Debunking the myths
Calgary breast cancer specialist holds two-day session in Yellowknife

Cindy MacDougall
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 01/99) - Examining your breasts for lumps is like wearing a seat belt, according to breast cancer specialist Dr. Robert Lui.

"You have to be diligent," he said earlier this month during a breast health session.

Lui talked to a dozen women about ways to find, diagnose and treat breast cancer during the public forum, held during a two-day breast health forum in Yellowknife.

Entitled "Breast Health for the New Millennium," the forum was hosted by the NWT Breast Health/Breast Cancer Action Group. The conference featured Dr. Lui, who runs a breast cancer clinic in Calgary, and his brand of funny yet insightful teachings on breast health and breast cancer.

The small group managed to keep Lui busy with questions and concerns.

Lui's main message was to trust your gut feeling about that suspicious lump, no matter how young you may be.

"If a lump does not go away after two menstrual cycles, get it checked out," he said. "Like most politicians, we don't know if it's corrupt or not until we check it out."

Lui conceded that some of his practises are not conventional. For example, he regularly gives the drug treatment tamoxifen, which can shrink breast cancer tumours, to young women with a family history of fatal breast cancer.

Tamoxifen is usually given to post-menopausal women.

"Nothing you're hearing here can be considered mainstream," Lui said.

Lui's philosophy for breast cancer patients is "one-stop shopping," he said.

"It's not really an advance in breast cancer treatment, but an advance in how you deliver it," he said.

At Lui's Calgary clinic, women are examined, given a mammography, diagnosed and, if needed, treated all at the same location and the same time. It was the first clinic of its kind in Canada.

"That way, the lady doesn't have to put life on hold," Lui said.

Gillian McKee said she came to the public session to learn more on breast health.

"There's a family history, so it's why I want to get as much information as I can," she said. "I think he (Lui) was very clear and had a lot of useful information.

"What I find a lot of the time is breast cancer information is sort of ambiguous, as in 'studies show this may be a concern.' Dr. Lui was straightforward."

Karen Leidl, public health nurse for the Yellowknife Health and Social Services Board, said the breast health group wanted to bring Lui to the conference to share his vision of breast cancer treatment and prevention.

"Right now, this group is working with health promotion and education," she said. "There's been talk about it (a clinic in the NWT.)

"There are a number of people who are interested in looking at a more co-ordinated effort. But it's a new idea that we need to discuss."