Back to Top Skip to main content

More women are winning the battle against breast cancer

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jada Leahy (right), a general surgeon at Naval Hospital Pensacola, and Michelle Wilkes, a breast health specialist, talks to a patient about breast cancer.  Some warning signs of breast cancer include a lump in the breast or armpit, nipple discharge, any change in the size or shape of the breast or pain in the breast. (U.S. Navy photo by Jason Bortz) Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jada Leahy (right), a general surgeon at Naval Hospital Pensacola, and Michelle Wilkes (left), a breast health specialist, talks to a patient about breast cancer. Some warning signs of breast cancer include a lump in the breast or armpit, nipple discharge, any change in the size or shape of the breast or pain in the breast. (U.S. Navy photo by Jason Bortz)

Recommended Content:

Women's Health

FALLS CHURCH, Va. — Thanks to improvements in detection and treatment, “more and more breast cancer patients are becoming breast cancer survivors,” said Army Col. Craig Shriver, director of the John P. Murtha Cancer Center at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. “We’re making strong progress in decreasing death from breast cancer.”

Citing a study that was published this month in the American Cancer Society’s “CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians,” Shriver said breast cancer deaths declined 40 percent from 1989 to 2015. “That’s dramatic,” said Shriver, who’s also an oncology surgeon and a surgery professor at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda.

Shriver credits the Cancer Genome Atlas for other promising developments. Begun in 2008, the atlas was a collaboration among the nation’s top scientists and practitioners to collect and analyze genetic mutations that are responsible for various cancers. Understanding the genetic materials in cancer cells and their order – called genome sequencing – leads to treatments that can be adapted to each patient, and, perhaps one day, to prevention.

The Murtha Cancer Center partnered with the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute on breast cancer genome sequencing for the atlas. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s the No. 1 cause of cancer deaths among Hispanic women, and the second most common cause of cancer deaths among white, black, Asian, and Native women.

According to the CDC’s most recent statistics, almost 237,000 women in the United States were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014.

Shriver said the study showed the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer during the 15-year period didn’t change much. “But our screening programs are better, so we’re able to detect the cancers at an earlier stage, when they’re treatable.”

Also, oncologists have fine-tuned traditional treatment approaches. Genetic testing of breast cancer tumors allows oncologists to treat with chemotherapy only those patients who are most likely to respond to it. Those who aren’t can be given other treatments, or put into clinical trials.

“In the past, we’d spend a year or two giving chemotherapy, only to find out the cancer came back anyway,” Shriver said. “Now, we’re not wasting that time.”

Shriver said less-invasive breast cancer surgeries are also on the horizon. For example, in a traditional lumpectomy – also known as a breast-conserving therapy – surgeons remove the tumor and some surrounding normal tissue. Researchers are conducting clinical trials to determine if instead of surgical removal, the tumor can be destroyed while it’s still in the breast with directed laser technology.

 “We’re moving more and more toward a day, maybe five years from now, when women with breast cancer will be treated almost exclusively without surgery,” Shriver said. “That would be a great advance.”

Meantime, he stresses early detection. So does Air Force Lt. Col. Michelle Nash, a branch chief in the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. Nash had a double mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year at the age of 40. The cancer was discovered after Nash had a routine mammogram, her first.

“The whole thing was so shocking and unexpected,” she said. “I had no family history. I breastfed all four of my children, and that’s a protective factor. I didn’t have any lumps or any symptoms that would cause me to think, ‘I should go get that checked out.’ So I’ve become an even firmer believer of preventive medicine and getting screenings done, and not delaying them.” 

All women over the age of 20 should do a self-exam monthly and get a clinical breast exam annually, Shriver said. For mammograms, women ages 40 to 44 who are at average risk for breast cancer can choose an annual mammogram after consulting with their health care provider. For women 45 to 55 years old, an annual mammogram is recommended. Women 55 and older can get mammograms annually or every two years, based on provider recommendation.

“We can treat breast cancer patients with fewer side effects and with better, targeted therapies,” Shriver said, “and survival rates are better. But early detection is still the best thing.”

You also may be interested in...

A pain in the brain may be a migraine

Article
11/15/2018
Migraines affect women more than men with many options for treatment.

Women affected three times more frequently than men

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Care | Women's Health

Rare but preventable: Know the signs of Toxic Shock Syndrome

Article
10/31/2018
The sudden onset of a high fever and other symptoms may call for a visit to the emergency room to rule out toxic shock syndrome. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Xiomara M. Martinez)

Toxic Shock Syndrome is a dangerous, potentially fatal, condition with symptoms that often appear suddenly and quickly escalate. Although it’s not a common condition, prevalence can decrease even more through awareness, experts say

Recommended Content:

Women's Health

Women and depression

Article
10/30/2018
Mental health technicians assigned to the 48th Medical Group Mental Health Flight converse in the hospital reception area at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England. The Mental Health Flight is one of many resources available to assist with depression and other mental health concerns. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Shanice Williams-Jones)

1 in every 8 women develops clinical depression during her lifetime

Recommended Content:

