Now more than ever, it’s crucial to take control of your health and wellness. It’s essential that we all take the time to educate ourselves and keep self-care at the top of mind.
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I explored the advice and experiences of my friend and Diagnostic Radiologist, Susan Drossman. As an advocate of early detection and proactive prevention, Dr. Drossman shared the importance of regular mammograms, common misconceptions, and the impact of involvement and empowerment.
As a Diagnostic Radiologist, how would you describe your personal and professional journey with women’s health?
Professionally, I deal predominantly with women. 99% of breast cancer patients are women, while 1% are men. Personally, there is a level of respect, good communication, and a great rapport when female physicians are dealing with female patients. Dealing with women’s health, I touch on so many different aspects–while most of our conversations are about medicine, but we often will go on tangents about anything from fashion and raising children, to being a working mother. We have made great strides with breast cancer treatments, but have not been as successful with breast cancer prevention. Our greatest strength is early detection– finding cancers at the earliest stage possible. when there are a multitude of treatment options available to the patient.
1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. How do you reinforce the importance of regular mammograms?
Our goal is to diagnose patients at a stage 0 or stage 1–detecting cancers with imaging before they become something that the patient feels. In my practice, we talk to every patient when they come in. We understand their personal risk-factors and family history. I take pride in educating patients, speaking at symposiums, writing for journals, and emphasizing the importance of patient-to-patient contact, so that they can share their own personal experiences.
Are there any assumptions or misconceptions about breast cancer that you would like to shed light on?
There has been a lot of misinformation directed to patients about when women should begin getting mammograms and how frequently they should be screened. The bottom line is, if you want to detect breast cancer at the earliest stage possible with the most treatment options, annual screening should begin at age 40.
The most important misconception is that if you don’t have a family member who has been diagnosed, you are not at risk. A woman may say, “my mother, aunt, and grandmother are cancer free,” so they believe that they do not have to get screened annually. Most breast cancers are sporadic events, unrelated to genetics. Only 15% of breast cancers have a genetic base. That means, 85% are just random events.
Patients really need to know their family history, from mothers, fathers and grandparents. They must get gene tested to act on that information and seek preventative testing and treatments. If there is a family history, they should consider gene testing to act on that information and seek preventative measures and treatments.
From the NY Metropolitan Breast Cancer Group to the Metropolitan Mammography Society of NY, your support of the cause is quite honorable. How can people get involved in the fight against breast cancer?
It is really fulfilling to get involved with an organization that is meaningful to you and understand their mission statement. 1 in 8 women are touched by breast cancer. If you have a friend or family member who has been diagnosed, get involved with the institutions where they were successfully treated; ask them about their journey, the things that are meaningful to them, and those who were helpful to them.
For more of our interview series, read here.