Whirlwind Week Ends in Reassurance for Breast Cancer Patient

Breast cancer treatment

It was a Monday when Katie Lazdowski got the news no 33-year-old mother expects to hear: “You have breast cancer.” Waiting is never easy, but waiting to find out what’s next after a cancer diagnosis can be excruciating. After meeting with a local oncologist in Amherst, Mass., about two hours west of Boston, on Wednesday, Katie called Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center. The next day she met with her treatment team, and had both a plan of attack and a sense of reassurance. “Once I met my team, I knew Dana-Farber was where I wanted to be,” says Katie, who …

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Forty Years After Introduction, Breast Cancer Prevention Drug Still Effective

Erica Mayer, MD

Nearly 40 years after its introduction, tamoxifen continues to prove its value as a breast cancer prevention drug. The most recent evidence comes from the International Breast Cancer Prevention Study 1 (IBIS-1), which for 20 years has been tracking breast cancer occurrence and survival rates in more than 7,000 women who had a higher than average risk of developing breast cancer at the time of enrolling in the study. Half the participants were randomly assigned to take tamoxifen for five years, while the other half took a placebo, or inactive pill, for the same period. (Participants didn’t know which pill they’d …

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FDA Approves New Therapy for Metastatic Breast Cancer

New drug approved for metastatic breast cancer

  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a new treatment  for women with advanced (metastatic) breast cancer. The new therapy, palbociclib, will be used to treat postmenopausal women with metastatic estrogen receptor-positive (ER-positive) breast cancer who have not received previous treatment. Palbociclib, which is marketed under the name Ibrance, will be used in combination with another breast cancer drug, letrozole. “This is a new class of drugs that has been effective in treating this particular pathway in cancer, and it has improved outcomes for patients with advanced ER-positive breast cancer, one of the most common forms of the …

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Important Terms Every Breast Cancer Patient Should Know

Rachel Freedman, MD, MPH

After a breast cancer diagnosis, it can sometimes be hard to wrap one’s mind around all of the terminology used by doctors and nurses. In fact, a recent study from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute found a significant lack of knowledge among breast cancer patients about the basic characteristics of their disease, including how advanced it is (stage), the grade, and the subtype (e.g. whether it is hormone receptor-positive or HER2-positive). The study surveyed 500 women in the California Cancer Registry who had early-stage breast cancer. Between 56-58 percent of women knew the correct stage and receptor status of their tumor, and …

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Does Pregnancy Increase Risk of Breast Cancer?

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The link between pregnancy and breast cancer has been a focus of breast cancer research over the last decade, which has shown that there are a variety of factors related to pregnancy that can play a role in developing breast cancer. After a pregnancy, a woman’s short-term risk of breast cancer increases for 2-15 years, says Ann Partridge, MD, MPH, medical oncologist in the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers, and director of the Program for Young Women with Breast Cancer. Past studies have not been able to conclude a definitive reason for this short-term increased risk. However, if a …

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Fertility After Breast Cancer

MaggieLoucks

Young women may think about having children, but when diagnosed with breast cancer, patients often face these decisions long before they thought they would have to. For Maggie Loucks, NP-C, who was diagnosed at age 28, preserving fertility became a major factor in deciding what treatment plan to pursue. “You’re 28-years old and you want to do everything you can to ensure this doesn’t come back, but at the same time you want to preserve your fertility as much as possible,” says Loucks, who sought care at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber. Although the process was …

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What to Know About Mastectomy Clothing: Bras, Swimsuits and Insurance

Mastectomy bras

Mastectomy bra with a space for a prosthesis. For many women with breast cancer, a mastectomy, or removal of the breast, is a necessary part of treatment. Although breast reconstruction is available to most women, some choose to use prosthetics to replace the missing breast(s). If a patient decides to use prosthetics, there are special types of apparel, known as mastectomy clothing, which can help provide comfort and a natural appearance. Here are some common questions around prostheses and mastectomy clothing: What is a breast prosthesis? Read more: Foods to Keep in Your Diet Before and After a Mastectomy Is a …

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What’s New in Metastatic Breast Cancer Treatment and Research

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Metastatic breast cancer (MBC), also known as stage IV breast cancer or advanced stage breast cancer, ultimately affects approximately 20-25 percent of all people with breast cancer. There is no cure for MBC, but new developments in treatment and research are helping patients live longer and experience a better quality of life. “There are women who live with MBC for many years, often five, ten years or more,” says Eric Winer, MD, director of the Breast Oncology Program in the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber. “Although some women with metastatic breast cancer still face a shorter …

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20 Years After BRCA: What We’ve Learned About Genetics and Breast Cancer

Twenty years ago, scientists announced the discovery of BRCA1, which arguably has become the best-known cancer susceptibility gene in the world. When inherited in a mutated form, the gene sharply increases a woman’s chances of developing breast or ovarian cancer, often at an early age. The discovery has changed the way women with a family history of breast and ovarian cancer approach these diseases, helping them better understand their risk and the options for reducing it. It also presents them with complex choices about sharing genetic test results with family members who may also carry the mutated gene. The hunt …

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Despite Metastatic Breast Cancer, Foster Mom Continues Opening Her Home

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Lise Pass has been living with metastatic breast cancer for nearly a decade, but she prefers focusing not on her disease, but rather on her children – all 48 of them. In addition to a biological son and daughter who are now adults, Pass and her husband Harry have been foster parents to 46 boys and girls. The way Pass sees it, being a foster mom has played as big a part in her getting through cancer treatment at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber. “You have to empower yourself against cancer, to think of it …

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