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Don't Forgo Your Mammogram - It Can Be Life-Saving

Advance With MUSC Health
September 21, 2021
A technician conducts a mammogram.

When the Coronavirus began to disrupt our daily lives in 2020, many women postponed their routine health screenings, including mammograms.

Dr. Antoine Finianos, a hematologist/oncologist at MUSC Health Florence Medical Center, says that, nationwide in April 2020, mammogram screening for breast cancer plummeted to 1% of expected rates based on pre-pandemic data.

Although breast screening numbers are up, they're not back to their pre-pandemic rate. The trend is causing consternation in the medical community. Breast cancer is the number one cancer diagnosed in Florence County, followed by prostate, lung and colorectal cancer, Finianos says.

He urges women to get screened for breast cancer and cites the benefits of early detection.

"We try to catch cancers as early as possible to reduce mortality, and we have very efficient treatment options," Finianos says. "In fact, breast cancer is probably the best example of very good outcomes when caught early."

Finianos says the mortality rate for breast cancer has dropped by more than 25 percent even though more breast cancers are being diagnosed.

Catching cancer very early is key, he says. "The cure rate is more than 90% for women diagnosed with Stage 1 or Stage 2 breast cancer. That's why screening is so important."

MUSC Health Florence offers 3D mammography (breast tomosynthesis), which takes multiple X-rays of the breast to create a 3D picture.

"The 3D mammogram gives better pictures of the breast at different angles, and you can catch cancers and precancerous lesions earlier, especially if the breasts are dense. The amount of radiation is not significantly higher."

Finianos recommends annual mammograms for his patients over 40.

"Although guidelines vary on frequency of mammograms, I push for yearly screening," he says. "A lot of women are scared to find out they might have cancer. I urge everyone to do mammography for all the reasons I have mentioned."

An MRI may also be done as an alternative or a follow up to 3D mammography for high-risk patients, such as those with genetic BRCA mutations, which increase a woman's risk for breast cancer.
Between mammograms, women can also perform self-exams beginning at age 40. "If she notices any change, she should contact her doctor immediately," Finianos says. "Patients know their bodies better than anyone else and are the ones who are able to notice small changes."

Finianos, who joined MUSC Health in 2021, is part of the multidisciplinary team that takes care of breast cancer patients. He identifies the proper staging and proper approaches for treatment, whether treatment is needed pre and post-surgery, length and type of treatment and follow up. He also plays a major role in performing genetic testing and screening.

Breast cancer treatment and care is very much multidisciplinary and requires collaboration among a patient's surgeon, radiologist and oncologist because every patient is different, he says.

"We used to give a lot of chemotherapy; now we have studies that show chemotherapy may not much benefit some patients. Not everyone requires radiation. Surgery is the mainstay for women presenting with non-metastatic breast surgery."

MUSC Health Florence offers an array of treatment options for breast cancer, including metastatic breast cancer. The outcomes are significantly better and very encourage, he says.
"Our treatment for every breast cancer is personalized," he says.

Dr. Antoine Finianos, a hematologist/oncologist at MUSC Health Florence Medical Center.

Dr. Antoine Finianos specializes in hematology, oncology and hospice and palliative care. He is board-certified in hematology, oncology, and hospice/palliative care. To make an appointment, call 843-674-6460.