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  • Viva Femina! Women’s Health in Italy and the US

    by Tom Kertes

    It is a historical fact that over the years, Italy and the United States have not always agreed on everything. But there was tremendous Italo-American cooperation evident at the “Woman’s Health in the Third Millennium” Educational Conference (held at The New York Academy of Medicine) between the two nations’ medical mavens. In discussing the latest developments and the newly developing attitudes in the medical field regarding the treatment of breast cancer, doctors agreed it is the prime cause of mortality for women between the ages of 35 and 65 in both countries. “But things are changing. We are facing a revolution both in prevention, detection, and treatment,” Italian Minister of Health Dr. Umberto Veronesi said. “The good quality of life of women treated with breast-conserving treatments is now further improving, thanks to the avoidance of dissection of axillary lymph nodes when metastatic involvement has not occurred.” A new hypothesis to reduce fields of irradiation of the mammary gland after breast-conserving surgery is also undergoing clinical testing and should represent a revolution in breast cancer treatment.

    Most of the participating American doctors also emphasized new ways of treating breast cancer, with particular emphasis on saving the breast, and thus increasing the patient’s quality of life. “Research by the National Cancer Institute has shown that for women with small breast tumors, a breast-saving lumpectomy offers the same rate of survival as a mastectomy,” said Dr. Patrick Borgen in a presentation on the USA perspective on breast cancer.

    Something as basic as communication is also of the essence. A new study, led by Dr. Stephen Lutz, a radiation oncologist at the Methodist Health Care Center in Memphis, tracked 142 women from diagnosis to surgery. The study found that when communication among the medical team improved, a lumpectomy was more likely to be offered. “In one year, the overall rate of lumpectomies performed increased from 37 to 47 percent after the surgeons, oncologists, and other members of the medical team began discussing the cases in an extensive fashion,” said Dr. Borgen.

    In the area of prevention, “Clinical data from randomized trials and experimental studies are all in agreement evaluating the present efficacy and great future potentiality of pharmaco-prevention,” Dr. Veronesi said. The results of treatment with Tamoxifen, in particular, might reduce morbidity rates by 20 to 40 percent in the near future.

    “A second area of development is earlier detection,” Dr. Veronesi said. “Clearly, the earlier the diagnosis, the higher the curability of the patients.”

    The credit for organizing this important conference belongs to Matilda Raffa Cuomo, the former First Lady of New York State and honorary chairperson of Mentoring USA-Italia. “Mrs. Cuomo deserves kudos,” Dr. Veronesi said. ”This was a wonderfully successful meeting of the minds from our two countries.” #

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