breast cancer

We discuss the latest in breast cancer screening, research, and treatment. Local doctors say there are misconceptions and confusion about who should be screened and when. They help us understand the guidelines, the role of breast density and genetics in diagnosis, and more. We also hear from a breast cancer patient who shares her story.

Our guests:

  • Avice O’Connell, M.D., director of women’s imaging and professor in the Department of Imaging Sciences at the University of Rochester Medical Center
  • Carla Falkson, M.D., medical director of Pluta Cancer Center, and professor of oncology at the Wilmot Cancer Institute
  • Carol Lustig, RN, assistant clinical director of the Hereditary Cancer Program at Wilmot Cancer Institute
  • Steph Tubman, breast cancer patient, and member of the Young Survival Coalition

What have we learned from celebrities who have been outspoken about their choices about battling breast cancer? Dr. Avice O’Connell recently spoke on the impact on the wider culture when breast care become a subject for the tabloids.

We talk about that, and we discuss the range of issues related to breast care, screening, and more. In studio:

Brett Dahlberg / WXXI News

Bonnie Smorol had a tough choice. She has two aunts who had cancer that can be caused by a mutation in a certain gene.

Smorol, 60, did not meet the guidelines for genetic screening until the second aunt was diagnosed. Then, she had to decide how much she wanted to know about her own DNA.

“I did choose to be tested,” Smorol said. “I have a daughter with two daughters, so I wanted to see where this was going, and the testing unfortunately came back positive.”

Damian Dovarganes/AP

A growing body of evidence, including a study published last week in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, is calling into question the current guidelines on who meets the criteria for genetic testing for breast cancer susceptibility.

Those guidelines were established about 20 years ago, and today, they’re out of date, said Kimberly Provenzano, a genetic counselor at Rochester Regional Health.

New England Journal of Medicine

A breast cancer drug under development could prolong the lives of cancer patients locally, said Peter Bushunow at Rochester Regional Health.

Bushunow, who oversees the health provider’s clinical trials for oncology, said a study published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine helped establish “the first new approach to triple-negative breast cancer in over a decade.”

Triple-negative breast cancer is so-called because it lacks any of the three markers that most cancer medications target.

Rochester Regional health

Rochester Regional Health has unveiled a new mobile mammography center.

The pink and blue RV-style vehicle will roam Monroe County and seven surrounding counties.

In 1990, researchers discovered the first evidence of a gene involved in breast cancer susceptibility. In 1994, the gene was cloned. Since then, we've learned a lot about the BRCA gene, and hundreds of mutations. So what can and should be done for patients with this gene?

This hour, we answer your questions about breast care, from everything from preventive mastectomies to insurance. We also hear the story of a local family's experience with breast cancer. Our guests:

  • Dr. Lori Medeiros, director of the Breast Care Center at Rochester General Hospital
  • Erin Pata, underwent a preventive double mastectomy 
  • Dale Axtell, breast cancer survivor and Erin's mother
  • Nancy Harter, breast cancer survivor and Erin's aunt


In an effort to prevent breast cancer from claiming more lives in Rochester, staff at Jordan Health have now added mammograms to the list of services they offer.

The clinic kicked off its Breast Cancer Awareness Month campaign on Monday with a news conference at the Anthony L. Jordan Health Center on Holland Street. Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul and Senator Joe Robach joined a handful of elected officials who spoke about how early detection of cancer increases the chances of successful treatment.

We discuss the new recommendations for breast cancer screening and the debate surrounding the impact of false-positive results. Our panelists also answer listeners' questions about breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. Our guests:

  • Avice O'Connell, M.D., M.A., director of women's imaging and professor of clinical imaging sciences, UR Medicine
  • Lou Papa, M.D., primary care physician, Center for Primary Care - Olsan Medical Group; and professor of clinical medicine, UR Medicine

An estimated 60,000-80,000 women in the U.S. have mastectomies each year, but only about 30 percent have reconstructive surgery. While some aren’t candidates for it, many others cite a wide range of factors for declining the option. We'll talk to a doctor and patient. We'll also discuss the new guidelines from the American Cancer Society: the recommendation that women have their first mammogram at age 45, with screenings every year. Our guests:

  • Heidi Banser, breast cancer survivor and reconstruction patient
  • Howard Langstein, MD, chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery, University of Rochester Medical Center
  • Avice O’Connell, MD, clinical imaging sciences, University of Rochester Medical Center