Mental Wellness | Women's Health | Depression | Mental Health Care

Women's health remains priority for doctors turned medical museum volunteers

Article
10/25/2018
The National Museum of Health and Medicine promotes the science and history of medicine, with a special emphasis on tri-service American military medicine. The museum identifies, collects and preserves important and unique resources to support a broad agenda of innovative exhibits, educational programs and scientific, historical and medical research. The museum maintains a national landmark collection of objects that sustains and promotes military medical history, tradition, and research to the Department of Defense and civilian communities. (NMHM graphic)

The Handwerkers clearly enjoy volunteerism

Recommended Content:

Women's Health | National Museum of Health and Medicine

‘Strong progress’ in decreasing death from breast cancer

Article
10/23/2018
Air Force Lt. Col. Michelle Nash is joined by her husband and three of her four children at the Think Pink Fun Run, a breast cancer awareness event held earlier this month at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado. (Courtesy photo)

Improvements in detection, treatment pave the way

Recommended Content:

Women's Health

Military Midwives Advance Medicine

Video
10/23/2018
Military Midwives Advance Medicine

Military midwives assist in advancing military medicine. Capt. Brittany Hannigan uses educational opportunities to bring evidence-based practices to the patient's bedside.

Recommended Content:

Women's Health

Women’s Health: Taking time for yourself

Article
10/16/2018
Navy Lt. Jessica Miller, a nurse at Naval Hospital Jacksonville’s Obstetrics/Gynecology Clinic, discusses cervical cancer screenings with a patient. Starting at age 21, women should get a Pap test every three years. After turning 30, women have a choice. Get a Pap test every three years, or get a Pap and human papillomavirus (HPV) test every five years. Women should talk with their doctor about options. (U.S. Navy photo by Jacob Sippel)

The top two causes of death for women are heart disease and cancer

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Women's Health

Military midwives as educators

Video
10/15/2018
Military midwives as educators

Within the military, midwives serve as educators. Kwuan Paruchabutr shares how midwives ensure that all medical staff are well trained in women's health care.

Recommended Content:

Women's Health

Sticks and stones can break bones – and so can osteoporosis

Article
10/11/2018
Master Sgt. Kimberly Kaminski, 380th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, flips a 445-pound tire during a workout at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates. Resistance training is just one of many steps to take to fight osteoporosis. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ross A. Whitley)

Steps to take today to build a future of healthy bones

Recommended Content:

Nutrition | Physical Activity | Women's Health

Military Midwives in Leadership Roles

Video
10/5/2018
Military Midwives in Leadership Roles

The duties of certified nurse midwives go far beyond the labor delivery room. Cmdr. Kim Shaughnessy explains how midwives hold leadership positions across the Military Health System and how they help shape women's health policy.

Recommended Content:

Women's Health

Mammograms recommended for early detection of breast cancer

Article
10/4/2018
Navy Chief Hospital Corpsman Naomi Perez, a certified mammogram technician, conducts a mammogram for a patient at Naval Hospital Pensacola. A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray procedure used to detect the early stages of breast cancer. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and NHP is taking the opportunity to educate patients about the dangers of breast cancer and the importance of getting checked. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brannon Deugan)

A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray used to detect the early stages of breast cancer

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Women's Health

Midwives in the Military

Video
10/3/2018
Midwives in the Military

Military midwives are key in the Department of Defense's priority of medical readiness. Army Lt. Col. Danielle Molinar shares ways midwives keep female soldiers ready to deploy.

Recommended Content:

Women's Health

New simulator preps WBAMC staff for OB emergencies

Article
5/1/2018
Regina Vadney, nurse midwife, William Beaumont Army Medical Center, evaluates a medical manikin using WBAMC's new simulation system which provides cutting-edge training to medical staff during a simulated postpartum hemorrhage scenario. The new simulation system aims to increase communication, and improve interdisciplinary and clinical performance of staff when treating obstetric emergencies. (U.S. Army photo by Marcy Sanchez)

The state-of-the-art simulator provides medical staff up to various cutting-edge training scenarios

Recommended Content:

Children's Health | Women's Health | Military Hospitals and Clinics

Getting tested for STIs is an 'important part of sexual health'

Article
4/26/2018
Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Robert Hall studies a blood sample with a microscope at Naval Branch Health Clinic Kings Bay’s laboratory. Blood tests and pap smears are commonly used ways to diagnose sexually transmitted infections. (U.S. Navy photo by Jacob Sippel)

Chlamydia and gonorrhea are two of the most common sexually transmitted infections in the United States. Taking preventive steps, like getting tested and practicing safe sex, can help reduce risk of infection or spreading the infection to others.

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Men's Health | Women's Health

Fort Belvoir corpsman comes through for moms

Article
4/20/2018
Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Talena Epling proudly serves in her role as a Fort Belvoir Community Hospital board-certified lactation consultant, a rarity among enlisted service members. (Department of Defense photos by Reese Brown)

Striving to empower, lactation consultants critical for mothers, babies

Recommended Content:

Women's Health
<< < 1 2 3 4 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 4

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing: Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.