Listening to her dad never felt so good: a metaplastic breast cancer survivor’s story

Renee Javonsky with her parents and kids.

Renee Javonsky with her parents and kids.

Renee Janovsky never expected her mammogram to reveal breast cancer. After all, she was simply establishing a baseline at age 40. Instead, in September 2006, following an initial biopsy and tumor review, the diagnosis revealed triple negative metaplastic breast cancer, stage 1 with a high grade – a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer. She was referred to the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center by her father, Adrian Kramer. He was treated there previously and he insisted that she be treated at U-M.

“At the time, my children were two and four years old, so I had way more life ahead of me. I listened to my dad and went to Ann Arbor,” says Renee.

Lisa Newman, M.D., M.P.H., director of the U-M Breast Care Center, met with Renee, her husband and parents. Renee was immediately put at ease with her knowledge and manner of presenting information. Ten days later, Renee had a lumpectomy.

“Dr. Newman explained that because little was known about tumors that were both triple negative and metaplastic, there was no defined treatment protocol. She recommended Continue reading

When breast cancer treatment leads to breast cancer pain

breast cancer painmCancerPartner sat down recently with Norah Lynn Henry, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of internal medicine and a breast cancer specialist, to discuss breast cancer pain from treatment and how researchers are working on this pervasive problem.

mCancerPartner: Many breast cancer survivors are relieved to have moved past their surgery, chemotherapy and hormone treatments but now have the burden of pain from the treatment. What causes this pain?

Dr. Henry: Truthfully, as doctors and researchers we are not yet entirely certain, but we’re trying to find out. We know that peripheral nerve damage is common with chemotherapy and can cause numbness, tingling and pain. Chemotherapy may also affect the nerves in the brain and spinal column as well. Then there is the pain related to aromatase inhibitors (AIs), an anti-hormone treatment given to postmenopausal women.

mCancerPartner: What advice would you give to breast cancer survivors who are having pain as the result of their breast cancer treatments? Continue reading

Tips for being a smart health care consumer

health care consumerHow often have you heard someone say, or maybe even said yourself, “I’m not sure what the doctor said”? If you or a loved one are diagnosed with cancer or another life-altering disease, you have the right to understand what’s being said to you regarding health and treatment options. Being a smart health care consumer who uses effective communication starts with you, the patient, when you take an active role in your health care. There are many things you can do to make the most of your health care appointments.

Before your health care visit:

Continue reading

Extra medications? Donate your unused drugs!

donate your unused drugsOften cancer patients and family members ask me where they can donate medications that are no longer needed. With a cancer diagnosis, sometimes an assortment of drugs can be collected. What can you do with those unused pills, capsules and patches? The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center does not accept unused drug donations, but we can offer you resources to help donate your unused drugs or other medications.

Local

  • Pharmacy Solutions – Accepts in-date and sealed medications except narcotics and other scheduled medications. Phone: 734-821-8000
  • Hope Medical Clinic, Ypsilanti – Accepts in-date and sealed medications except narcotics and other scheduled medications. Phone: 734-484-2989

Continue reading

Making new memories through photography

New program offers portrait photography to Cancer Center patients

photography

Joe Bushkuhl

Photographs contain memories and provide opportunities to tell our stories and connect to our feelings. For cancer patients and cancer survivors, these feelings can become part of the healing process. A new photography program at the Cancer Center, “Life Images of Today and Tomorrow,” provides a unique opportunity for patients and families to have portraits taken by a professional photographer and to make new memories in the process.

“Life Images of Today and Tomorrow” is a partnership with the Washtenaw Community College Photography Program that is offered at no cost to patients and their families. Professors and students from WCC provide portrait services in a studio at the Cancer Center. At session’s end, patients receive flash drives for printing, along with informative tools about the meaning of photographs and suggestions for photography creations. The Cancer Center Art Therapy program hosts periodic follow-up workshops for those interested in creating art with the images and sharing stories in a supportive environment.

Joe’s story

Continue reading

Understanding chronic symptoms like pain in breast cancer survivors

breast cancer survivorsThe University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center is the setting for numerous studies to improve quality of life for breast cancer survivors who experience treatment-related conditions like pain, fatigue, memory problems and sleep disturbances. In coming months, this blog will include posts that provide a look into these efforts. The following introduction to this series is adapted from an invited commentary we published in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, June 2012, Volume 133, Issue 2, pp 413-416:

Most long-term breast cancer survivors recover fully from treatment. However, a significant number experience chronic symptoms, including pain and fatigue, which negatively impact quality of life. The causes of these symptoms in patients who otherwise remain free from disease recurrence is unclear, especially since all patients typically undergo similar procedures or courses of therapy. So far, clinicians are unable to accurately predict which patients will experience significant or even disabling long-term toxicity.

It may be that patient characteristics unrelated to breast cancer Continue reading