Leading SA: UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson oncologist discusses risk factors of breast cancer

Dr. Shraddha Dalwadi shares a few steps some women can take as a precaution.

SAN ANTONIO – October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It’s a disease that so many people face around South Texas and across the nation.

Dr. Shraddha Dalwadi, a breast radiation oncologist with UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center, joined Leading SA on Sunday to discuss the risk factors of breast cancer.

“Women of older age who are smokers, obesity, use of any hormone pills, any family history of breast or ovarian cancer, getting pregnant at a later age or never having been pregnant and never having breastfed are some of the risk factors that increase your chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer,” Dr. Dalwadi said.

Mammograms can be crucial, especially after the age of 40.

“There are many recommendations out there, but in general, all women over 40 should discuss getting a mammogram with their physician. If you have a family history of breast cancer or other risk factors like previous radiation, you should discuss even sooner getting a mammogram. There’s two types of mammograms. One of them is a two-day mammogram, which is standard of care, a very good option... A newer option is tumor synthesis or a 3-D mammogram. It takes pictures of extra angles and can help detect cancers, which are harder to find with a 2D mammogram,” Dr. Dalwadi said.

Dr. Dalwadi listed a few steps some women can take as a precaution.

“So some basic principles are to eat healthy and nutritious food, exercise, and keep your weight at a healthy level. Limit your alcohol intake, as excessive alcohol use has been associated with breast cancer. Visit your doctor for regular examination and make sure that you’re getting your mammograms as soon as you qualify,” Dr. Dalwadi said.

Now, some women are even doing genetic testing and counseling to find their personal risk factors.

“So, first of all, your primary care doctor and your OB-GYN are a good place to start. They can provide some basic counseling and understand your personal risk factors and how that contributes to breast cancer. Many women also qualify for formal genetic counseling, especially if they’re diagnosed on an abnormal screening mammogram with breast cancer. So young patients, hormone-negative patients, those with a family history of either breast or ovarian cancer, those patients generally do qualify for formal genetic counseling, often blood testing. And this can help them discuss with their siblings or their children their further risk down the road,” Dr. Dalwadi said.

For non-invasive treatment, many women undergo radiation after the necessary surgery.

“So radiation is a noninvasive treatment that follows surgery and further decreases the risk of the cancer coming back in the breast and the lymph nodes. What type of radiation you get really depends on the type of surgery that you get and the results of that surgery. And women are recommended anything between no radiation or 1 to 6 weeks of radiation. There are many modern techniques now developed within the last 5 to 10 years that allow us to give shorter courses of radiation and protect normal structures like the heart and the lungs. Women can continue to work, exercise and live their normal lives, so it’s a great option. After you receive your definitive surgical treatment for further decreasing your risk of the cancer coming back,” Dr. Dalwadi said.

About the Author:

Max Massey is the GMSA weekend anchor and a general assignments reporter. Max has been live at some of the biggest national stories out of Texas in recent years, including the Sutherland Springs shooting, Hurricane Harvey and the manhunt for the Austin bomber. Outside of work, Max follows politics and sports, especially Penn State, his alma mater.