Cancer has been around since time immemorial.
“The ancient Egyptians had cancers, and they actually tried to treat them,” said Dr. Charles Nash, a medical oncologist with The Longstreet Clinic in Gainesville and medical director of cancer services at the Northeast Georgia Medical Center.
Nash has even visited the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo where old surgical instruments used to address forms of brain cancer are on display.
“Those were smart dudes,” Nash said. “(Although) I’m sure they lost a few more people.”
Advancements in early detection have saved the lives of countless women with a breast cancer diagnosis over the past few decades. And as treatments evolve, breast cancer is no longer a death sentence.
But recommendations for screenings and prevention continue to fluctuate as new research emerges. The result can leave women confused as they strain to keep up with changes.
“I don’t think it’s a one-size fits all recommendation,” Nash said. “There is a lot of disagreement (in the medical community).”
Nash said there are typically multiple factors at play when it comes to determining risk.
These include everything from diet to use of hormone therapy to the age at which women first give birth, which makes for an especially compelling risk factor among women of the millennial generation.
Nash said genetic predispositions remain a major contributing factor and that women with mothers who have been diagnosed with breast cancer need to begin screenings as early as possible.
About one in eight women in the United States, or 12 percent, will develop
invasive breast cancer over the course of her life, according to breastcancer.org, a nonprofit organization. That’s more than 250,000 new cases each year, plus 63,410 new cases of noninvasive breast cancer.
“It’s time well spent, I think,” Nash said.
Nash said that breast cancer is one of the top four cancers treated at The Longstreet Clinic, accounting for at least 25 percent of all cases, followed by lung cancer, prostate cancer and gastrointestinal cancers.
However, Nash added that thyroid cancers are becoming more prevalent.
With demand for cancer services as high as ever, Nash said new nurse practitioners and doctors are being hired. Nash said they are expanding research programs and clinical trials and are adding technology to support cancer treatments.
It’s one more element in the growing number of partnerships that have placed NGMC in the top 9 percent of all cancer programs nationally, as ranked by CareChex, an independent health care ratings organization.
Or as Nash prefers to put it, NGMC is better than 91 percent of programs across the country.
“That’s iron sharpening iron,” Nash said. “We are cutting edge.”