One month after undergoing a mammogram live on “Good Morning America,” ABC reporter Amy Robach announced Monday she has been diagnosed with breast cancer and will undergo a double mastectomy later this week.
At 40-years old, Robach is among a population of younger women with breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, about 5 percent of all breast cancer cases in the United States occur in women age 40 and younger.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women, but only 5-10 percent of breast cancer cases are hereditary. Of those cases, roughly 20-25 percent are linked to mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes (BRCA stands for BReast CAncer susceptibility).
View the infographic below for more on the genetics of breast cancer.
Breast cancer may develop in one part of the body, but it’s not just one disease. In fact, oncologists think of breast cancer as at least three different types of diseases.
Erica Mayer, MD, MPH
Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) describes breast cancer cells that do not have estrogen, progesterone, or HER2 receptors. It makes up approximately 15 percent of all breast cancers and is typically more aggressive than the other two types, estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer and HER2-positive breast cancer.
“It may be the smallest group, but TNBC still represents thousands of women with breast cancer, so it is a very important group for us,” says Erica Mayer, MD, MPH, a medical oncologist at Dana-Farber’s Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers.
Does having cancer in one breast increase the risk of cancer occurring in the other, healthy breast?
Young women with breast cancer often respond with a “yes” and overestimate the need to have the healthy breast surgically removed, according to a recent study by Dana-Farber investigators. However, the actual risk of cancer occurring in the healthy breast of those women without a genetic predisposition to breast cancer is only two to four percent.
Women who believe that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol won’t increase their risk of breast cancer may want to think again.
Last year, Wendy Chen, MD, of the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber and her colleagues published a study showing that women who drank as little as three to six glasses of wine or other alcoholic beverages a week increased their breast cancer risk by about 15 percent. Read more
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute recently partnered with CancerConnect and Ursula Matulonis, MD, to answer questions about ovarian cancer. Experts in the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers offer the latest research and treatment for this type of cancer. Watch one patient’s story.
Q: Is taking curcumin recommended to prevent ovarian cancer from returning? Do you have any other suggestions for preventing recurrence?
By Meg McCormick
When I learned I had a stage 4 breast cancer, I decided not let it rob me of the opportunities to enjoy my life. I still have a physically active, socially engaged lifestyle, and if you have metastatic breast cancer, so can you. Read more
by Amy Atwood
SWF, Bald, Undergoing Chemo and Radiation…
Oh yeah, isn’t that the first profile you would click on if you were searching for the love of your life or even just a new ‘friend’ online? Dating in itself – or, I should say, finding someone to date – is never easy. Finding someone when you happen to be bald, going through chemo and/or making daily trips to the hospital for radiation makes it a zillion times more complicated. I know. I’ve tried it.
A group of specialists at the National Cancer Institute recently issued a report calling for a redefinition of the word “cancer,” suggesting that it no longer be applied to certain premalignant and non-lethal conditions. Such a change, the panel wrote, may ease the fears of patients, making them less inclined to seek unnecessary and potentially harmful treatments. The findings reinforce earlier studies by physicians at Dana-Farbers’ Susan F. Smith Centers for Women’s Cancers and others.
An example of this kind of condition is ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), in which cancerous cells are confined to the milk ducts of the breast. It is the most common form of non-invasive breast cancer, found in more than 60,000 women in the U.S. each year, according to the American Cancer Society. Read more
By Ursula Matulonis, MD
After a long period of slow progress, new knowledge about the genetics of ovarian cancer is leading to the development and testing of new therapies.
Researchers at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers will soon be launching several phase 3 clinical trials testing drugs known as PARP inhibitors for patients with platinum-sensitive recurrent ovarian cancer – tumors that initially responded to platinum-based chemotherapy agents but have shown evidence of regrowth at least six months after treatment. Phase 3 trials test drugs in large numbers of patients to evaluate the drugs’ effectiveness as well as safety. PARP inhibitors work by blocking one of the pathways by which tumor cells repair their damaged DNA.