Friday, October 15, 2010
Medical Reports: Cancer Concern
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and while all women need to be on the lookout for the disease, local doctors are zeroing in on one group who seem to be getting a more aggressive type of breast cancer and at a much younger age. 7's Christine Cruz has more on this "Cancer Concern."
WSVN -- Kim Hobbs was only in her 30s when she thought she felt a suspicious lump under her arm during a self-breast exam. Shockingly, her doctors didn't seem to be worried or even want to give her a mammogram.
Kim Hobbs: "They didn't want to give me one, because I was 38. I didn't have a family history of breast cancer. It hurt, and they said, 'Textbook says pain was not a indicator of breast cancer.'"
Kim refused to leave until doctors finally gave in.
Kim Hobbs: "I just wasn't taking 'No' for an answer."
Tests showed Kim had stage two breast cancer, and it was aggressive. She would undergo surgery and grueling chemo.
Kim Hobbs: "I never thought the cancer would kill me, but I thought the chemo would."
Many African-American women like Kim don't fit the typical profile of the average woman who gets breast cancer.
Doctors say, the disease is striking younger African-American women, often before routine mammograms are even suggested.
Dr. Mark Pegram, Oncologist, UM Sylvester Cancer Center: "This is of particular concern. Patients of African-American descent often have breast cancers that present at a more advanced stage, have a more aggressive disease and biologies, and are more likely to metastasize and are less responsive to traditional breast cancer therapies."
So researchers at UM Sylvester Cancer Center are zeroing in on African-American women and starting new studies to figure out why.
Dr. Mark Pegram: "We are engaged in major research programs here at the University of Miami. What we're trying to do is understand whether or not there are genetic or biological differences that are unique to breast cancers among African-American women."
Recent discoveries hint there may be distinct genetic differences in breast tissue between African-American, Caucasian and Hispanic patients.
Dr. Mark Pegram: "So we're going to have to develop through research new modalities for early detection, specifically for these women."
Kim also knows there's another big problem which needs to be addressed in her community.
Kim Hobbs: "They don't talk about it. When they find something, they say they'd rather not know."
To get women talking, she helped start "Sistaah Talk," a breast cancer support group for women of color. It's a way for women to connect with others about what they're going through.
Kim Hobbs: "It's just one of those things that unless someone has walked in those shoes, you can't get it, but when you're around people who are going through it or have gotten through it, it just really helps you."
Help that's needed until there is a cure.
Christine Cruz: "The Miami-Fort Lauderdale affiliate of "Susan G. Komen for the Cure" has set up low-cost programs for women to get breast cancer screenings and support."
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