|CANCER & TREATMENTS FOR CANCER CENTER PATIENTS PREVENTION & RISK ASSESSMENT CLINICAL TRIALS & RESEARCH LIVING WITH CANCER|
Breast Cancer Awareness Month story ideasPlease Note: The articles listed in the Cancer Center's News Archive are here for historical purposes. The information and links may no longer be up-to-date.
Ann Arbor - This year, an estimated 182,460 women will hear their doctors say, "You have breast cancer." More than 40,000 women will die from the disease.
As October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month, here are some of the hot topics in breast cancer research and patient care from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center:
When treatment goes too far
Recent research has shown that more women are choosing to have their healthy breast removed after being diagnosed with breast cancer. The number of double mastectomies from 1998 to 2003 more than doubled, according to one study.
But this additional surgery has little impact on long-term survival or whether the cancer will recur, says Lisa Newman, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Breast Care Clinic at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center.
"Women are choosing to have more radical surgery than is necessary because of fear that their cancer will come back. Bilateral (double) mastectomy will decrease the possible need for future breast surgery, but it has little or no impact on the overall survival of a woman who has already been diagnosed with a single breast cancer," Newman says.
For women who test positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations - such as actress Christina Applegate - opting for a double mastectomy may make sense. The risk of developing breast cancer in the other breast is 30 percent. But women without the BRCA mutation do not face a higher risk of breast cancer in the unaffected breast.
"Women have the opportunity to choose the treatment that feels right for them. But over-treating breast cancer by removing a healthy breast is unnecessary," Newman says.
New Web site supports breast cancer program at UMCCC
Often, after experiencing breast cancer, women and their families and friends feel the need to do something, to make a difference. But how?
The U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center has developed a new Web site that helps answer that question. Throughout October, the Cancer Center will host an online fund-raising initiative called Connect for Hope to benefit breast cancer research and patient care at the center.
Individuals who register can create a fund-raising site with personal photos and individual messages of hope. Participants set their personal fund-raising goal - as little or as much as they want - then e-mail family and friends urging them to donate to the campaign. All money raised supports the U-M Breast Oncology Program, which aims to improve understanding of how breast cancer develops and to discover new and better treatments for this disease.
"By reaching out and connecting with family, friends and colleagues, you can give hope to breast cancer patients and their families," says Kathy Valley, manager of the annual giving program at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center. "We hope this campaign will become a way to empower our survivors and their families to be part of the fight."
The site is at connectforhope.kintera.org.
Breast cancer remains threat for older women
Despite recent examples of young and middle-aged celebrities being diagnosed with breast cancer, more than half of breast cancers occur in women over age 65. That's why experts at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center recommend women continue to receive yearly breast screenings through their 70s.
"Women don't seem to take the risk of breast cancer as they get older seriously. A lot of women seem to think of it as a middle-aged disease, and as they get older, they anticipate that if they were going to get breast cancer, they would have already had it. Therefore, they aren't as careful about getting screened," says Kathleen Diehl, M.D., assistant professor of surgery at the U-M Medical School.
The risk of breast cancer increases with age, and does not drop off until after age 84. More than half of breast cancers are diagnosed in women age 65 or older, and as many as 45 percent are diagnosed after age 70.
Advocating for breast cancer research
Every month, a group of women meet in the research area of the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center. They don't conduct research. They're not scientists. They're survivors. And they're advocates.
The U-M Breast Cancer Advocacy Advisory Committee works to make breast cancer research a bigger part of the treatment picture. The group was formed four years ago to bring patients and researchers together to develop better study protocols and promote awareness about clinical trials.
The survivor-advocates are trained in research advocacy, and learning how to read and evaluate grant proposals and study protocols. Breast cancer researchers present their studies in planning stages to the group to get feedback. The group has also played a key role in developing a new research program in breast cancer survivorship.
"It's very empowering when you partner with your doctor. But it's also empowering when you partner with researchers," says committee co-chair Maria Lyzen, a breast cancer survivor.
Researchers say that the group's input has helped improve the design of clinical trials, ensuring that what the researchers are asking of their patients is reasonable.
"We don't think people should be passive. They should be educated and knowledgeable," says committee co-chair Ruth Freedman, a breast cancer survivor.
For a complete list of U-M breast cancer experts, go to our Locate the Expert page.
Patients seeking information about breast cancer can call the U-M Cancer AnswerLine™ at 800-865-1125 or visit breast cancer information page.
Written by Nicole Fawcett