The leading cause of death in breast cancer patients today is heart disease. Women in their 40s and 50s are experiencing heart failure and other cardiotoxicities after treatment with radiation, anthracyclines and HER2 receptor antagonists, noted Sandra Cuellar, PharmD, BCOP, at the 13th Annual Conference of the Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association.
After more than 30 years of widespread promotion of routine breast cancer screening for women at average risk, an undeniable body of research shows the significant harms and limited benefits of population-based screening. The truth is that widespread mammography screening has failed to dramatically reduce the number of deaths from breast cancer. Last week, a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine added to the compelling evidence that for a majority of asymptomatic women at average risk of breast cancer, the harms of screening may outweigh the benefit.
There are no pros and cons to this situation, it’s just shit. Period. People often say, “Well, you could walk out of your front door and get knocked down by a bus!” Guess what, being diagnosed with cancer makes you feel exactly like that! Nevertheless, one can’t help but become philosophical when faced with this kind of adversity. I’ve even gained the prestigious nickname ‘the voice of reason’, and as a result I’ve managed to find eight positive outcomes from having breast cancer. Unbelievable, I know, yet true.
Based on the risks that phthalates pose to women and children, many of these chemicals have been banned for use in children’s toys and childcare articles by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. But that’s little protection for pregnant women. Europe has already prohibited all phthalates from use in plastic food contact materials for fatty foods, including dairy products, except for three phthalates whose use has been highly restricted. In contrast, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has failed to take action in response to growing concern and scientific consensus.
Doctors have been using the American Joint Committee on Cancer TNM system when diagnosing breast cancer. It was based on the size of the tumor, where the cancer had reached nearby lymph nodes and whether the cancer had metastasized (or spread). In that system, there are typically four stages of breast cancer, with the first stage meaning the cancer is contained in the breast and the fourth stage signifying that the cancer has spread to multiple other parts of the body. Stage IV breast cancer has been considered difficult to cure. The new staging system will now add a fourth factor to the TNM system: Genomic testing, which will look at the DNA of the tumor.
It’s complicated. Your clothing is never made solely out of just cotton or polyester. Every single fabric has some form of processing. It may be preshunk cotton, or superwash merino. It may be bleached. It’s almost always dyed. And nowadays clothing comes in all kinds of high-tech variations: UV protective, bug repellant, wrinkle-free, stain resistant, antimicrobial, and so on. Even pure cotton can be grown with pesticides.
The National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP) has confirmed the risks of radiation therapy to treat cancer. In a report, the council noted that as the number of cancer survivors tripled in the last 40 years, more survivors have developed heart problems or a new, different cancer likely related to radiation exposure during treatment for the first cancer.
Corporations that manufacture products that increase the risk of breast cancer join up with multimillion-dollar cancer charities to “raise awareness” during BCAM. This coordination produces a neat profit cycle for all involved, by keeping the spotlight on awareness and early detection while ignoring primary prevention.
New research found a link between some hair dyes, relaxers and straighteners and an increased breast cancer risk. That’s because many of these hair products contain carcinogens.
The main goal of pre-operative (neoadjuvant) chemotherapy for breast cancer is to shrink tumors so women can have a lumpectomy rather than a more invasive mastectomy. It was therefore initially used only on large tumors after being introduced about 25 years ago. But as fewer and fewer women were diagnosed with large breast tumors, pre-op chemo began to be used in patients with smaller cancers, too, in the hope that it would extend survival. But pre-op chemo can, instead, promote metastasis, scientists concluded from experiments in lab mice and human tissue, published in Science Translational Medicine
The USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center is recruiting people for a clinical trial that will research the effectiveness of a breath test for breast cancer diagnostics. The BreathLink device captures a two-minute sample of a patient’s breath and provides prompt results on whether there are indications of breast cancer. If proven effective, the test would be used with mammograms to rule out false-positive tests, sparing patients the pain, cost and anxiety of unnecessary biopsies.
Once a cancer has spread to other parts of the body in metastatic cancer, it’s extremely difficult to completely get rid of all the cancer cells. That means metastatic breast cancer is usually not curable. But it is treatable. In recent years, there have been significant advances that have prolonged the lives of people with metastatic breast cancer, thanks to more effective therapies. The goals and aggressiveness of your treatment options will depend on your individual situation and preferences. Understanding what you want out of your treatment can help guide your treatment decisions.
I’m thankful for pioneers like Betty Rollin and Betty Ford who took breast cancer out of the shadows and into the light of day. It needed to happen. But every year I’m more uncomfortable with all the hoopla surrounding this month. At times it feels like a garish form of entertainment focusing on breasts, “boobies,” “ta-tas,” “the twins,” and “the girls,” all on display and begging to be saved.
In her call to action, Louis-Dreyfus sounds optimistic, urging her followers to keep fighting so that others have access to the same care she’ll be able to receive. While recent efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act have fallen flat, we are far from having “universal health care.” 11% of women ages 19 to 64 in the U.S. don’t have any form of health insurance. While that number has fallen since the ACA’s implementation, it still means that millions of women are unable to access preventive care. Thanks to a number of health centers around the country, such as Planned Parenthood, low-income and uninsured women aren’t left completely out in the cold. Unfortunately, these groups are frequently under attack from political opponents.
The National Cancer Institute reports that the average five-year survival rate for breast cancer is now about 90 percent, thanks to advanced treatment protocols. However, some patients who’ve had radiation treatment and chemotherapy may be at higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease in what’s called a late side effect of treatment for breast cancer. This means that the heart problem may not surface for months or years after the conclusion of treatment. According to a report in the journal EJC Supplements, an open access companion journal to the European Journal of Cancer, cardiovascular disease is already the leading cause of death “accounting for 30 to 50 percent of all deaths in most developed countries. Because of this high background rate, even a minor increase in risk of CVD [resulting from cancer treatment] will have an important impact on morbidity and mortality.”
Palliative care is often confused with hospice care, which is generally for people with terminal illnesses. Hospice care workers provide palliative care, but palliative care can be given at any time during an illness, not just at the end of life. Recent data show that for people with certain types of cancer, early use of palliative care services not only makes them feel better but also helps them live longer when compared with people who get standard treatment only.
The BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes code for proteins that are critical for cells to repair damaged DNA. Specific inherited mutations in these genes increase the risk of several cancer types, particularly breast and ovarian cancer. The study affirmed earlier estimates of a substantial increased lifetime risk of these cancers in carriers of inherited mutations. But it also showed that the magnitude of risk is influenced as well by the location of the mutations within the BRCA genes and the extent of the family history of breast cancer.
Overall, women in the exercise program had more than double the improvement in cognition processing speed, which measures how fast information can be taken in and used, compared to women in the control group. Women in the exercise group who had been diagnosed in the past 2 years were 4 times more likely to have improved cognition speed than women in the control group. Women in the exercise group also had 3 times the improvement in self-reported cognition function than women in the control group.
Ten-year results from the Z0011 trial strongly suggest that routinely removing the axillary lymph nodes during lumpectomy to remove early-stage breast cancer doesn’t make sense for many women.