The headline: You can lower your risk for breast cancer even if you have a family history.
The details: A study found that 20 minutes of moderate exercise at least five days a week, a body mass index of less than 25 and fewer than seven alcoholic drinks a week lowered breast cancer risk regardless of family history.
The take-home message: “Sometimes a family history leads a woman to think ‘This is something I can’t change,’” says study author Dr. Robert E. Gramling of the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, N.Y. “But engaging in these three behaviors appears to have the same benefits for women with a family history of breast cancer as it does for women without a history.”
The headline: Many breast cancer patients who can benefit from radiation aren’t getting it.
The details: “We know that women with advanced breast cancer who get radiation are more likely to be alive 10 years after their diagnosis than women who don’t,” says Dr. Benjamin D. Smith of MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. But Smith’s research found that 45 percent of women over age 66 with advanced breast cancer don’t undergo radiation. Whether docs aren’t suggesting it or women are passing on it is unclear.
The take-home message: Ask your doctor to spell out the treatments considered “standards of care” for your stage of cancer. Plus, visit websites for the American Cancer Society or National Cancer Institute to make sure you have all the facts.
The headline: Most women find their own breast cancers.
The details: In a study, 57 percent of breast cancer survivors reported that their tumors had been found by a detection method other than mammography. Twenty-five percent had noticed the tumor during a breast self-exam and 18 percent by accident. Forty-three percent said their cancers had been found by a mammogram.
The take-home message: Regular mammograms are the gold standard for detecting breast cancer. But “almost half of breast cancers are still found by women,” says study author Dr. Diana L. Miglioretti, of Group Health Research Institute in Seattle. Since a tumor can be missed or start to grow after you’ve gotten the all-clear from a radiologist, see your doctor if you notice anything suspicious.
The headline: Tailored treatments may offer new hope to women with triple negative breast cancer, a particularly aggressive form of the disease.
The details: TNBC, which is more common in African-American and Hispanic women, doesn’t respond to standard treatments like tamoxifen or Herceptin, so the tumors tend to recur; less than 30 percent of women with metastatic TBNC survive five years. But researchers at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center at Vanderbilt University in Nashville recently identified six subtypes of triple negative breast cancer that are linked to the activities in several genes and may respondto different therapies.
Page 2 of 2 - The take-home message: While the findings are tantalizing, they’re not ready for primetime. More research is needed before they’ll influence treatment, says co-investigator Dr. Brian D. Lehmann, a post-doctoral fellow.
The headline: Vitamin D relieves joint pain in breast cancer patients, typically caused by aromatase inhibitors prescribed to many women to shrink tumors and prevent a cancer recurrence.
The details: A study from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has found that prescription megadoses of vitamin D2 can ease the muscle and joint pain that may prompt women on AIs to abandon the treatments. A group of women taking 50,000 IUs of D2, a type of the vitamin that comes from plants, weekly for eight weeks and a second group on the megadoses for 16 weeks reported up to a 40 percent reduction in joint and muscle pain.
The take-home message: While more research is needed before D2 megadoses become routine, ask your doctor about trying it if you develop side effects from AIs.