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International panel of experts agree appropriate lifestyle and family analysis needed to tackle breast cancer

Better risk assessment, screening, diagnosis and treatment opportunities were the focal points for an international panel of breast cancer experts gathered for the London Breast Institute’s 2nd International Symposium. A proper assessment of genetic and lifestyle factors affecting a person’s likelihood of developing breast cancer was agreed as the key to future medical approaches.

Speaking at the London Breast Institute’s 2nd annual International Symposium at the Royal Society of Medicine on 2 October 2008, renowned clinical voices discussed the latest developments in breast cancer research, detection, diagnosis and treatment.

Breast cancer risk management has become a serious concern for researchers and medical practitioners alike, with some studies suggesting the proportion of sufferers with a family history of the disease is approaching 14%. Crucial to diagnosing and receiving early treatment, assessing the risk of cancer is now a key step forward in stopping the disease in its tracks.

Professor Roland Holland, St Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, the Netherlands, a leader in breast cancer risk and genetics, identified the six categories of risk and related management recommendations pinpointed by some of the world’s leaders in breast cancer care, genetics and risk assessment. “Risk assessment can lead to an earlier diagnosis, help other family members at risk and might even prevent the cancer from developing.”

“Ensuring that all women have regular and competent assessment of the family history of cancer is a high public health and clinical priority,” said Dr Robert Smith, Director of Cancer Screening, the American Cancer Society. “Many women do not have family structures where inherent risk is evident; family histories on the paternal and even maternal side are often not known by the patient.”

Revolutionary 3D imaging technology due for introduction into the UK in the coming months, was discussed as an indication of the technological developments ahead to help detect the early signs of breast cancer. Research has shown that this technology produces a more sensitive image analysis and provides significantly better tumour visibility than even standard digital mammography.

Professor Ingvar Andersson of Malmo University, Sweden said, “We believe Tomosynthesis will play an important role in the detection and diagnosis of breast cancer in the future.”

Professor Michael Baum of University College London and Chairman of the Research Board of the London Breast Institute, shared information on a multinational clinical trial of a novel system for intra-operative radiotherapy using a mobile unit that could mean an end to daily trips to a radiotherapy centre for up to six weeks – a significant reduction in treatment timeframes and an essential treatment solution for breast cancer sufferers around the world without easy access to a radiotherapy centre.

“We serve a population of women in London who have denser breast tissue and appear to be at increased risk. Forty percent of patients we diagnose with breast cancer are under 50 years old,” concluded Dr Nicholas Perry, Clinical Director of the London Breast Institute at the Princess Grace Hospital.

“By hosting this International Symposium, the London Breast Institute underlines its commitment to the importance of research and up-to-date knowledge and equipment, in constantly pursuing improved diagnostic and disease management techniques.”