breast cancer


BRA day event a success, more work to do for reconstruction awareness

A special thanks to everyone who attended the Seattle Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day Soiree on Oct 17, and the many donors and participants who made it possible. I especially want to thank the many breast cancer survivors who were there. We have heard so many compliments, and I think our intent to raise awareness about a serious issue while celebrating the preciousness of life and beauty was a success.


Immediate breast reconstruction making a comeback

A patient I saw few months ago in consultation for breast reconstruction was an unfortunate example of a missed opportunity. Her surgeon, one of the more enlightened ones, had done a skin-sparing mastectomy, so the reconstruction would be a lot easier since the skin would not have to be replaced with tissue expansion. Unfortunately, the plastic surgeon she usually works with was unwilling to do an immediate reconstruction (at the same time as the mastectomy) so the skin had contracted and scarred.


Breast cancer in women with implants: diagnosis and treatment

With breast augmentation sitting as the number one cosmetic surgery in the U.S. and breast cancer affecting as many as one in 8 women, the numbers of women with implants who develop cancer can be expected to increase dramatically in coming years. It is important to point out up front that studies have found no link between breast implants and breast cancer; what we are talking about here is what is expected by coincidence. Rather, the important considerations relate to diagnosis and treatment.


New options offer hope to prevent burns from breast cancer radiation treatment

   Though radiation treatment as an alternative to mastectomy is a popular choice, a high percentage –up to 80% or more – will experience some degree of skin burns, known as radiodermatitis. (This figure includes treatments for recurrent cancer as well.) According to studies, around 10% of women will experience what are known as “grade 3 lesions” which are open sores that are slow to heal.


Does DCIS breast cancer need radiation treatment?

   Credit for bringing this topic to mind goes to Nancy F. Smith at More Magazine for her article A Breast Cancer You May Not Need to Treat in the August 2011 issue. Because DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) is a noninvasive type of cancer, it barely even qualifies as cancer. The aberrant cells are confined to the milk ducts in the breast tissue, and because of its minimal potential for invasiveness it is called stage 0 on the breast cancer scale.


Breast reconstruction: new support for the immediate approach

Techniques for breast reconstruction after mastectomy have dramatically changed in the past decade, and two recent studies support the idea of immediate reconstruction, that is under the same anesthesia as the mastectomy. The benefits of this are obvious, but in the past it has been problematic and not as widely used as it should be.


Combination therapy for noninvasive breast cancer confirmed but more options available now

Because the vast majority of women with DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma in Situ) have excellent odds of long-term survival, deciding on the best course of treatment can be a bit of a conundrum.


When radiation treatment for breast cancer is not breast-conserving therapy

Breast cancer awareness month brings a broad focus of attention to diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer, but those undergoing treatment and their loved ones see the little things. Here I want to raise some issues about radiation treatment, a central component of what is called “breast-conserving” therapy. Often held up as a desirable alternative to mastectomy and reconstruction, it’s no walk in the park and the conserved breast is not the same one you started out with.


Why don’t American doctors use the Canadian protocol for breast cancer radiation?

Almost exactly 2 years ago at the annual meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiation and Oncology Meeting in Boston, the results of shortened course of radiation treatments for early stage breast cancer were presented. The study, headed by Dr. Timothy Whelan of the National Cancer Institute of Canada and the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Alliance, found that equivalent results could be obtained with a dramatically shorter course of treatment, in some cases reducing the regimen from 6 weeks to 3.


New research supports prophylactic mastectomy for women with BRCA

One thing for sure about breast cancer awareness month is that women with the breast cancer gene, BRCA, are acutely aware and don’t need reminding. What they do need, however, is information and guidance on what to do. The BRCA gene is a genetic mutation that predisposes women to developing breast cancer, and the type of cancer tends to be more aggressive. If you have a strong family history of breast cancer and/or ovarian cancer, getting tested is a good idea. But once you know you have it, difficult choices loom.

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