Tag Archive for BreastCancer

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.

Meningioma: A tumor on the edge of the brain

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Musician Sheryl Crow announced on June 5 that she has a benign brain tumor known as a meningioma. Below, doctors from Dana-Farber’s Center for Neuro-Oncology describe this condition. The singer-songwriter, a breast cancer survivor, visited Dana-Farber in 2006.

Meningiomas are tumors on the surface of the brain, spinal cord, and fluid spaces. They are the most common type of brain tumor, with approximately 55,000 new cases diagnosed annually in the United States. Read more

Fact or fiction: symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer

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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. Read more

Five reasons to be optimistic about the future of cancer treatment

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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. Read more

Pregnancy and breast cancer: One mother’s story

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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. Read more

Men unite to cure women’s cancers

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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 family boat.

Fast forward to three years later, when I met my current wife, Ruth. We married in 2005 and Ruth adopted my daughters.

Just one year later, Ruth’s mother, Mildred Moorman, was diagnosed with late-stage ovarian cancer and was treated at Dana-Farber by Dr. Ursula Matulonis. (She died earlier this year.) I had the opportunity to share our family’s story at a meeting of the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers Executive Council at Dana-Farber.

Always a strong supporter of cancer research, I wanted to do more; to find people like me. Read more

Alcohol and breast cancer: What’s the risk?

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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 the heart.
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The most talked about cancer stories of 2011

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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.

  1.  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.

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

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Beth Overmoyer, MD, FACP

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 cancer. A lump is usually hard or firm compared with surrounding breast tissue. The presence of pain should not be reassuring – anyone who notices a new lump in her (or his) breast should contact a doctor. It’s unclear why some breast cancers are painful and others aren’t, but pain is not an indication of cancer being more or less aggressive. The most likely reason is that the cancer is irritating the nerves within the breast, but the true cause isn’t known. Read more