Testing It Up

Study finds majority of women with breast cancer don’t get enough exercise

Only about 35% of women with breast cancer get enough physical exercise, a new study finds. breast cancer

Brionna Hair, a doctoral candidate in epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and colleagues, analyzed pre- and post-diagnosis physical activity levels in 1,735 women ages 20 to 74 diagnosed with invasive breast cancer from 2008 to 2011 in North Carolina.

The study, published online in the journal Cancer, found that just 35% of breast cancer survivors met current physical activity guidelines post-diagnosis. The current guidelines advocate at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity each week.

“Medical care providers should discuss the role physical activity plays in improving breast cancer outcomes with their patients, and strategies that may be successful in increasing physical activity among breast cancer patients need to be comprehensively evaluated and implemented,” Hair said in a statement.

June 9, 2014 at 1:41 pm Comments (0)

15 Year Old Develops Software to Identify Cancer-Causing Gene Mutations

Nathan Han, a 15-year-old from Boston, has won the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for creating a computer program that can predict how harmful gene mutations related to cancer might be. 

Photo courtsy of fastcoexist.com

Photo courtsy of fastcoexist.com

Han says that he’s been fascinated with bioinformatics for awhile and when a close friend’s mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, he started thinking about possible projects.

He eventually settled on his winning software, which evaluates mutations in the BRCA1 gene–a gene commonly associated with ovarian and breast cancer–to see how harmful they are.

Han programmed his software to differentiate between disease-related mutations and harmless mutations using data from public databases.

“I chose to focus on BRCA1 in particular for practicality. It’s one of the most studied genes in the human genome,” he says.

According to Han, his program has an 81% accuracy rate in identifying cancer-causing mutations. Existing algorithms have an accuracy rate of only around 40%.

His software could one day be customized to evaluate other genes and diseases.

“Down the road, as accuracy improves, I can imagine using this sort of process for personalized genomic analysis,” Han says.

For winning the Intel science fair, Han receives $75,000, which he will put toward college.

June 5, 2014 at 12:18 pm Comment (1)

Double Mastectomy: Too Severe For Breast Cancer Prevention?

Angelina Jolie’s double mastectomy flooded news feeds in May of last year. Her decision to undergo double breast removal was based on test results that showed she was carrying a mutated gene believed to be a breast cancer precursor.

breast-cancerThis year, a study by the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center revealed that about 70 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer choose to have both of their breasts removed as a preventive measure.

Study lead author and associate professor Sarah Hawley said that the breast cancer issue has developed a sense of paranoia in women. “Women appear to be using worry over cancer recurrence to choose contralateral prophylactic mastectomy… This does not make sense, because having a non-affected breast removed will not reduce the risk of recurrence in the affected breast,” said Hawley in a news release.

According to the study, out of more than 230,000 women diagnosed with cancer on one of the breasts, only 10 percent will develop cancer in the unaffected breast. What’s surprising is that in the study group composed of almost 1,500 females, 75 percent expressed worry that the cancer will recur in the other breast.

Hawley stressed the importance of making a sound decision before having both breasts removed. “For women who do not have a strong family history or a genetic finding, we would argue it’s probably not appropriate to get the unaffected breast removed,” she added.

May 22, 2014 at 10:33 pm Comments (0)

Invasive Breast Cancer Patients Need HER2 Tests For Better Treatment

Two medical expert organizations recently issued an updated recommendation for all patients diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer to undergo tests for detection of a particular cancer-progressing protein.

breast cancer screeningThe College of American Pathologists (CAP) and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) joined forces to emphasize the impact of the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 or HER2 protein, and how its amplification in the body can lead to a heightened development of breast cancer. Dr. Antonio Wolff of Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center and co-chair of the joint panel pressed on this matter. “HER2 is among the first targets in breast cancer that helped define a very specific subtype of breast cancer that affects about 30,000 to 40,000 patients each year just in the U.S.,” said Wolff in a news item.

HER2 is a protein present in the human body in the form of the ERBB2 gene, which, when found in the body at high levels, could result in tumors that grow faster and are more invasive.

Dr. Elizabeth Hammond, who co-chairs the panel with Dr. Wolff and works as pathology professor at Salt Lake City’s University of Utah School of Medicine, shared the importance of updating the guidelines for breast cancer testing and treatment. “We want to make sure that a woman living in a rural area has the same opportunity for testing as a woman living near a major medical center,” Hammond said.

