Webchat: The Latest in Breast Cancer Treatment and Research

With new approaches to therapy and increased understanding of the biology of cancer, breast cancer treatment has made significant progress in recent years. “I am personally very excited about what’s to come for breast cancer treatment,” says Eric Winer, MD, director of the Breast Oncology Program in the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber. “I think we will have drugs available in the clinic in the next several years that may have a dramatic impact on outcomes for women with breast cancer.” Winer discussed the latest in breast cancer treatment and research during a live video webchat …

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ASCO Recommends Tamoxifen for up to 10 Years

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Women with hormone receptor-positive (HR+) breast cancer should be given the option to have adjuvant hormonal therapy for as long as 10 years, according to new guidelines issued today by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). The updated guidelines reflect results from several large studies that showed women who took tamoxifen for 10 years had a lower risk of recurrence and a “survival advantage,” compared to women who took the drug for only five years. In a press release issued by ASCO, Harold J. Burstein, MD, PhD, a breast oncologist with the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers …

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Creative Coping Through Photographs

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By Kat Caverly In the book “Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient” Norman Cousins explains that creativity is an effective therapy. I devoured this book during one of my three-hour chemotherapy infusions of Taxol. I was filled with such hope. I knew then I would be fine. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013. As my mind struggled on what to do with this cancer diagnosis, I instinctively reached for my camera. But instead of looking through the lens at a subject or scenery, I turned it on myself. In addition to keeping a daily written …

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Motherhood, Pregnancy and Breast Cancer

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While visiting her obstetrician in May 2012, 30-year-old Meghan Martin received life-changing news. The mother of two, who was seven-months pregnant with her third boy, learned she had breast cancer. “My first thoughts were: Will this baby live? Will I Live? Who is going to read bedtime stores?” Martin says. A day later, Martin began planning her treatment with the Program for Young Women with Breast Cancer at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber. She had four doses of chemotherapy before giving birth to her “miracle baby,” Gavin. Martin continued her treatment a short while after …

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How to Cope with Side Effects of Aromatase Inhibitors

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Aromatase inhibitors (AIs) are some of the most effective treatments for post-menopausal women with hormonally sensitive breast cancer, such as estrogen-positive breast cancer. Compared to tamoxifen, AIs like Arimidex, Aromasin, and Femara are less likely to cause blood clots or raise the risk of endometrial cancer. The drug also helps reduce the risk of recurrence. However, AIs often come with side effects, including joint discomfort, bone loss, hot flashes and vaginal dryness. Anne Kelly, MSN, NP, a nurse practitioner for the Breast Oncology Program in the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber, provides some advice on how patients …

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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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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.

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.

How to Prevent and Manage Lymphedema

Following radiation treatment or surgery to remove lymph nodes (lymphadenectomy), patients can develop lymphedema, a condition that involves abnormal swelling, usually in the arms or the legs, due to an accumulation of lymphatic fluids. This fluid buildup is caused by blockage or removal of lymph nodes or lymph vessels. Lymphedema is often associated with breast cancer patients, but can result from treatment of other cancers, such as melanoma, prostate, or advanced gynecological cancer. In addition to discomfort, lymphedema can also lead to infection, as the fluid buildup can increase bacteria growth. Pay attention to signs of infection, including pain, heat, …

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