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Kai wrote on Apr 19th 2001, 06:54:05 about
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Sometimes in lonely nights I wonder why there aren't more starsigns named after deadly illnesses, but then after I while the fact occurs to me, that nobody died of cancer when they named them back then. Nobody was old enough in those days.
I'd still love to hear women approach each other, asking for their signs. »I'm multiple sklerosis and my friend is alzheimers« »Oh, that's like so terrible, you just don't match«.
I tend to think, it would be a better world. And I'm not even a Cancer.
radiologist wrote on Oct 15th 2001, 06:24:29 about
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Radiation therapy involves beaming x-rays at the site of the tumor to kill the
growing cancer cells. X-rays may sterilize the tissue around the tumor site and
possibly under the arm and keep the cancer from spreading or returning.
Radiation is always given after breast conservation surgery (lumpectomy or a
partial/segmental mastectomy). It may also be given after a full mastectomy,
especially to women with large tumors or those with evidence of tumor cells at
the edge of the tissue that is removed. Radiation is used in both early and
advanced stage cancer, as well as in cancer that recurs in the chest wall after
mastectomy. Radiation is also used to shrink an especially large tumor prior to
surgery or to slow the growth of inoperable tumors.
There are two types of radiation. The doctor may beam a concentrated booster
dose at the original tumor site or implant radioactive materials within the breast.
Some women undergoing radiation develop a skin reaction similar to a sunburn
and complain of itchy or peeling skin. However, the skin usually regains its normal
appearance as soon as treatment ends. Radiation therapy may also cause a
temporary decrease in the bloods disease-fighting white cells and increase the
risk of developing an infection.
In the past few years, physicians have recognized that adjuvant (additional)
treatment may improve the survival rate in early-stage breast cancer.
Since there is no way to be sure who is likely to have a recurrence, the National
Cancer Institute now strongly recommends follow-up treatment with drugs
(chemotherapy) or hormones to improve the odds of beating breast cancer.
Doctors regard this »extra treatment« as an insurance policy, hopefully ridding the
system of any hidden cancer that may remain and preventing or at least delaying
any return of the disease.
After surgery for early-stage breast cancer, most doctors now prescribe a
combination of drugs to destroy any remaining cancer cells. Some drugs may be
swallowed or injected into a muscle. Others are injected into a vein. These
anticancer »cocktails« are given in cycles, with periods of treatment alternating
with »off therapy,« or recovery, times. The total course of chemotherapy lasts 3 to
6 months, depending on the regimen.
Radiation targets a specific part of the body. Chemotherapy, on the other hand, is
a systemic treatment: The drugs reach every part of body. The strategy is to
attack any remaining cancer cells no matter where the drugs are found.
The problem with this strategy is that the drugs are very strong. They attack many
types of cells and, as a result, can produce debilitating side effects such as
nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and hair loss. Because they can damage healthy cells,
the body is less able to fight infections and other diseases.
Despite the drawbacks, chemotherapy works. Anticancer drug treatment has
been shown to increase the chance of reaching the 10-year survival mark by 34
percent in women with early-stage disease who underwent either a modified
radical or a total mastectomy.
The even better news is that some of the newer drugs cause fewer and less
severe side effects. Some women are lucky and dont have any side effects at all.
Administering certain drugs before chemotherapy can help reduce nausea and
vomiting, too. Regular laboratory tests can alert the doctor to any damaging
effects on the bodys ability to fight infection and other diseases.
Bone Marrow Transplantation
For some cancers, very high doses of drugs are more effective than standard
doses. However, such massive doses also kill the bone marrow, which produces
blood cells. To enable use of such doses, they are followed by »rescue«
maneuvers such as bone marrow transplantation (BMT) or transplantation of
blood stem cells (stem cell support).
BMT is a dangerous and taxing procedure. About 5 percent of those who
undergo it die, even in centers experienced in its use. The procedure used to be
restricted to women whose disease had spread beyond the breast area. More
recently, however, it has been performed in women with very high-risk primary
breast cancer that has spread to multiple lymph nodes but not to other organs. At
least half of women with breast cancer who undergo BMT now fall into this latter
group. However, there is little evidence that high-dose chemotherapy plus BMT
actually improves their chances of survival. Out of five studies done to date, only
one has been positive.
Because the evidence is conflicting at this point, the American Society of Clinical
Oncology has avoided making a recommendation about the use of high-dose
chemotherapy in breast cancer. (This group is the professional organization of
physicians who specialize in treating people with cancer.)
Because some breast cancers seem to be nourished by the female hormone
estrogen (or sometimes progesterone), doctors often prescribe therapy that
blocks or eliminates a womans natural supply of these hormones. To confirm the
value of this therapy, the tissue removed during breast biopsy is now routinely
tested for the presence of estrogen »receptors.« If the receptors are found, the
tumor is considered a suitable candidate for hormonal therapy. Women whose
cancers contain these receptors have a better overall prognosis.
Anti-estrogen therapy usually involves use of hormone blockers, though in some
relatively rare cases, the ovaries (which make the female hormones) are removed
surgically. Tamoxifen (Nolvadex), the most widely used hormone blocker, has
proved to be very effective. It works by attaching itself to the estrogen receptors
and blocking the estrogen from doing its cancer-promoting damage. The drug is
taken twice a day for up to five years.
