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

I found a lump in my breast, what next?

breast lumpWhether it was discovered during a breast self-exam or incidentally as you were putting on your deodorant, finding a breast lump can be terrifying. Somehow it seems human nature for us to think the worst when we find a mass or lump anywhere there should not be one. Both the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society provide some peace of mind by noting that most breast lumps are not cancer. In fact, there are a whole host of more common and benign (non-cancerous) conditions that can cause lumps in the breast including collections of fluid, deposits of fat, and deposits of calcium.

But once found, do not wait, thinking the mass will go away on its own. Make sure to notify your healthcare provider. If you are having any difficulty moving your arms or have uncontrolled pain or redness/swelling in the breast, you should contact your care Continue reading

Conquering cancer through innovation and collaboration: the year in review

new-year2014 was another year of discovery and innovation at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center as we work toward our goal of conquering cancer. Here are summaries of select clinical, laboratory and population collaborations by Cancer Center members that will benefit cancer patients everywhere:

  • March 25, 2014: 25% of breast cancer survivors report financial decline due to treatment, and the financial impact varied greatly by race. “As oncologists, we are proud of the advances in our ability to cure an increasing proportion of patients diagnosed with breast cancer. But as treatments improve, we must ensure that we do not leave these patients in financial ruin because of our efforts,” says study author Reshma Jagsi, M.D., D.Phil. In a second study, Dr. Jagsi found
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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