Important News Articles for Breast Cancer Patients

PJ Hamel Health Guide
  • Three bits of news appeared online recently that will make any breast cancer survivor sit up and take notice… while no doubt inducing in the rest of the world a case of terminal boredom. There’s something about having had breast cancer that makes any news on the subject absolutely riveting–be it the driest scientific account of gene therapy, or the most general “prevent breast cancer by eating more vegetables” broadcast. Maybe, since we’ve faced our own mortality, we grasp at straws. Or maybe we just keep reading these articles hoping that one of them is the very first step towards the REAL cure. But whatever the reason, here are three “short-bites” to chew on.
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    Predicting How Effective Post-Treatment Drugs Will Be:
    Researchers at the University of Cincinnati have identified a biomarker that may be able to predict when a woman with estrogen-receptive breast cancer (which includes two-thirds of all women with breast cancer) won’t respond favorably to classic ER hormone therapy: tamoxifen and the family of AI drugs (Arimidex, Femara, et. al.) While most women taking these drugs see a reduction in their risk of recurrence, in some women they’re ultimately ineffective.

    What if women who won’t respond to the drugs could be identified prior to taking them? Like, way before taking them, when they’re first diagnosed? Their treatment could be changed in order to reach a more effective outcome–e.g., mastectomy instead of lumpectomy, or chemo when perhaps none was being considered. More research is needed before this biomarker is used in daily patient care, but it’s a start.

    Proton Beam Therapy: Reducing Radiation from Six Weeks to Four Days:
    Now, THAT would be a plus, especially for those of us who spend five days a week for six weeks driving up to four hours a day to receive ten minutes of treatment.  

    The entire course of treatment for an emerging technology, proton beam therapy, is just eight doses: twice a day for four days. In addition, the therapy is able to pinpoint much more accurately the area to treat, meaning less of your healthy tissue is irradiated. A study led by two Massachusetts General Hospital radiation oncologists, Dr. Alphonse Taghian and Dr. Kevin Kozak, released in February in the International Journal for Radiation Oncology-Biology-Physics, showed promising results with Stage 1 breast cancer patients. While it was a small study, Kozak noted, “We hope our team and others will build on these results to ensure breast cancer patients will maximally benefit from the recent, and dramatic, technological advances in our field.”

    Vitamin D and Breast Cancer Prevention: An article published in late January found an association between elevated vitamin D levels and a reduced risk of breast cancer. Based on two separate studies, the article noted that a daily intake of 2000 IU of vitamin D, plus ten to fifteen minutes of moderate sunlight (but without tanning or burning of the skin), could prevent up to half of all breast cancers. Lead author Dr. Cedric Garland, of the University of California at San Diego, while noting that additional research is needed, said that “We shouldn’t hold up implementation” of raising vitamin D levels in dietary recommendations. “Inadequate… vitamin D is associated with high incidence and mortality rates of breast cancer.”

  • So, what’s your takeaway here? Drink your milk. Take your calcium with its vitamin D supplement. Please keep in mind that the study emphasizes that the ten to fifteen minutes of sun exposure should not lead to tanning or burning, so this is not an excuse to sit out in the sun -- with or without sunscreen.  In fact, unless you are bedridden, most people get that amount of sun exposure without even trying. 
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Published On: March 11, 2007