Is your course of radiation treatment longer than it needs to be?

patient and doctor in an exam room

Radiation oncologist Reshma Jagsi, M.D., D.Phil., consults with a patient

Mounting evidence finds that delivering higher doses of radiation per treatment is as effective in some breast cancer patients as a traditional course where smaller doses are given over a longer time period. The new method, called hypofractionation, involves about 3-4 weeks of daily radiation treatments, instead of the usual 5-week or longer course.

But several newly published studies have found that hypofractionated radiation is not widely used.

Reshma Jagsi, M.D., D.Phil., associate professor of radiation oncology at the University of Michigan, led two of these studies. Looking at a national database of patients, she and her colleagues found that hypofractionation was used in only 13.6% of Medicare patients with breast cancer. In Michigan, Jagsi’s other study found, fewer than one-third of patients who fit the criteria for offering this approach got the shorter course of treatment. Continue reading

What complementary therapies are helpful for breast cancer?

A woman standing one-legged in a yoga pose

Yoga received an A for improving depression

New guidelines released this week can help people being treated for breast cancer determine what complementary therapies help relieve side effects of treatment or improve quality of life. The evidence-based guidelines were sponsored by the Society for Integrative Oncology.

We talked to Suzanna M. Zick, N.D., M.P.H., associate professor of family medicine and environmental health sciences at the University of Michigan. Dr. Zick was part of the guidelines panel and begins a one-year term this week as president of the Society for Integrative Oncology.

mCancerPartner: Can you explain what you mean by integrative oncology? Continue reading

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

Body image matters for cancer patients

cancer patient

Patient Sherry Hansen with her daughter Allie.

Cancer treatment is hard on your body and, in some cases, changes are permanent. Sometimes cancer patients become so focused on getting rid of their cancer, they don’t bring up body image issues with their oncologists. In writing Body Image Matters, a patient story in Thrive, I learned they should.

Sherry Hansen is a breast cancer survivor, 14 years and counting. She had surgery to remove her breast, but didn’t have time to think about reconstructive surgery at the time of her diagnosis. She had a 3-year-old daughter to take care of. Sherry described to me in detail the way she felt the first time she looked in the mirror when her bandages were removed. No one had prepared her for the change in her body. No one was there when she saw it for the first time.

This should never happen to a patient and, were Sherry diagnosed at the U-M Cancer Center, perhaps her emotional response would have been different. By the time she came to U-M, depression had set in. She’s doing great now, but it was a long road to recovery. Continue reading

Maize and Blue Go Pink raises $100K+ for breast cancer research

Go Pink2The second annual Maize and Blue Go Pink event was held at the Somerset Collection on Thursday, Aug. 21. The event, in partnership with The Forbes Company, owners of the Somerset Collection, was attended by more than 200 guests and raised over $100,000 to support breast cancer research at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The evening began with a VIP reception that included a fashion-focused live auction co-emceed by WDIV Channel 4’s Ashlee Baracy and Neiman Marcus style adviser Ken Dewey.  Throughout the evening, dueling pianos greeted guests as they entered Somerset Collection’s south wing for a progressive culinary and wine experience while they shopped.

Continue reading

Is chronic breast cancer pain “all in your head?”

chronic breast cancer painmCancerPartner sat down recently with Daniel J. Clauw, M.D., a professor of medicine in the Division of Rheumatology and director of the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center, to discuss new research findings about chronic breast cancer pain.

mCancerPartner: Sometimes breast cancer patients feel their physician is suggesting that their pain is “all in their head.” What would you say to that?

Dr. Clauw: Pain is very real. It’s “all in your head” only in the sense that we’re finding many of the triggers for pain actually begin Continue reading