Tag Archive for BreastCancer

Good News for Metastatic Breast Cancer Patients

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By Erica L. Mayer, MD, MPH

There has been remarkable recent progress in identifying effective treatments for patients with metastatic breast cancer – that is, cancer that has spread beyond the breast and underarm lymph nodes to other parts of the body. Read more

Being Grateful in the Face of Cancer

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By Lola Baltzell

I have been a metastatic breast cancer patient at Dana-Farber for over four years now. “Metastatic” means the cancer has spread beyond the breast. I have an amazing team of providers, especially my oncologist Ann Partridge and nurse practitioner Anne Kelly. Read more

When a Celebrity Has Breast Cancer

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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.

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Breast Cancer, Aromatase Inhibitors, and Bone Density

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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. Read more

Fun with Pink

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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.

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How to Build a Support Network

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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. Read more

Desensitization Helps Patients Overcome Allergy to Chemotherapy

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Just as people may wheeze and itch in the presence of cats or pollen, a minority of cancer patients become allergic to the very drugs that are fighting their disease. Read more

Making a party out of cancer

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Every Sunday, the Cutter family holds a Chemofeast. The door to their home is open to any and all who wish to attend. It’s a day full of food, beverages, and a lot of laughter, and 15-year-old Blake Cutter gets to choose the menu. Then on Monday, his mother, Lois, drives him to chemotherapy at Dana-Farber. Read more

How are genes involved in cancer?

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Genes don’t cause cancer, but genetic mutations can. Our cells have about 22,000 genes, which consist of DNA packed into chromosomes inside the cell nucleus. These genes control a wide range of functions, including cell growth and division. When the genes misbehave or mutate, cancer can develop. Read more

Teacher travels 600 miles for Dana-Farber care

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In celebration of Living Proof week, Insight honors cancer survivors with daily posts about survivorship. 

In 2008 I discovered that my breast cancer, in remission for several years, had spread to my bones. I had just turned 50 and made a list of things I wanted to try that year: ride a helicopter, taste sake, attend a political rally. Going back into cancer treatment was not on the list.

My oncologist in Virginia suggested a consult with Eric Winer, MD, director of the Breast Oncology Center in the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers. After meeting with him I began traveling to Dana-Farber every six months for checkups. I went back on tamoxifen, a drug I had taken for five years after my treatment for breast cancer in 2000. Things seemed to be going well until last year.

Pam ZwemerWhen the cancer cells migrated to my stomach lining in 2011, I joined a clinical trial under Dr. Winer’s care. It is exploring the side effects of two oral medications, letrozole (a hormonal therapy that reduces estrogen production) and BKM120, thought to overcome the cancer’s resistance to hormonal therapy.

Dr. Winer coordinates my care with my oncologist in Virginia, Michael E. Lee, MD. I remember e-mailing Dr. Winer the night I learned the cancer had invaded my stomach. At 10:30 p.m., there he was, on my screen. During my visits I feel comforted by his presence. I know I’m in good hands.

Trusting my care team means I can keep doing what I love – teaching high school math. My school community has helped, raising more than $9,000 for my travel expenses.

Every month I travel to Boston on a Wednesday afternoon, see my care team on Thursday, fly home that night, and am back in the classroom Friday. I want my students to know that having stage IV breast cancer is only part of my identity. I’m still me.

Pam Zwemer chairs the math department at the Oscar Smith High School in Chesapeake, Va., and is a Dana-Farber patient.