Under the new guidelines, recommendations include the following: HER2 testing for women with invasive and metastatic breast cancer, focused treatment on HER2-positive cases, and prohibition of HER2-negative patients from taking HER2-focused medication.

October 7, 2013 at 8:43 pm Comments (0)

Second Opinion Reveals False Cancer Diagnosis of Woman Under Chemotherapy

It’s probably the best news a person can get from a doctor, but at the same time the worst possible news.


Photo credit: nuttynewstoday.com

Herlinda Garcia, a 54-year-old woman from Victoria, TX, underwent chemotherapy after being diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. She battled months of chemotherapy, resulting in physical side effects that form part of the treatment.

Seven months after she started the treatment, a second opinion revealed a very startling discovery; she never had cancer in the first place.

The false diagnosis was given to her by Dr. Ahmad Qadri, after she underwent a surgical removal of a benign tumor from her left breast tissue. Garcia recalled the emotional and mental battle that she had to deal with. “When you’re told you have stage four terminal cancer, that’s it,” she said in a news item.

The chemotherapy treatments rendered her weak, with her physical and mental health slowly degrading. “Everything was swollen. I lost my eyebrows, my eyelashes,” Garcia added. It was then that depression grew inside her, prompting her to give away her possessions and even writing a bucket list for her to accomplish.

She submitted herself to Citizens Medical Center for anxiety treatment. As the doctors scanned her body, one thing was certain: cancer was never inside her. She sought a second opinion from Houston’s M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, which confirmed the findings of Citizens Medical Center.

Garcia had mixed feelings about the issue. “I was happy, but at the same time, I had that anger,” she said. After all, the repercussions of the wrong diagnosis were already done. Unfortunately, the erring doctor (Dr. Qadri) already passed away. To pay for physical and mental damages, a jury in Victoria Court awarded Garcia $367,500.

July 19, 2013 at 12:00 am Comment (1)

Easton Hospital Offers 3D Mammography: Better Diagnosis, Less Pain

A small town in Pennsylvania has recently been given a medical equipment upgrade.

In their press release, Easton Hospital Health and Wellness Center reported that it is now home to the latest technology in breast cancer detection: 3D mammography. This breakthrough technology allows for a three-dimensional examination of the breast tissue for a closer scrutiny. The procedure improves the assessment of the breast structure by distinct separation of overlapping tissues.

Also called breast tomosynthesis, this novel technique reduces the physical pain during scanning. Unlike conventional mammography wherein the breast tissue is subjected to pressure, this technique uses no pressure. This development alone has sparked interest in women who are hesitant to undergo mammography because of the pain. The 3D mammography system used in Easton is called Selenia Dimensions breast tomosynthesis, which is ergonomically designed for better patient comfort.

But more than the benefits of a pain-free procedure, the greatest advantage of 3D imaging is the clarity of the images. Easton’s 3D Mammography system generates crisp imaging details, thereby giving radiologists a higher confidence level in diagnosis. Results from a 3D mammography system are expected to be far better than the conventional method.

The procedure involves scanning the breast in several angles. The machine then takes 1-mm scans of the tissue, and then reconstructs the images to form a three-dimensional image of the breast. From the digital image, radiologists can then examine the breast for abnormalities or signs of breast cancer.

Easton Hospital Health and Wellness Center is located in Forks Township, Northampton County, PA.

May 14, 2013 at 1:00 am Comment (1)

Celebrity Breast Cancer Survivors: Raising Awareness

Cancer of any form can be developed by anyone, but when a celebrity develops the disease, it is easier to draw attention – and, consequently, awareness – about it.

E! News host and reality TV star Giuliana Rancic recently revealed that she has been diagnosed with breast cancer, and along with her revelation, she urged women to undergo breast cancer screening. Here are more celebrity cancer survivors, and what they have been able to contribute towards raising awareness for breast cancer.

Betsey Johnson. The fashion designer beat cancer eleven years ago, and she has since been a staunch advocate for breast cancer awareness and research. She helps raise funds for the National Breast Cancer Coalition Fund, as well as the Weill Cornell Breast Center of the Iris Cantor Women’s Health Center at New York Presbyterian Hospital, where she received treatment. Johnson accomplishes this by launching a new product with the breast cancer awareness insignia every year.

Sheryl Crow. The singer-songwriter is living testament to surviving breast cancer through early detection, and she has since been an advocate of undergoing annual mammograms.

Melissa Etheridge. The rocker was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, and she has become an advocate for breast cancer research.

