minutes.

Atossa is also working on a new treatment for women who do have early signs of cancer. The idea is to put a chemoprevention drug in the segment of a breast undergoing precancerous changes. This is the ideal replacement for the “cut, burn, poison” approach to treating breast cancer.

We have achieved “awareness.” It’s time for Komen and every other organizations focused on breast cancer to start supporting smarter screenings and treatments like Atossa’s test, and for women of all ages to start asking their doctors to use it.

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