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

Triple negative breast cancer and the quest for targeted therapies

TNBC.fwTriple negative breast cancer tends to be an aggressive form of breast cancer that disproportionately affects African American women. Among women with breast cancer, the triple negative subtype represents about 15% of diagnoses in white American women and is twice as common in African-American breast cancer patients. In Africa, this form of breast cancer represents more than half of all cases diagnosed.

We call this subtype triple negative because it doesn’t have, or is negative for, all three specific tumor markers currently used to decide treatment: Continue reading

The Impact of Cancer on Minorities

Although cancer deaths have declined for both whites and African-Americans living in the United States, African-Americans continue to suffer the greatest burden for each of the most common types of cancer.

April is National Minority Health Month, so we thought that this would be a great time to discuss the impact of cancer on minorities in the United States and what the University of Michigan is doing to address this problem of minorities and cancer health disparities.

Minorities and Cancer Disparities

According to the National Cancer Institute, “cancer health disparities” are defined as “differences in the incidence, prevalence, mortality, and burden of cancer and related adverse health conditions that exist among specific population groups in the United States.”

Complex and interrelated factors contribute to the observed disparities in cancer incidence and death among racial, ethnic and underserved groups. The most obvious factors are associated with a lack of health care coverage and low socioeconomic status. Although cancer deaths have declined for both whites and African-Americans living in the United States, African-Americans continue to suffer the greatest burden for each of the most common types of cancer.

Other examples of the impact of cancer on minorities include:

  • African-American males have the highest incidence and mortality rates for colon, prostate and lung cancers.
  • Cervical cancer incidence is the highest among Hispanic/Latina women when compared to all other ethnic groups.
  • Liver cancer, usually caused by exposure to the hepatitis B virus, disproportionately affects Asian-Americans.
  • American Indians and Alaska Natives continue to have the poorest survival from “all cancers combined” than any other racial group.
  • Poor people are at greater risk of being diagnosed and treated for cancer at late stages of disease.


Research studies, including many performed by University of Michigan investigators such as Lisa Newman, Arden Morris, Christopher Sonnenday and Ken Resnicow, continue to document persistent and significant disparities in access to health care and disease outcomes. Often times, researchers are looking into the impact of factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, geography and socioeconomic status on cancer risk, screening or outcomes. The Cancer Center has a health disparities work group that meets quarterly to collaborate, present their work and share research findings.

Learn more about cancer and disparities among minorities

Other areas of interest include:

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