Learning about chemotherapy’s long-term impact

U-M study: nearly one-third of breast cancer survivors who were working when they began treatment are unemployed four years later

chemotherapy’s long-term impactA growing body of research shows that people who survive their cancer may experience lingering side effects from radiation therapy or chemotherapy’s long-term impact on their quality of life. In the case of breast cancer survivors, this can include thinking or memory problems, lymphedema, fatigue, problems with pain and more. In the latest research on this topic, a study from the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center finds that nearly one-third of breast cancer survivors who were working when they began treatment are unemployed four  years later. Women who received chemotherapy were most affected. Continue reading

Treating lymphedema after breast cancer


Lymphedema symptoms can include swelling in the hands or feet.

Katherine Konosky is making a presentation on lymphedema on Saturday, April 12 at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Breast Cancer Summit. See more details below about this free event.

As many as 10 million Americans suffer from lymphedema, which causes swelling in arms, legs or other parts of the body. It can be a frustrating and chronic long-term side effect of cancer treatment. Although it is more common than multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and breast cancer – combined – lymphedema has historically been little understood, even by health care professionals. The good news is that with improved imaging equipment, we are understanding more about the function of the lymphatic system. Continue reading

Reducing the risk of ovarian cancer with preventive oophorectomy

cervicalcancer.fwFor many people, if they have heard about genetic testing for hereditary cancer syndromes at all, most will relate to BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic testing and its relationship to hereditary breast cancer. Media also contribute to the overall knowledge; often emphasis in reporting BRCA1 and BRCA2 stories is placed on reducing breast cancer risk. However, there is another cancer risk associated with carrying a BRCA gene mutation that may not be the first to be addressed – an increased risk for ovarian cancer.
Women who carry a mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2 have a lifetime risk for breast Continue reading

New normal: A breast reconstruction patient story

A breast reconstruction surgery patient shares her story from diagnosis to DIEP flap reconstruction.“I think one of my lowest points was when I found out I was actually going to have a mastectomy,” Linda said. “That word was so scary…it was a word that you read, but to think this was going to be my journey was really frightening.”

Linda Van Howe is one of the many women being treated for breast cancer who had breast reconstruction following a mastectomy.

A new study shows that the rate of breast reconstruction for patients like Linda has gone up dramatically over time. Researchers found that 46 percent of patients received reconstruction in 1998 but that figure rose to 63 percent by 2007. Continue reading

Mammography does provide benefit, despite recent reports

Radiologist Alexis Nees and surgeon Lisa Newman consult over a mammogram

Radiologist Alexis Nees and surgeon Lisa Newman consult over a mammogram

News outlets this week reported on recently published data from a mammography screening study from Canada that was highly critical of the benefit of screening mammography.

First, it should be noted that this is not a new study. The study was conducted in the early 1980s – three decades ago – and the recent report is merely a re-review of the data.

The results of the so-called Canadian trial, first published 22 years ago, showed no benefit for screened women and as expected, the recent re-review showed the same results. The Canadian trial results are different than other randomized clinical trials, which do show benefit. When nine randomized clinical trials are combined together, including the Canadian trial, screening mammography has been shown to significantly decrease breast cancer mortality for women age 39 and older.

Continue reading

Freeing genetic data for the common good

Sharing your BRCA genetic test results can help others with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer

pondering dna.fwThe Supreme Court of the United States ruled in June 2013 that naturally occurring human DNA cannot be patented, after hearing a case centering on patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes held by Myriad Genetic Laboratories. The decision led to several new laboratories beginning to offer testing of the BRCA genes, but also highlighted a related problem with interpreting results from the testing. Freeing genetic data can help.

Why would freeing your genetic data help?

Interpretation of genetic test results is a complicated process that depends on available data and some amount of comparison with results from other patients and families. Many scientists have advocated for use of open databases where research and commercial laboratories could come together to share results.

Combining data from many sources increases the ability to understand results for individual patients. Researchers and health care providers have been contributing information about BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations to the National Center for Continue reading