Tamoxifen offers a number of benefits. It may suppress recurrence of cancer in
the same breast and prevent breast cancer in the other breast. In postmenopausal
women, it may also help maintain bone density and reduce the risk of heart
disease. On the other hand, it may increase risk of endometrial cancer, and can
cause bone loss among premenopausal women. Tamoxifen has also been linked
to blood clots in the major veins and the lungs.
Raloxifene (Evista), another anti-estrogen agent that is prescribed to prevent
osteoporosis, is being studied for use in treating breast cancer or suppressing its
recurrence. It appears to have a significant preventive effect, though it has not yet
been approved for this purpose. For more information on the role of both
raloxifene and tamoxifen in preventing breast cancer from ever occurring, see
chapter 37, »Your Best Insurance Against Breast Cancer.«
Megestrol acetate (Megace), another hormonal treatment, is usually used in
women with advanced breast cancers that do not respond to tamoxifen. The
doctor may also try treating advanced breast cancer with progestins or
androgens, if other hormonal therapies do not work.
Monoclonal Antibody Therapy
In September 1998, the FDA approved the first genetically engineered antibody
therapy for advanced breast cancer. The agent, called trastuzumab or Herceptin,
is used for cancers that produce too much of a certain protein (called the
HER-2/nue). When trastuzumab combines with this protein, the cell is unable to
divide and eventually dies. About 25 percent to 30 percent of patients with
metastatic breast cancer have tumor cells that express too much of this protein.
For these women, trastuzumab provides improved response to treatment when
given with other, standard forms of chemotherapy.
radiologist wrote on Oct 15th 2001, 06:17:16 about
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All breast cancer results from changes in genes, but not all changes in the genes
are inherited. In fact, only about 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers are thought to
be caused by inheritance. Scientists have identified some of the genetic
alterations, or mutations, that are responsible. In particular, women with
mutations in genes called BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 (for breast cancer 1 or 2) are in
greater danger of breast cancer. Statistics indicate that about 50 to 60 percent of
women with a mutation in either gene will develop breast cancer by the age of 70.
These mutations also increase a womans risk of ovarian cancer, and possibly of
colon cancer. And they tend to promote development of breast cancer at a
younger than average age.
Women with an abnormal AT (ataxia telangiectasia) gene are also thought to be
at increased risk of breast cancer. Likewise, abnormalities in the p53 tumor
suppressor gene can increase a womans risk. Theres also some evidence that
women of Ashkenazi Jewish descent may be at higher risk of carrying a genetic
mutation associated with breast cancer.
Its important to remember that a case of breast cancer in your family does not
automatically mean that you carry a gene associated with the disease. After all,
breast cancer is relatively common in women without a genetic mutation. A family
history of both breast and ovarian cancer increases the likelihood that you carry
such a mutation, but does not guarantee it.
You can find out whether you have the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 mutation by getting
a blood test. If you have a family history of breast cancer, theres good reason to
be tested, but there are pluses and minuses to knowing for sure. Confirmation of
the abnormality can alert you to the need for lifestyle changes you might otherwise
have dismissed. It can also weigh heavily in the decision to undergo drug therapy
or a mastectomy to reduce the risk of breast cancer (see chapter 37 for more
details). On the other hand, a positive reading could result in loss of health
insurance, inability to obtain insurance, or an increase in premiums to an
radiologist wrote on Oct 15th 2001, 06:21:41 about
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For nearly 80 percent of women with breast cancer, the discovery of a mass or
lump in the breast is the first sign that something is amiss. Fortunately, 8 out of
every 10 lumps discovered and biopsied turn out to be noncancerous, but if you
do find a suspicious lump, its still best to call your doctor right away.
Most women discover breast lumps themselves, either by accident or while
performing a monthly self-examination. Because early detection is crucial for a
cure, you need to learn the right way to examine your breasts each month. Once you know the feel of a »normal« breast, youll quickly
recognize any little change.
If you do find a lump, your breast may be tender, or it may feel normal. There
could be some discomfort or a »pulling sensation.« Cysts, which are benign, tend
to move freely within the breast, so when a lump appears to be immobile, or the
skin is dimpled or puckered, doctors tend to suspect that the growth is malignant.
However, this is not a certainty.
A discharge from the nipple is another common sign of a potential problem. The
discharge may be clear, bloody, or colored. It is important to understand that a
discharge can be perfectly normal in women who are not breastfeeding. In this
case, a small amount of discharge usually comes out of several openings in both
A spontaneous discharge that occurs without squeezing the breast is a far greater
cause for concern. A discharge coming from the same general location in one
breast may well indicate the presence of an underlying mass. Although a bloody
discharge occasionally may occur during pregnancy, it can also be a significant
warning sign of cancer. The older the woman, the greater the possibility that the
discharge is caused by cancer. The odds are even higher if she also has a lump.
Other signs of cancer include a change in the shape or size of the breast or
swelling of the skin that covers it. The breast tissue may feel thicker, even though
there is no lump. There may be pain or redness of the skin. The nipple may be
sore or retract inside the breast. You should have a skin-doctor examine any sores on
the nipples or breast that do not clear up after two weeks of treatment with a
prescribed cream or lotion. Its also important to tell a doctor about scaly skin on
the nipple, skin dimpling, and any change in the veins in the breast. In most cases,
the doctor will need to take a sample for microscopic examination (a biopsy) to
check for cancer.
As breast cancer progresses, signs and symptoms become unmistakable,
including skin ulcers and extensive swelling and redness of the breast and swelling
of the arm. The nipple may retract into the breast, and the breast may retract into
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