Medical assistant’s cancer opens a door

Now a dedicated walker, Mimi Schork chooses her menu wisely

Mimi Schork (center) with her husband Matt and coworker Tiffiney Dixon

Mimi Schork (center) with her husband Matt and coworker Tiffiney Dixon.

A phone call last winter changed Mimi Schork’s life. After working as a medical assistant at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center for 12 years, with the last four years in the Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Mimi learned that she had cancer. The call confirmed a positive biopsy of a suspicious lump found during her annual mammogram. Mimi was now a patient herself, with early stage HER-2 positive breast cancer.

“My mind went blank. Then I thought of my lifestyle. I’ve smoked since I was 16, don’t exercise and pretty much eat and drink whatever I want at any time of the day or night. Did these habits contribute to my cancer?” Mimi asked. Continue reading

Study: Gene test validates NCCN guidelines on chemo for breast cancer

Some early stage patients can skip chemo

chemo for breast cancer
mCancerPartner interviewed Dan Hayes, M.D., clinical director of the Cancer Center’s breast oncology program. In late September 2015, investigators – including Dr. Hayes – showed that many women with early stage breast cancer can skip chemotherapy with good results, based on a gene test assessing which tumors were more likely to respond to chemotherapy. This study validates clinical recommendations in place since 2007 made by the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. Dr. Hayes served on both recommendation task forces and provided the following remarks on the origin of these recommendations.

mCancerPartner: How has the standard of care for women with the most common type of breast cancer (early stage, hormone positive, HER2 negative, not spread to lymph nodes) evolved over the years? Continue reading

Is our treatment of DCIS psychologic rather than oncologic?

There is a lot about DCIS, who to treat and when, that we just do not know

DCISEditor’s note: A paper by Steven A. Narod, et al, that studied mortality among women with the breast condition ductal carcinoma in situ or DCIS was published in the Aug. 20 issue of JAMA Oncology. In its news report about the study, the New York Times suggested that the study raised doubt about the need for surgery for this condition, which for many is thought to be a precursor to cancer. In fact, the study identified several small groups of women in which DCIS definitely needs treatment because the lesions are more aggressive and therefore carry a greater risk of death. These seemingly opposite views have led to confusion among patients and doctors about treatment for DCIS. In this blog post, Michael Sabel, M.D., chief of surgical oncology at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center, discusses the study and its implications. Continue reading

Pathology 101: How a pathology report explains cancer

Pathology reports on suspected cancer say if a patient has a malignancy, type of cancer and if it has spread

mammary carcinoma

In a pathology report, the diagnosis section provides the location of the tumor, its type and grade, and size.


Chances are, the treatment plan for your cancer was determined by the results on a pathology report. Before your diagnosis, you probably had a biopsy or surgery where a doctor removed cells or tissue for study under a microscope. Specialists called pathologists spend their days viewing these samples, understanding how they look compared to normal cells and preparing reports which summarize the findings on each biopsy for oncologists and surgeons.

We spoke with Cancer Center pathologist, Celina Kleer, M.D., director of the Breast Pathology Division in the Department of Pathology,to find out the information contained in a report and how your oncologist uses it to decide the best course of treatment for your cancer. Continue reading

How genetic testing, precision medicine impact breast cancer treatment choices

Doctor holding X-ray film and woman in pink braAs cancer treatment focuses more and more on precision medicine and as genetic testing becomes more commonly available, what does it mean for patients as they consider their treatment options?

In a commentary published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers suggest that we must improve how genetic information is used to make breast cancer treatment decisions. The paper is authored by Steven Katz, M.D., M.P.H., Monica Morrow, M.D., and Allison Kurian, M.D., from the Cancer Surveillance and Outcomes Research Team, a multidisciplinary group of investigators at the forefront of understanding how women make decisions about breast cancer treatment. mCancerPartner talked with Dr. Katz about these issues. Continue reading

Casting call for CDC’s Bring Your Brave

Sharing your breast cancer story will empower and educate young women

Bring Your BraveAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, about 11% of new breast cancer cases in the United States are among women under the age of 45. Many young women at risk may not realize it.

Using what’s known in the theatrical world as a casting call, the CDC is looking for women of any age who meet certain criteria and are willing to share their story publicly. The resulting campaign, Bring Your Brave, will use personal stories to help empower and educate young women about breast cancer’s risks. The casting call will close on May 15, 2015. Continue reading