Dr. Larry Norton has been doing a breast cancer talk at the 92nd Street Y going on 25 years now. And he isn’t stopping anytime soon.
Audiences tend to know more about the disease than they did when he started giving this talk a quarter century ago, thanks to social media and the internet, said Norton, medical director of the Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and a founder of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
But, “there’s a lot of misinformation out there, and that’s an issue,” he said.
“On the web, you can’t tell what’s a good piece of information and what’s a bad piece of information — everything looks the same,” said Norton, adding that with more access to information has come a gradual distrust of expertise. “Now people feel like there’s so much information out there that they can become an expert by gathering information over the internet.”
On Oct. 16, Norton, one of the nation’s leading medical oncologists and breast cancer experts, will talk about the latest advances in breast cancer risk factors, prevention, detection and treatment during a conversation with Andrea Mitchell, NBC News’ chief foreign affairs correspondent and the anchor of MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports,” who herself is a breast cancer survivor and advocate.
A particular area of interest at this year’s talk will be current controversies surrounding the disease, Norton said.
“Breast screening is always an issue — what’s the right way to screen for breast cancer, and starting at what age,” said Norton of potential controversies they might discuss. “There’s been a lot of advances in our understanding of screening.”
A big topic in the area right now, Norton said, is risk-adjusted screening — determining how often an individual might need a mammogram based on their risk.
Another hot topic in breast cancer prevention is genetic susceptibility — testing for genes, such as BRCA, BRCA2 and CHEK2, which carry a significant risk for developing certain types of cancer.
Health care as it relates to breast cancer is another pressing topic, Norton said, from drug pricing to how the Affordable Care Act relates to cancer treatment.
Norton said the annual talk, which also opens up the floor to questions from the audience, tends to attract people personally affected by breast cancer, whether themselves personally or family members. Over the years, it has also drawn more men.
“They’re interested in the women in their lives and also themselves, because men do get breast cancer,” Norton said. “People don’t commonly appreciate that, but they do.”
The talk also tends to draw women who are interested in learning about prevention and what lifestyle changes they can make to lower their risk of breast cancer, how they should get screened and if they should undergo genetic testing.
According to the American Cancer Society, there is a 1 in 8 chance — 12.5 percent — that a woman in the United States will develop breast cancer sometime in her life.
“This is a topic that applies to everyone,” Norton said.