2020 has been a challenging year, but it has also been a powerful reminder that we have the ability to care for others through our choices and actions. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we want to share ways to support the cause, while shining light on more recent screening technology and treatment advances.
The outlook of breast cancer has changed in recent years, thanks in part to evolving and improving technology. For example:
- DeepMind and Google Health have developed an AI system to help with early detection. Researchers trained an algorithm on mammogram images in the US and UK, and it performed better than human radiologists. This technology helps reduce false negatives and positives, as well as reduces workload on human radiologists, freeing their time to focus more on patient care.
- TearExo, uses chemical nano-processing technology to detect exosomes in a very small amount of bodily fluid. This new liquid biopsy methodology for early cancer detection uses the exosomes in tear fluid as biomarkers.
- Radiotherapy devices such as the CyberKnife S7 System combines advanced precision, real-time artificial intelligence, and speed motion tracking for stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) and stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) treatments. The advancement of this technology is helping to develop low-cost, more effective and efficient, user-friendly products with precise and improved radiation doses for improved performance in targeting tumors.
- The University at Buffalo has received a grant to develop a new, portable breast-imaging system, the dual scan mammoscope (DSM). This device combines light and ultrasound technology to better screen patients with dense breast tissue.
- Once diagnosed, patients can now take advantage of The Oncotype DX Breast Recurrence Score test, which provides a genomic-based and individualized risk-assessment for those in the early stages of breast cancer. This allows healthcare professionals to personalize a treatment plan unique to their patient - considering the likelihood of recurrence, the use of chemotherapy, or whether to treat a patient solely with hormonal therapy. The test effectively prevents the overtreatment and undertreatment of patients.
There are a myriad of opportunities to support those diagnosed or recovering from breast cancer. Because women of color are disproportionately affected by breast cancer in the United States, especially by triple negative breast cancer, a more aggressive form, we have compiled a list of organizations that aim to support this higher risk population.
- Black Women’s Health Imperative, the first organization in the US devoted to Black women
- Sisters By Choice, provides free education and mammograms
- There are several organizations that provide support and programs for survivors and those undergoing treatment, including The Smith Center for Healing & The Arts and the National LGBT Cancer Network.
There is a lot happening this year, but it may be a particularly crucial year for breast cancer cases. The pandemic has suspended screenings and routine diagnostic work, so it is especially important to pay attention to breast health, and continue to support patients, survivors, and organizations who fund research for a cure.