Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Why breast cancer rates are higher in San Luis Obispo County

Posted at 2:00 AM, Oct 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-30 12:36:22-04

San Luis Obispo County has one of the highest incidence rates of breast cancer in California, according to the National Cancer Institute.

"Areas where there is high income, high socioeconomic status, and more affluent areas have a higher incidence of breast cancer," Dr. Thomas Spillane, an oncologist at SLO Oncology and Hematology Center in San Luis Obispo, said.

According to the National Cancer Institute, the highest annual breast cancer incidence rates in California per 100,000 females are in Marin County at 151, followed by San Luis Obispo County at 146.

"There's a lot of reason as to why people have proposed that's why that is, for example, Caucasian people have a higher incidence of breast cancer," Spillane said.

According to the United States Census Bureau, nearly 90% of women in San Luis Obispo County are white. Dr. Spillane says white women tend to have a higher incidence of breast cancer.

"It's two things: Risk factors in that group of people and screening rates in that group of people," Spillane said.

Higher incidence rates could mean early detection and treatment.

"Breast cancer is one of those things if you find it early then it is curable and definitely treatable," Dr. Michelle Ribas, Chief of Surgery at Twin Cities Medical Center, said.

Dr. Ribas is using devices like SCOUT to detect breast cancer cells in a less invasive way.

"We find where the exact tumor is and then we mark it and if I make the incision down here then I'm able to go from below and make a pathway into the tumor. So we're constantly using the probe to make sure we're in the right place," Ribas said.

Although the incidence rates are higher in SLO County, Dr, Spillane says the risk of dying from breast cancer is not higher.

However, there is still a population of women who don't have insurance or coverage to get mammograms. Statewide programs like Every Woman Counts are offering annual mammogram screenings to women over the age of 40 at no cost.

"Our program does not require that the women provide proof of income so if they have episodic income, that's fine, they base it one what you currently declare," June English, Every Woman Counts regional director, said.

Because breast cancer doesn't wait.

"You don't need to be waiting to get coverage again, you can just go with our program," English said.

For details on Every Woman Counts, click here.