Kylie Minogue. The sexy Australian singer was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, and her efforts towards raising awareness of breast cancer earned Ms. Minogue an honorary doctorate from Anglia Ruskin University in Chelmsford, southern England.

Cynthia Nixon. After winning her battle against breast cancer in 2008, Sex and the City’s Cynthia Nixon became an advocate for breast cancer concerns.

October 23, 2011 at 4:00 am Comments (0)

Buy Pink, Support Breast Cancer Research!

October is breast cancer awareness month, and there are a lot of things that we can do to support breast cancer research, and spread awareness about the disease.

One of the things that we can do is to “buy pink” anytime this month, as manufacturers and businesses also give their support for breast cancer research by donating a portion of the proceeds of selected pink products.

Here are some of these products, while at the same time giving a reminder to know exactly how much of your purchase is going where, instead of simply snatching up anything pink that you can see.

Aveda Hand Relief intensive hand cream ($22). Aveda will donate $4 to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation for each purchase of this product. Aveda’s goal is to raise $270,000 for breast cancer research.

Bobbi Brown Pink Ribbon Collection lip gloss and lip color set ($44). The Breast Cancer Foundation will receive $10 for every purchase of the set.

Wacoal Awareness bra or limited-edition Embrace the Lace bra ($45 – $65). Until October 16, every purchase of any of the two Wacoal bras indicated will mean $2 to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Make sure that whatever it is that you buy is something that you actually need and use. If it will just become clutter around your house, then you may want to consider simply donating money directly to an organization involved in breast cancer awareness and research.

October 10, 2011 at 2:30 am Comments (0)

Exercise Will Keep Breast Cancer at Bay!

It looks like exercise does more than just get rid of that extra weight. According to the Senior Vice President for Cancer Control for New York and New Jersey of the American Cancer Society, Dr. Alvaro Carrascal, “the relationship between physical activity and breast cancer has been studied widely, and several studies have shown that active women have a lower risk of getting breast cancer than sedentary women.”

The American Cancer Society shared that in 2011, 288,000 women in America will be diagnosed with breast cancer. This takes away the lives of 39, 520 American women, and according to Carrascal, the number of deaths could decrease significantly if women were more engaged in physical activity.

Carrascal says that when women start exercising while they are still young, there are associated benefits; vigorous to moderate exercise is shown to lower breast cancer risk in later years. Women should engage in both moderate and vigorous exercise; moderate exercise include gardening, walking, housework and biking, while vigorous exercise are activities that get the heart pumping and increase sweat and breathing weight.

The National Cancer Institute has provided funding for studies that explored the role of physical activity and cancer risk. Across 50 studies, they found that the risk was 20% lower in active women than in least active women. These studies also found that exercise lowered breast cancer risk in both pre- and post- menopausal women.

There hasn’t been a conclusion on why physical activity lowers breast cancer risk, but Carrascal thinks it’s because exercise prevents tumor development. Exercise also helps reduce weight gain and obesity which can increase risk in most types of cancers.

October 4, 2011 at 3:01 am Comments (0)

Twins Take on Breast Cancer Together

It’s a twin thing, a connection that one who is not a twin can never fully comprehend. Whatever affects one affects the other, whether directly or indirectly, and while twins may lead entirely separate lives and live in different parts of the country (or the world), they usually find themselves still sharing the same experiences, or being very intuitive about what the other is feeling or experiencing at certain points in time.

For Sonya Gabriele and Tanya Nelson, that connection is not lost, even if they did not get to experience the same health crisis: breast cancer. More than two years ago, Tanya was diagnosed with breast cancer, and has since undergone a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation, and until now, continues to take tamoxifen.

“I never said, ‘Why me?’ I said, ‘Thank God for me because I wouldn’t want her to go through it,” Nelson said. “Her” is Sonya, her twin sister, who does not have the disease. She, however, lived through breast cancer with Tanya, as a caregiver and fundraiser.

The sisters appeared in a local ad campaign for a fund raising event – a 3.2-mile walk at several locations in the bay area – for the benefit of the American Cancer Society, and are both active in Florida’s “Put on Your Pink Bra” campaign.

Tanya shared: “This year, the Florida campaign is ‘Put on Your Pink Bra.’ The pink bra is a symbol of the personal fight against breast cancer. We encourage all women to come out this year on October 22nd locally and throughout the Tampa Bay area, and to not just wear a pink bra, but to decorate it based on your personal journey as a survivor or a supporter.”

Florida Health Screening

September 11, 2011 at 6:53 am Comment (1)

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