Predicting breast cancer is a difficult game, because there are so many factors, both known and unknown, that contribute to a woman’s (or a man’s) risk of getting this disease. However, researchers are still making advances in this area of medicine, and one of the most recent discoveries could change the way doctors go about determining a patient’s risk for breast cancer.
Dr. Erin Hofstatter of the Yale Cancer Center is a Terri Brodeur Breast Cancer Foundation grant recipient, and she used the money to study breast tissue for differences between healthy and cancerous breast tissue at the molecular level.
What she found was that a specific tissue marker that had come from breasts of patients who had cancer appeared to be more aged, from a molecular standpoint, than tissue that came from a healthy breast. Hofstatter believes this may help doctors determine which patients are most likely to get cancer, simply by taking a look at a small piece of tissue under a microscope.
“I really enjoy my job taking care of women with breast cancer, but it sure would be nice to be able to prevent it in the first place,” says Hofstatter. “Why wait for the diagnosis?”
The goal of Hofstatter’s work is to eventually have patients’ breast cancer risk levels be as easy to determine as heart disease risk factors. Risk, she says, should be easily measurable, and women should be able to see the changes to their risk factors as they make lifestyle changes. Hofstatter is continuing her research in the hopes of discovering more such factors.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?