The PALB2 gene

An update on cancer risks and indications for referral for genetic counseling

PALB2 geneThe PALB2 gene, which is also called the partner and localizer of BRCA2, is a gene that contributes to inherited susceptibility to breast cancer and perhaps ovarian and pancreatic cancers. The PALB2 gene contains the directions for making a protein that acts together with the BRCA2 protein. When they are functioning normally, these two genes work together as tumor suppressors.

How does cancer start at the genetic level?

Most cancers occur when two mutations in a tumor suppressor gene occur in a single cell during a person’s lifetime. Some individuals inherit an altered copy of a tumor suppressor gene. If a second mutation occurs in the tumor suppressor gene in any cell of their body, a tumor may develop. Since they already have an altered tumor suppressor gene in all of the cells of their body, individuals with an inherited mutation in a tumor suppressor gene are more likely to develop cancer.

Cancer due to an inherited alteration in a tumor suppressor gene is more likely to occur at a younger age (for example, Continue reading

Cancer prehabilitation

Steps you can take to prep for cancer treatment

cancer prehabilitationCancer prehabilitation, or prehab, is the process of improving a patient’s emotional and physical health in anticipation of upcoming treatment such as surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy. It occurs between the time of a cancer diagnosis and the beginning of treatment.

Although not a new concept to medicine, it’s becoming an emerging component in cancer care. Preparing for the physical and emotional aspects of cancer treatment can improve outcomes and minimize side effects associated with cancer treatment. Continue reading

Using nutrition to prepare for cancer treatment

prepare for cancer treatmentIf you have run a marathon before, you know there is a good deal of training involved and you need the right kind of fuel to help you succeed. Cancer treatment is like running a marathon, so “training” and “fueling” before you start are just as important. There are two training levels to choose from as you prepare for cancer treatment. The level you choose will depend on how you are feeling prior to treatment.

“Training” Level 1

If you have been able to maintain your weight and tolerate a general diet prior to Continue reading

Fertility options for women with cancer

women fertilityAs many as 15% of all couples have difficulty becoming pregnant or meet the definition for infertility, but for those undergoing treatment for cancer the number can be even higher. This post discusses fertility options for women with cancer. Men, you haven’t been left out, my September blog discussed your fertility options, so you haven’t been left out.

For women who are undergoing cancer treatments, experts recommend they wait at least one year after treatment ends to have a fertility evaluation. This time is needed to allow the body to recover and readjust to Continue reading

Two courageous stories of breast cancer and survival

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women, except for skin cancers. The chance of developing invasive breast cancer at some time in a woman’s life is about 1 in 8 (12%). The American Cancer Society’s estimates for breast cancer in the United States for 2014 are:

  • About 232,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women.
  • About 62,570 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) will be diagnosed (CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer).
  • About 40,000 women will die from breast cancer.

Our patients are our heroes

Here at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center, our corridors are filled with patients and their loved ones. Each one is a hero. Here are the stories of two of our patients:

A Shockingly Simple Way: When Flora Migyanka was diagnosed in 2012, she learned how quickly life is brought into perspective by a breast cancer diagnosis. Flora shares her story:

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Tricia Kachin’s gift of healing

Tricia Kachin was the child of a typical modern day American family, complete with a mom, dad, siblings, a step-mom and a step-dad. At the time of her Hodgkin Lymphoma diagnosis in 2010, the blended family still felt the repercussions of divorce, remarriage and the passing of her father, Ray. All the “Kachins” pulled together during Tricia’s journey with cancer and emerged strong – Kachin Strong, as Tricia described her family.

“Trish and I rekindled our friendship during her treatment. We learned through her illness to redefine ‘family’ because we were united in making her well. Unification and healing were two of her many gifts to us,” step-mom Michele Mitchell remembers.

Initially hopeful for recovery, Tricia soon learned her recovery was in doubt. She refused to accept this prognosis and for nearly four years, she was tested, scanned and biopsied. She even had her stem cells extracted at the University of Michigan in hopes of a bone marrow transplant at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

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