Managing Cancer Risk: Miss America Contestant’s Decision Puts Genetics and Cancer Center Stage

Win or lose, Miss America contestant Allyn Rose made news with her decision to undergo a double mastectomy. According to the Associated Press, Rose, who lost her mother to breast cancer, inherited a rare genetic mutation which might put her at greater risk for developing cancer. Her decision to have the preventive surgery has sparked questions about genetics, cancer risk and strategies for preventing cancer. If you have a question about genetic factors that increase cancer risk, you can ask the Dana-Farber cancer genetics team.

Can Breast Cancer Patients Avoid Multiple Surgeries?

When Jane Davis was diagnosed with breast cancer last July, she began learning as much as she could about her disease. Davis quickly discovered one of the most startling statistics about breast cancer: Up to 40 percent of women who have a lumpectomy require a second surgery. That’s because surgeons often cannot microscopically remove the entire tumor. But Mehra Golshan, MD, FACS, director of Breast Surgical Services at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, is trying to change that with a phase I breast surgery pilot study. It’s the first of its kind in the world.

Does Breast Density Affect Mammogram Results?

by Laura Dominici, MD Mammograms are the most effective tool for screening women for breast cancer. But mammography isn’t perfect: it may be slightly less effective for women with dense breasts. About half of all women have fairly dense breasts, which contain relatively large amounts of fibrous and glandular tissue and less fat. (Fibrous tissue supports and gives shape to the breast; glandular tissue produces and transports milk.) Breast density, which tends to be high in young women, often declines with age. On a mammogram, dense breast tissue appears as light gray or white, the same shades that can indicate …

Continue reading

When a Celebrity Has Breast Cancer

by Erica Mayer, MD, MPH  In 1974, when First Lady Betty Ford announced that she had undergone a mastectomy for breast cancer, it was a turning point in people’s willingness to talk about the disease. Prior to that, discussing cancer of any type, even with one’s family or friends, was often taboo. The First Lady’s openness about her cancer helped create a space in which women felt more comfortable talking about their experience – and about being screened for the disease.

Breast Cancer, Aromatase Inhibitors, and Bone Density

Aromatase inhibitors (AIs), such as Arimidex, Aromasin, and Femara, have proven to be more effective than previous hormonal treatments for treating both early and advanced breast cancer in post-menopausal women whose tumors are dependent on estrogen. Compared with tamoxifen, these drugs are less likely to cause blood clots or raise the risk of endometrial cancer. As a result, AIs are used both in patients with early breast cancer and in those with metastatic disease.

Fun with Pink

It was glitter and glue when patients, visitors, and Dana-Farber staff gathered on Oct. 4 to create art on an unusual canvas – bras. Hosted by Friends’ Place and Dana-Farber’s Creative Arts Program, the “Decorate a Brassiere” art therapy event allowed attendees to creatively honor Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

How to Build a Support Network

By Lola Baltzell People often ask me: How do you manage to live with metastatic breast cancer? One of the most important strategies for me has been building a support network. My diagnosis of breast cancer that had already spread to my bones came out of the blue. I had a normal mammogram 13 months earlier, and no known risk factors. So when I heard the news in August 2008, my first impulse was to reach out for support.