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Army Medicine fights cancer with advanced treatments

Early detection of the breast cancer can provide early treatment for the service member and or their beneficiaries. For those women diagnosed with localized (Stage 1) breast cancer there is a more than 98 percent probability that they will survive five or more years. (U.S. Air Force photo by L.A. Shively) Early detection of the breast cancer can provide early treatment for the service member or their beneficiaries. For those women diagnosed with localized (Stage 1) breast cancer there is a more than 98 percent probability that they will survive five or more years. (U.S. Air Force photo by L.A. Shively)

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Joint Base San Antonio, Texas — October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Army Medicine is diagnosing and treating service members with cancer using state-of-the-art techniques and tools that many civilian hospitals can't provide. 

The medical director for the John P. Murtha Cancer Center at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Army Col. (Dr.) Craig D. Shriver, stated, "Breast cancer is a readiness issue that affects around 1,000 Soldiers a year. In most cases, cancer can be cured but will remove a Soldier from duty for up to a year." 

Shriver recommends that all women perform self-exams monthly, receive a clinical exam yearly as part of your physical, and a full exam after turning 40. A woman would be considered at higher risk if her mother or sister had been previously diagnosed with breast cancer. 

All active duty, dependents, retirees, and their family members are eligible for care and the cancer center supports outlying clinics for cancer care including a virtual-health program with Fort Bragg's Womack Army Medical Center. 

"We have the ability to prevent cancer – we identify the gene markers and we can impact at a cellular level – and effectively make risk zero percent," said Shriver.

If diagnosed, the Murtha Cancer Center focuses on precision oncology while partnering across federal agencies, and with the Merck pharmaceutical company for the benefit of the patient. 

"We offer patients access to cutting-edge cancer diagnostic and treatment technologies as well as access to high-priority clinical cancer trials. For patients with a reoccurring cancer, the cancer cell is sequenced using the National Cancer Institute match and then targeted therapy is used to address that specific type of cancer," added Shriver.

The Murtha Cancer Center partners with Merck pharmaceuticals to identify medications that target the specific cancer because each type cancer can be treated strategically with different drugs. 

"Our facility has the breast tissue repository which patients are asked to sign up for following treatment to donate extra breast tissue. We then follow the patients and research the outcomes of the cancer and utilize DNA and protein analysis and record our findings with the Cancer Genome Project," said Shriver.

The Army has the ability to conduct more diverse cancer research in that the U.S. military is more representative of the nation's demographics including patients of ethnicities that are often not represented in civilian studies.

Disclaimer: Re-published content may have been edited for length and clarity. Read original post.

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