Although it’s filled with orange and black, ghouls and goblins and spooky movies, October is now more commonly known for the color pink, remembering loved ones and working to save lives.
This month has been designated as the international Breast Cancer Awareness month, in hopes to bring light to and find a cure for the most popular found cancer amongst women globally.
Breast Cancer, however, doesn’t just pop up in October – it affects lives year-round. Memorial Hospital of Carbon County Radiologist Myka Veigel fights continuously 12 months a year, in hopes to detect the disease before it becomes detrimental.
From the lives it comes a part of to how to catch it, prevent it and the best chances to get rid of it, Veigel knows the ins and outs of breast cancer detection.
RDT: Can you please state your first and last name.
Veigel: My name is Myka Veigel.
RDT: So what is it you do?
Veigel: I’m a physician, specifically a radiologist. So I went to medical school, and after medical school, I did my training in radiology. Radiologists specialty is in diagnosis, using imaging in CT, MRI, ultrasound, nuclear medicine and x-ray to diagnose and treat different symptoms within the body. So specifically, we play a big part in women’s imaging and diagnosing and detecting breast cancer.
RDT: Obviously, that’s what this month is really about – the awareness of Breast Cancer. Tell me a little bit about breast cancer in itself and what you deal with within it?
Veigel: So cancer, in general by definition, is cells that grow rapidly out of control. Just as a general basic statement, so that applies to breast cancer. Some statistics about breast cancer: It’s the most common cancer among women, excluding skin cancer. One in eight women will develop breast cancer, so approximately 12.4 percent. Breast cancer as far as women when they typically get it, most commonly is between the ages of 45 and 74. So about 70 percent of women. Where do we come into play? We come into play in order to screen women to detect breast cancer. The way that we do that is through screening mammography, which is the only method that has shown to reduce morbidity and mortality for breast cancer.
RDT: What are some of the causes or factors that can develop breast cancer?
Veigel: Some of the most common things for women to be aware of include family history, which would be a huge one. So family history; say if a mother had a mother or sister with breast cancer, it’s very important they get checked. That’s a high risk. Other ones include breast cancer genes and dense breast tissue.
RDT: So it’s more of a genetics thing, rather than something like lung cancer or something where you can develop it from smoking and things like that?
Veigel: Any woman can develop breast cancer, just as I said earlier, like one in eight; but, those women that have a higher risk, those are the things I mentioned.
RDT: How can a person detect it before? What are some signs that maybe they can see?
Veigel: The most common sign is that there is no sign. That’s why it’s important for women to be screened. If there was actually a symptom the patient had, a painless lump – so if they felt a lump and it was painless – that would be the most common. The screening mammography, what its purpose is to do is find those before that happens. So screening mammography will find those cancers before the patient feels them. If they feel them, they’re typically larger and obvious for us to see and diagnose. but if a woman does feel something, it doesn’t mean it’s cancer. There’s lots of common benign things in the breasts that people feel. The most common things that we see is a benign cyst or a benign tumor called a fibroid-enoma.
RDT: Treatment wise, when it comes to mortality and things like that, how early do you have to catch it to prevent the worst?
Veigel: Our goal is to find it when it’s localized in the breast. When that occurs, when it’s still in its home and hasn’t moved beyond the home down the highways through the rest of the body, that’s our goal. When it stays localized there, the five-year survival is 99 percent. If it moves and then it goes into the regional lymph nodes, and the armpit and the axilla…then that’s 85 percent for five years. And if it moves throughout the body, it’s 27 percent.
RDT: Is there any specific reason you chose this?
Veigel: The reason why I chose medicine in general is because, for me personally, I really wanted to learn more about the physical body, and I felt that’s a way to serve people by learning that and knowing that. That’s one of the biggest reasons I went to medical school. Ultimately when I chose radiology, I really like diagnosing and it was very intriguing to me.
RDT: How important is it for people to get checked for something like this on a regular basis?
Veigel: That’s a good question. So there’s different recommendations for screening mammography. There are three societies that make those recommendations. I adhere to the American College of Radiology, and we recommend screening starting at the age of 40 and doing it every year. That recommendation is for women who have no symptoms and who fall in the average screening population. There are those who have different risk factors that may need to start earlier. One of those would be if they had a mom or a sister, as I mentioned earlier. Say if they had a mom or a sister who developed breast cancer at age 45, they should start 10 years earlier at age 35. Again, women should start age 40 and do it every year, and they should continue to screen as long as they’ve healthy and can undergo treatment for breast cancer or a biopsy.