The Best Way to Prevent Breast Cancer Death


I've appreciated the talents of Julia Louis-Dreyfus since her Seinfeld days and was concerned to hear her news: the day after winning an Emmy for her role in the HBO series Veep, she received a sobering diagnosis. "1 in 8 women get breast cancer," she said on Twitter. "Today, I'm the one."

The actress expressed gratitude for supportive family and friends and for her health care insurance. After all, statistics demonstrate that the more access a woman has to health care, the easier it is to detect potential issues and avoid life-threatening or debilitating illnesses. Similarly, outcomes are better for women whose physicians are active partners in their health care, like those at my Oak Park membership medical practice, WellcomeMD.

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed among women in the U.S. (after skin cancers) and the second leading cause of cancer death among women (after lung cancer). The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be nearly 253,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer in women in the U.S. in 2017 and that 40,610 women will die from the disease. Keep in mind, though rare, men can develop breast cancer as well.

The good news is that death rates from breast cancer declined 39 percent from 1989 through 2015. The American Cancer Society attributes the decline in breast cancer mortality rates to improvements in treatment and to early detection.

At my practice, WellcomeMD, the annual physical examination that members receive includes all recommended screenings for age and risk factors. We take the extra time to proactively explore family history, environment and lifestyle choices, which may prompt even deeper screening procedures. We also act as health coach to develop and manage a plan to help mitigate those risk factors. 

The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that lengthy delays in the treatment of early-stage, invasive breast cancer reduce survival rates. Patients who delayed surgery for three to four months after diagnosis didn't live as long as those who had surgery within the first month.

In addition to guiding patients toward the requisite screenings, physicians can help with the steps for effective treatment.

Breast cancer is no respecter of fame, fortune or success, as Julia Louis-Dreyfus' diagnosis demonstrates. But an attentive physician can increase the odds of being one of the "lucky" ones.

Our members have no-delay, no-rush office visits and quick access to the doctor via cell phone and email. They have the advantage of a very thorough, 2.5-hour annual physical exam, which includes testing and consultation with a dietitian and a professional physical trainer.