The Women's Health Resource. On the web since 1997. Breast Health Newsletter

December 2, 1999 - Volume 1, Issue 4

Comprehensive Information of Breast Cancer and Breast Health Issues



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1. In the News:
- A recent study reveals that elderly women with breast cancer will benefit from aggressive treatment including chemotherapy or radiotherapy in conjunction with breast surgery. The study shows that some physicians believe that aggressive cancer therapy is riskier in older patients and that women over the age of 75 are more likely to die of another ailment related to old age, such as heart disease, before the effects of breast cancer become devastating. Therefore, many elderly women with breast cancer presently do not receive chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

- Climb Against the Odds: Breast cancer survivors climb Mount McKinley...
An award-winning documentary, "Climb Against the Odds: A Story of Courage and Survival as Twelve Women Fight Breast Cancer at 20,000 Feet," recently premiered on the Public Broadcasting System (PBS). The documentary follows the 1998 expedition of twelve women (including five cancer survivors) who attempted to climb Alaska's Mount McKinley. The climb was sponsored by the Breast Cancer Fund, a non-profit organization that supports breast cancer research, education, and support to raise awareness.

- Popular talk-show host Rosie O'Donnell releases a new book about breast cancer...
Rosie O'Donnell has teamed up with her own breast health specialist, Dr. Deborah Axelrod, to bring women a new book about breast cancer: "Bosom Buddies: Lessons and Laughter on Breast Health and Cancer." The book, Bosom Buddies, which is set-up in a question/answer format, covers all aspects of breast health including non-cancerous breast conditions, nipple discharge, breast pain, breast cancer risk, breast disease, diagnosis, treatment, and breast-feeding. All profits from Bosom Buddies go to four leading breast cancer organizations.

- FDA approves Aromasin for use in post-menopausal breast cancer patients...
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved the drug Aromasin (generic name, exemestane) to treat advanced stage breast cancer in post-menopausal patients. Their results reveal that the use of Aromasin significantly reduces tumor progression and the overall mortality rate for advanced breast cancer. Aromasin is a new method of treating Stage IV breast cancer in patients who do not show a response to the anti-cancer drug, tamoxifen.

- New biomarker test may detect breast cancer...
Researchers have discovered a biomarker that may eventually allow health care providers to screen for breast cancer by drawing and testing a patient's blood. The results of the study revealed that 90% of the women with breast cancer had increased levels of the biomarker riboflavin carrier protein (RCP) in their blood. The discovery of the RCP biomarker may help health care providers detect breast cancer at an early stage. In general, the earlier breast cancer is discovered, the better the patient's prognosis (projected outcome).

2. Dispelling the Myths About Breast Cancer
This report outlines some of the common myths and misconceptions about breast cancer. False rumors about breast cancer are becoming more frequent with the increased use of email and the Internet. For example, a recent inaccurate e-mail message has been widely circulated stating that the use of antiperspirants is a leading cause of breast cancer. The purpose of this report is to dispel common myths and false rumors about what causes breast cancer, how the disease develops, and how different diagnosis and treatment options affect patients.

3. Genetic Testing for Specific Breast Cancer Risk Factors
Researchers have recently discovered that women who carry mutated versions of certain genes may be at greater risk of developing breast cancer. These genes include the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, the p53 tumor suppressor, and the HER2 gene. Genetic testing is available to determine whether a woman may carry these mutated genes. This article discusses how these genes may cause breast cancer, how physicians may test for the presence of genetic mutations, who is a candidate for genetic testing, and how women who have been found to carry genetic mutations may prevent breast cancer.

4. Understanding Breast Reconstruction
Breast reconstruction is a surgical procedure to rebuild the contour of the breast, along with the nipple and areola (the pigmented area surrounding the nipple) if desired. Recent advances in reconstructive techniques have given patients more choices when it comes to breast reconstruction, including the option to have breast reconstruction during the same operation in which the breast is removed. Though some women are not interested in breast reconstruction, many breast specialists support reconstructive surgery as an important option for patients to consider. Women are encouraged to weigh both the advantages and disadvantages of breast reconstruction with their plastic surgeons and cancer treatment team and make an informed decision based on their own situation.

5. New Mammography Expert Second Opinion Service
The Mammography Expert Second Opinion Service provides expert services for women and physicians who would like assistance with the interpretation of mammograms and other diagnostic studies such as breast ultrasound. All women who have been referred for breast biopsy based on the results of a mammogram should consider obtaining a second opinion prior to undergoing biopsy.
National statistics show that approximately 800,000 (80%) of the one million biopsies performed annually in the US result in benign (non-cancerous) findings.


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