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'breast cancer' posts

Bilateral Mastectomies: a patient’s personal decision

Last week the Seattle Times reported that women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer in one breast are choosing to have bilateral mastectomies to reduce their chances of getting cancer again, but recent research shows that that there is no survival benefit, even in younger women. Researchers at Stanford and the Cancer Prevention Institute of California evaluated the outcomes of over 190,000 women from the California Cancer registry who were diagnosed with breast cancer in one breast between 1998 and 2011. The rate of bilateral mastectomies rose from 2% to 12.3% over the study period, yet there was no survival benefit to bilateral mastectomies versus lumpectomy and radiation.

To those of us who work in the field, this data comes as no surprise; the trend of bilateral mastectomies is a known phenomenon. More than 10 years ago, I remember the chatter among surgeons at national meetings asking if others noticed that more and more, younger women were coming in asking for bilateral mastectomies. Back in 2007, Dr. Todd Tuttle authored a study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology that found that the rate of contralateral prophylactic mastectomy was on the rise, from just under 2% in 1998 to 5% in 2003. This week’s study only validates that this upward trend shows no sign of leveling off.

Why do patients choose bilateral mastectomies?

Many women ....

PALB2 Gene Mutation & Breast Cancer: What it Means For You

PALB2 is a gene that was first linked to hereditary breast cancer risk back in 2007. Today’s Seattle Times reports on a recent study about PALB2 that was just published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study, the largest to date, detailed the breast cancer risks faced by  women – and to a lesser extent, men – who carry a mutation in their PALB2 gene. The breast cancer risks were several times greater than the ~12% risk faced by all women, and varied with the woman’s age and family history. Currently, there is no consistent evidence to suggest  that men or women who carry a single PALB2 gene mutation are at greater risks of developing ovarian or other cancers.
 
PALB2 genetic testing can provide very important information that can help women and their families better understand and reduce their risks of developing breast cancer. However, even among women with a very strong personal or family history of breast cancer, very few will test positive. Studies suggest that only about 1-3% of high risk women  will carry a PALB2 mutation. In my personal experience, I have tested about 300 high risk women for PALB2 mutations, and ...

Reducing visits to the operating room for breast cancer patients

Swedish Cancer Institute has changed the way early stage breast cancer patients are cared for by adopting new surgical margin guidelines.  These guidelines will reduce the need for taking women back to the operating room if cancer cells are found at or near the specimen edge, also known as the margin. Following extensive review of the data, this new guideline was established by breast experts from the Society of Surgical Oncology and the American Society of Radiation Oncology and has been endorsed by the American Society of Breast Surgeons and the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
 
Many women with early stage invasive breast cancer opt for breast conserving surgery, known as lumpectomy or partial mastectomy. For 20-25% of these patients, a second surgery or re-excision was performed because the margin was not considered adequate based on previous practice guidelines. The latest peer reviewed evidence shows disease control is excellent when surgery is combined with whole breast radiation with or without hormonal therapy and/or chemotherapy, regardless of the margin width.
 
The Swedish Cancer Institute’s multidisciplinary breast cancer team reviewed and approved these guidelines for our program. We believe by reducing the need ...

Summer 2014 Cancer Community Walks & Runs

Each year, the Swedish Cancer Institute (SCI) partners with local and national organizations in an effort to help spread awareness of cancer, associated treatments, and resources available in our communities.
 
Summer 2014 is no different. We’ve signed on to take part in more events than ever before—and we want you to join us! As an active patient, survivor, family member, friend or advocate, your voice and participation matter.
 
American Cancer Society Relay for Life
These overnight community fundraising walks help raise money to fund cancer research, education, and support services like Hope Lodge®, Road to Recovery®, Look Good, Feel Better®, and Reach to Recovery®, all American Cancer Society-run programs. The Swedish Cancer Institute patients gain access to these programs throughout the Swedish network. There are several Relay for Life events going on in the Puget Sound. The Swedish Cancer Institute is taking part in:

Talking to kids about cancer

What do I tell my kids?” 

This is often the first question I’m asked by a parent with a new cancer diagnosis.  One of the most important things for parents to remember is that they know their children better than anyone else and they love them more than anyone…they can trust themselves to do this well.
 
Beyond that general reassurance, however, there are some practical tips for talking with children about a cancer diagnosis. 
 
Prepare for the conversation 
 
Think about your goals for the conversation.  What does your child need to know?  How you can help your child understand what’s going on?  How do you want your child to feel after the talk?  Who should tell your child you have cancer and can the person talking to your child stay relatively calm?
 
When and where should I have this conversation?  You don’t have to wait until you have all the answers.  Be prepared to ...

Style '14 Fashion Show Benefit

Northwest Hope & Healing, a non-profit organization supporting women battling breast cancer, is hosting the 12th Annual Fashion Show at the Showbox in SODO on Thursday, May 1, 2014.
 
More than 30 breast cancer survivors will be modeling spring looks from several Seattle boutiques. Proceeds from this event benefit the Northwest Hope & Healing’s Patience Assistance Fund at the Swedish Cancer Institute, which helps provide everyday basics such as groceries, childcare and emergency rent for women battling breast cancer.
 
Northwest Hope & Healing has been supporting Swedish Cancer Institute patients since early 2000 and is deeply rooted in our community. We are proud to support this event and hope to see many of you there!

To Mammogram or Not to Mammogram? A note on recent studies

A Canadian medical research study has recently been published questioning the value of doing screening mammograms on women in their forties. The article has spurred controversy because the results contradict multiple other similar research studies which showed that women in that age group who get regular mammograms actually are spared death from breast cancer more often that women who are not invited to screening.

Some problems with the methods of Canadian study, published in the journal BMJ, were pointed out by a scientist at the University of Washington, Judith Malmgren, who has worked with Swedish Medical Center doctors to see how women in their forties have fared in our system. Click here to read Dr. Malmgren’s letter to the editor of BMJ.

There are two ironic features to the Canadian study. First, the authors say it is okay for women to not get screening starting in their forties “when adjuvant therapy for breast cancer is readily available.” This means that it is okay to diagnose breast cancer later because you can mop up bigger and more advanced cancers with treatment like chemotherapy, radiation and bigger surgery. But at Swedish, we do not think that many women prefer more severe therapy rather than earlier detection.

Secondly ...

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