Katrina Armstrong, M.D., a world-renowned researcher and leader in breast cancer screening programs, said that while advanced therapy has reduced the breast cancer mortality rate in the United States more study is necessary to identify possible ways help prevent the disease.
Armstrong, physician-in-chief and chair of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, spoke on the future of breast cancer screening and prevention at the 2014 Goodson Lectureship on Oct. 24 at the School of Medicine. Before joining Massachusetts General Hospital, Armstrong led a personalized breast cancer screening program at the University of Pennsylvania that studied new techniques of detecting breast cancer. She also received numerous awards and honors for her work in the advancement of women in medicine.
She said that early in her career she decided to focus on identifying the risk factors that can lead to breast cancer and how to develop targeted interventions.
The issue, she said, was that repeated studies found risk factors, age being a primary element along with family history and reproductive history, that are difficult, if not impossible to modify.
The use of mammograms has reduced the breast cancer mortality rate, but only by a small percentage, Armstrong said, when compared to prevention techniques and tools used today to battle stroke and other coronary disease. A growing occurrence of preventive mastectomies has also reduced the risk of the breast cancer among women. And the development of genetic tools and risk models are working together to bring screenings and prevention to the forefront.
Armstrong said today’s physicians have a great opportunity to rethink how they deliver primary care as a preventive care service in the future.
“That will make going into primary care and thinking about general medicine, population health, personalized medicine all come together in a way that will redefine what direction medicine is heading,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong is a graduate of Yale University and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and joined the University of Pennsylvania in 1996 as a physician-scientist fellow in the Division of General Internal Medicine. She joined the faculty in 1998 and was appointed chief in 2008. She also served as associate director of the Abramson Cancer Center and co-director of the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program.
The Goodson Lectureship is named for William Goodson Jr., M.D., a prominent Kansas City internist who practiced in the Kansas City area for more than 45 years and served as a docent at the School of Medicine from 1980 to 1982. The Goodson family four generations of practicing physicians. The family established the annual lectureship to honor William Goodson’s contributions to medicine and provides scholarly perspectives on current issues related to internal medicine.