When Should I Begin Regular Mammograms?

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For women weighing whether to have a mammogram for early detection of breast cancer, the findings of some recent studies can seem especially confusing. This month, a team of researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School published a review of recent mammography studies. They concluded that, for women in their 40s, the benefits of mammograms aren’t as great as they’re often touted to be, and the potential downsides – such as the likelihood of having a repeat screening or biopsy that doesn’t find cancer – are greater than for older women. The benefits of mammography vary with …

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New Experimental Breast Cancer Drug Shows Promise

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Reports of an experimental drug that slowed advanced breast cancer in a clinical trial have stirred excitement at a national research meeting and breathed new life into a cancer-fighting strategy that had seemed to falter. In one study, the drug, palbociclib, doubled the length of time without disease progression in patients with metastatic estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer that had spread beyond the breast, compared with women who took only a hormonal treatment, researchers reported at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in early April. Women in the study who received palbociclib also took the hormonal treatment, letrozole. Palbociclib is the …

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Does Talcum Powder Cause Ovarian Cancer?

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It’s been suggested that regular use of talcum powder products in the genital area might increase the possibility of ovarian cancer. In theory, particles of talc could travel through the reproductive tract to the ovaries and cause cancer. Research on this potential link has yielded mixed findings, with some studies finding a small increase in risk. For example, a study published in 2013 led by investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital found a 25 percent increase in risk for women using talcum powder in the genital area, but other studies haven’t shown any elevated risk. All of these studies suffer …

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Young Woman with Breast Cancer Finds Dream Team

A young woman in her prime, with a full life and meaningful career, does not expect a cancer diagnosis. But that is what happened to 34-year-old Erin, who received the news when she was in Paris with her mother and sister, on a long-awaited trip to celebrate Mother’s Day.

When is an Antipsychotic Not an Antipsychotic? When it’s an Antileukemic

By Tom Ulrich One of the hot trends in drug discovery could be called drug re-discovery: finding new uses for drugs that have already received FDA approval for a different indication. It’s an approach that allows researchers and clinicians to rapidly test potential treatments for rare or difficult-to-treat conditions. Because the drug’s safety profile is already known, much of the preclinical and early clinical work that goes into developing a drug can be bypassed.

Clinical Trials Paving the Way for Improved Vulvar Cancer Treatment

Cancers of the vulva – the external portion of the female genitals – are diagnosed in approximately 4,700 women in the United States each year. While many patients can be cured by a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, others – particularly those whose cancer has metastasized to other parts of the body – often don’t fare as well. As one of the rarer forms of gynecologic cancer, vulvar cancer hasn’t attracted as much research funding as other forms. Still, several efforts are under way to make treatment options more effective, according to Neil Horowitz, MD, a vulvar cancer expert …

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DNA Test May Offer Alternative to Pap Smear

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel has recommended that a DNA test should be the primary screening tool for cervical cancer, rather than the traditional Pap smear. The DNA test detects the DNA of human papillomavirus (HPV), the sexually transmitted infection that causes almost all cases of cervical cancer. “This is an important step forward for cervical cancer screening,” says Alexi Wright, MD, MPH, a medical oncologist in the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber. Specifically, the DNA test screens for HPV-16 and HPV-18, the two highest-risk HPV strains, as well as 12 other high-risk HPV …

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Why is Breast Cancer on the Rise Worldwide?

The number of deaths from breast cancer has dropped over the past decade in the United States, but around the world, especially in less-developed countries, the number is rising. A report from the World Health Organization (WHO) in December 2013 said 522,000 women died from breast cancer in 2012 – a 14 percent increase compared with 2008.