May 20, 2024
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Breast Cancer Awareness Month—Coincidence?

(Courtesy of St. Mary’s General Hospital) “As we finish our Yomin Noraim for 5781, we should now focus on our health,” said George Matyjewicz, PhD, community liaison at St. Mary’s General Hospital. “October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and is also a good time to get your flu shot and shingles vaccine. Let’s look at breast cancer, starting with the history. Did you know that the first mention of cancer of any kind was a case of breast cancer documented in Egypt around 1600 BCE?1 An ancient text found in 1860 in an Egyptian tomb described eight cases of tumors or ulcers of the breast and doctors said there is no treatment! And Moshe Rabbeinu led us out of Egypt in 1300 BCE. Hmm… ”

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women and is the second leading cause of cancer death among women (lung cancer is No. 1 for women and men). While one in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes, with Ashkenazi Jews the rate is higher. Some specific changes, or mutations, in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes occur more frequently in Ashkenazi Jews than in the general population. These mutations increase the risk of certain types of cancer, including breast and ovarian in women and breast and prostate in men. About one out of every 40 individuals of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry has a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, as compared to one out of every 800 members of the general population, according to the Centers for Disease Control. And 95% of all breast cancers in the U.S. occur in women 40 and older.

Early screenings and leading a healthy lifestyle are essential. Women who get regularly screened for breast cancer have a 47% lower risk of dying from the disease compared to those who don’t.2 Breast cancer deaths have been declining since 1990 thanks to early detection, better screening, increased awareness and new treatment options. With proactive early screenings, breast cancer is very treatable. According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate is 99% when found early and confined to a localized area. The American Cancer Society no longer recommends breast self-exam as a screening tool for women with an average risk of breast cancer. However, in our world, where the risk is high, self-exam should be conducted. has a five-step program for doing a breast exam. 3 Women 40 and over should also have an annual mammogram.

And, since our community is more at risk for cancer in general and specifically breast cancer, the Cancer Center at St. Mary’s General Hospital is here to help, as reported with our grand re-opening4.

“Our cancer center is comparable to the best in the tri-state area,” said Edward J. Condit, CEO of St. Mary’s General Hospital. “Some of our cancer-fighting tools include PET/CT, traditional and breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), nuclear medicine, colonoscopy, 3D mammography, breast ultrasound and stereotactic

breast biopsy. Lung cancer screening and a wide variety of tests and expertise for cancers of the blood are also available.”

“We provide many other radiation-therapy options, including the most advanced procedures and treatment technology available—RapidArc® volumetric arc therapy, intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and image-guided therapy (IGRT).”

St. Mary’s General Hospital’s Cancer Center is home to the state-of-the-art TrueBeam® Radiotherapy System, which offers patients treatment that is powerful and precise, minimizing damage to surrounding tissue and in some cases offering treatment in less than five visits. TrueBeam® is noninvasive and painless—no incisions or surgery, fast and effective—higher doses of radiation faster means most treatments can be given in just minutes a day in fewer treatments and precis —the tumor is treated in real time and targeted with pinpoint precision.

Early detection often offers the best hope for successful treatment. Through diagnostic and screening technologies, our experts are able to spot cancer and monitor the effects of treatment. Your clinical team, led by an expert radiation oncologist, will treat your cancer without surgery using powerful, state-of-the-art radiotherapy individualized for your condition. During the treatment, the beam damages cancerous cells with sub-millimeter accuracy while minimizing the exposure of nearby healthy tissues

While we were joking about the origin of cancer and the Exodus, we are serious about Breast Cancer Awareness and October being the best time to get your flu shot and shingles vaccine (at your physician’s office and most pharmacies). Call your physician now and get a script and then call 973-365-4450 to schedule a mammogram or sonogram.

To learn more visit us at To make an appointment please call 973-365-4450 or email [email protected].

St. Mary’s General Hospital—nationally recognized, locally preferred among the top hospitals in America for health, quality and patient safety! A center of excellence for maternal-child care, the hospital has over 550 physicians and 1,200 employees, with every staff member committed to providing respectful, personalized, high-quality care—to satisfy patients’ needs and exceed their expectations. St. Mary’s General is a proud member of Prime Healthcare, which has more Patient Safety Excellence Award recipients for five consecutive years (2016-2020) than any other health system in the country including a “Top 15 Healthcare System” by Truven Health Analytics. To learn more about how St. Mary’s General Hospital visit or Facebook at

For more information, please contact George Matyjewicz, PhD, community liaison at [email protected]


2 American College of Radiology. “New Study Cements Fact That Mammography Is a Primary Factor in Reduced Breast Cancer Deaths” 2019.


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