Breast Care Initiative Update: Why do
Madison County breast cancer patients
have a high mortality rate?
According to the results of a recent epidemiology study conducted by Wright State for Madison County, it appears that the high mortality rate is due to a lack of screening and early detection.
In the spring of 2007, Madison County Hospital launched an initiative to help fight breast cancer in the county. The hospital had learned that according to recently published statistics from the Ohio Cancer Incidence Surveillance System (OCISS), Madison County had a high incidence rate and one of the highest mortality rates for breast cancer of the 88 counties in Ohio.
One question stood out: why do so many women in Madison County die from breast cancer? Part of the initiative was trying to find an answer. Senator Chris Widener, then a state representative, enlisted researchers at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine to conduct an epidemiology study, attempting to answer that all-important question.
Epidemiology is the study of factors affecting the health and illness of a population. Using a variety of resources and new statistics available, Sara Paton, Ph.D., M.S., Marietta Orlowski, Ph.D., and Sylvia Ann Ellison, M.A. of the Center for Global Health Systems, Management, and Policy at Wright State developed the Madison County Breast Cancer Study.
A review of the study points to some positive news. Newer 2001-2005 OCISS statistics indicate that Madison County had the second lowest breast cancer incidence compared to Ohio, the United States, and other similar suburban counties in Ohio. Also, according to 2005-2007 statistics from the Ohio Department of Health, it appears that the breast cancer mortality rate is also decreasing.
Unfortunately, Madison County still has one of the highest breast cancer late stage diagnosis rates.
Though the county’s incidence and mortality rates are going down, the unusually high late stage diagnosis rate for Madison County shows that there is still a fight to be won.
Many factors contribute to the development of breast cancer. Some are behavioral based like obesity, alcohol use, smoking, and not breastfeeding. Others, like family history, are genetic.
Looking at the incidence statistics and comparing Madison County to other Ohio counties with the same population, the report showed no extreme differences. Madison County’s numbers mirror those of similar counties in Ohio. A geographic look at where breast cancer patients live within the county did not suggest any particular environmental issue might be involved.
While risk factors do contribute to the development of breast cancer, they don’t appear to be the cause of Madison County’s higher mortality rate. Because of that, prevention and detection measures, such as maintaining healthy lifestyles and getting annual mammography screenings, could have the most impact on reducing breast cancer mortality rates in Madison County.
“I recommend women get a baseline mammogram between 35 and 40 years of age,” said Dr. Mitch Spahn, medical director of the Battelle Breast Care Center. “After that, women should be vigilant about getting their mammograms each year in order to help detect any cancer at the earliest and most treatable stage.”
After learning the results of this study, there is no better time to go in for an annual mammogram. Remember: October is breast cancer awareness month. And, thanks to the hospital foundation’s Breast Cancer Initiative, MCH is currently in the process of purchasing digital mammography and stereotactic biopsy equipment. Combined with the hospital’s breast MRI and sentinel node biopsy capabilities, the latest diagnostic tools are available right here in Madison County.
In addition to initiating this recent study, MCH has provided over 60 breast cancer education and awareness events in the county over that past two years. Thanks to support from the community, $1.4 million of a $2 million fundraising goal has been raised to improve diagnostic and treatment services, and educate women in this area about the importance of early detection.
The hospital foundation has established an endowment fund to assist breast cancer patients who are uninsured and cannot afford their care. A breast care specialist is also available in the Battelle Breast Care Center at MCH to assist patients through the diagnostic and treatment process.
The researchers at Wright State presented the results from their study to hospital leadership and representatives from the Madison County Health Department on Tuesday, October 6.
As a collaborative effort, Dr. Spahn and all involved will continue to examine the findings of this recent report and develop new initiatives to fight breast cancer in Madison County.
Call 740.845.7050 for more information about how you can help in this fight.
Call 740.845.7100 to schedule your mammogram.
Call 740.845.7884 to talk to the breast cancer nurse specialist.