UVM Cancer Center reflects on recent breast cancer research

Published: Oct. 1, 2021 at 6:34 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and it comes with a message from local health professionals -- talk to your doctor about prevention and screening.

Doctors at the UVM Cancer Center say about 64% of Vermont women who should get mammograms regularly, including those 40 years and older, do. Still, that’s slightly below the national average. That’s why the center is studying new ways to make care more accessible in rural areas.

On a larger scale, doctors say one of the greatest gains in breast cancer research this past decade is targeted therapy. It’s treatment tailored to tackle each patients’ specific type of tumor.

“We used to think of breast cancer as one disease -- breast cancer. Sometimes we divide it into hormone-receptor-expressing cancer and breast cancers that didn’t express hormone receptors, but actually we know now that breast cancer is probably more than 20 different diseases depending upon what genes are mutated and are actually driving the development of the cancer,” said Dr. Randall Holcombe, director of the UVM Cancer Center.

Holcombe says UVM is currently conducting several clinical trials evaluating customized therapies. He says the treatment tends to be less toxic than traditional chemotherapy, giving patients better quality of life.

UVM Medical Center also offers programs for patients after they finish treatment, encouraging frequent exercise and a healthy diet.

Today, breast cancer patients have a 90% 5-year relative survival rate, but the disease is the leading cause of cancer in women.

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