Fact or fiction: symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer

Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is a rare but aggressive form of breast cancer that affects young women more than older women.  Because it’s relatively uncommon — it represents less than five percent of all breast cancer cases — people are often confused about what inflammatory breast cancer is and how you can detect it. As a breast oncologist specializing in inflammatory breast cancer, I want to share some of the common myths to help you separate fact from fiction about IBC.

Five reasons to be optimistic about the future of cancer treatment

It’s not always easy to recognize that we live in a golden age. Too often we fail to appreciate the amazing things going on around us because we‘re so caught up in day-to-day activities and pressing demands that we presume that the extraordinary is rather ordinary. So it may be with cancer treatment in 2012.  And the future looks to be even better – not necessarily easier, simpler, or cheaper, but unequivocally better. Here are five reasons why.

Pregnancy and breast cancer: One mother’s story

Rebecca Byrne had waited years for a doctor to tell her, “You’re pregnant.” She never imagined that just a few months after she first heard those words, she would hear four more: “You have breast cancer.” Byrne still tears up when telling the story, but smiles when her 20-month-old daughter, Emelia, leaps into her lap. Emelia is the happy outcome of a painful period of Byrne’s life, when the joys of pending and early motherhood were shadowed by chemotherapy treatments, hair loss, radiation, and uncertainty.

Men unite to cure women’s cancers

For most people, getting involved with a cause means thinking about what type of organization they’d like to support. But this is a story about what happens when a cause selects you – taps you on the shoulder and asks you to engage in battle. It began in 1998 when my wife Amy, then 40, was diagnosed with late-stage ovarian cancer. Our two daughters were 5 years and 15 months old. Amy battled for 15 months, and died in 1999. Like many spouses of women who die of cancer too young, my next few years were all about balancing the …

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Alcohol and breast cancer: What’s the risk?

For many women who enjoy a glass of wine, research showing that relatively small amounts of alcohol can raise their risk of breast cancer are disconcerting, to say the least. And confusing, too. How much drinking is OK? Isn’t a glass of red wine a day good for your heart — and couldn’t that be more important? In the past five or 10 years, knowledge about alcohol and breast cancer has been changing as studies produce new results and are publicized, sometimes over-dramatically, in the media. At the same time, there’s growing evidence that moderate drinking can be healthy for …

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The most talked about cancer stories of 2011

The face of cancer care in 2011 changed in encouraging and – in some cases – challenging ways. Here are some of the cancer stories that captured the most press attention in 2011.  A federal task force recommended against routine testing of healthy men for the prostate-specific antigen (PSA), which can be a sign of prostate cancer. However, Dana-Farber’s Philip Kantoff, MD, called the message “misguided” and said that oncologists are using the test to find those who may benefit from screening and treatment.

If a breast lump is painful, is it not cancer?

Many women who discover a lump in their breast confide in a friend or family member before talking to their doctor. They may be told that if a breast lump hurts or is sore, it probably isn’t cancer. To find out whether this urban legend holds any truth, we checked with Beth Overmoyer, MD, FACP, of the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers. If a lump in the breast does not feel sore or tender, does that mean it isn’t cancer? Dr. Overmoyer: Between 2 and 7 percent of patients with a painful lump in their breast will be diagnosed with breast …

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Breast cancer specialist discusses treatment advances

Harold J. Burstein, MD, PhD, a Dana-Farber breast cancer specialist, discusses some of the important studies presented at the 2011 CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. The five-day meeting includes more than 1,000 scientific presentations, seminars, and posters, with a focus on emerging treatments in hard-to-treat populations, patients with metastatic breast cancer, and breast cancer prevention and risk. Around 8,000 breast cancer experts from 90 countries are attending the symposium to learn about the latest developments in breast cancer care and research.

Breast cancer patient honors her compassionate doctor

Ann Partridge, MD, MPH, was instrumental in the founding of Dana-Farber’s Program for Young Women with Breast Cancer, part of the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers. The program, which focuses on the unique needs of breast cancer patients under 40, helps patients access fertility, genetic screening, and counseling services. Dr. Partridge was recently recognized at the annual Kenneth B. Schwartz Compassionate Healthcare Dinner by one of her patients, Bridget Spence. In this video, Bridget shares her story and explains how Dr. Partridge’s care and compassion allowed her to plan her wedding and look ahead to the future.