Our laboratory is studying a form of breast cancer called ‘Triple Negative Breast Cancer’ or TNBC. About 15 out of every 100 breast cancers (15%) are triple negative making it one of the less common forms but it is one of the most aggressive. It tends to spread rapidly (metastasise) in the body and it does not respond to hormone treatment with tamoxifen or the targeted cancer drug trastuzumab (Herceptin).  We have found a gene that seems to be specific to TNBC and when we block its activity in the laboratory it results in TNBC cells growing and moving less. We have also found that this gene comes in two forms, a so-called long and short form. We have found that both forms are important for the growth of TNBC cells but it is the long form which causes the cells to move more, which is what makes them more likely to spread in the body and cause metastasis.

We want to work out the difference between the long and short forms, as we think this will help us identify new approaches for treatment. Thanks to support from Breast Cancer Research Aid, we have now begun to do this. We have isolated the long and short forms from breast cancer cells in such a way that other contents of the cell which were stuck to them were extracted at the same time. The next step was to compare the extracts to find out what was stuck to the long form, but not to the short form (which will hopefully tell us what is controlling cell movement), and what can be found stuck to both forms (which will hopefully tell us what is controlling the growth of the cells). To do this, we worked with colleagues at Bristol University who are expert in a technique called ‘mass spectrometry’. You’ll have seen this if you watch CSI – except on CSI it takes about 2 minutes whereas in reality it took over two weeks! Supported by BCRA, we were able to carry out a mass spectrometry analysis of our extracts.

Although it is still very early days, we think we have successfully identified a strong candidate for the target with which the long form of our gene is interacting to promote cell movement and so make them likely to spread in the body. We still need to prove this with follow-up experiments, but if it turns out to be true, blocking this interaction has the potential to be a new therapeutic approach in TNBC. This study has opened up a whole new area of research for us and it would not have been possible without the support from BCRA. We are extremely grateful

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7 Key Cancer Trends For 2018

Issues that will affect the lives of cancer patients in 2018

1. Less chemotherapy

A recent report finds that among patients with the most common form of early-stage breast cancer, chemotherapy prescriptions slid, overall, from around 34.5% to 21.3%, in a recent 2-year interval (2013-2015). That’s a huge drop, from over a third of women with stage 1 or 2 disease getting chemo, to just over a fifth taking chemo. This trend is impressive and credible in context of growing discussion and awareness of overtreatment and (although authors of this particular study found no link) wider use and acceptance, among oncologists, of recurrence predictors like OncotypeDx and MammaPrint.

The shift for breast cancer is clear. Whether this pattern will emerge and extend to other and less-tracked malignancies, I’m not sure. Probably it will happen variably, by tumor type, and more in the future.

2. More prescription of novel anti-cancer agents

Doctors increasingly prescribe targeted drugs for tumors with specific molecular aberrations. Examples (among many) include a growing array of hormone-blocking agents for breast and prostate cancers, inhibitors of changed or amplified proteins such as EGFR or ALK in lung cancer, and PARP drugs that have been approved so far in ovarian cancer and are likely to be approved soon for some forms of breast cancer. Many of these targeted agents are pills.

Meanwhile, immune-oncology drugs mainly antibodies that interfere with the PD-1 and PDL-1 receptor and ligand families are used against a variety of tumors. Other monoclonal antibodies, like Rituxan or Herceptin, have become well-established in standard care, as newer ones, like Darzalex (anti-CD38, for myeloma) and antibody conjugates like Kadcyla or inotuzumab (recently approved, Besponsa), enter the anti-cancer armamentarium.* Consider, also, the recent paper on replacing bleomycin, a lung-damaging old chemotherapy staple for treating Hodgkin’s lymphoma (the “B” in ABVD), with the anti-CD30 antibody conjugate brentuximab vedotin (Adcetris). That report reflects a trend, of increasing antibody use and less chemotherapy that is revolutionizing treatment of lung cancer, melanoma, and other types of malignancy.

3. Concern over cancer drug costs

This problem is not going away. Rather, the issue of cancer’s financial toxicity, to individuals and to society, will grow as more drugs become available and might be prescribed. Some argue that anti-cancer medications should not necessarily be covered by private insurers, or by public insurers (Medicare or Medicaid), unless the cancer treatments demonstrate a certain level of benefit to patients. But how oncologists or patients or economists or insurance managers define “benefit” or “value” is a contentious issue, as is how that benefit needs be demonstrated.

This is a societal issue. The discussion reflects values and notions of personal responsibility for cancer care, and whether all people with malignant illness are deserving of equal opportunity to try the anti-cancer treatments they and their doctors think are most appropriate.

4. Focus on diagnostics, quality and payment for genetic cancer tests

This is a crucial matter for patients with malignancy who wish to try novel cancer drugs and need to know if their tumors harbor molecular features that match those new drugs. CMS is currently weighing if Medicare and Medicaid should pay for next-generation sequencing (NGS) of advanced cancer cases. So far, the FDA has approved only one such pan-genetic cancer test, FoundationOne CDx, which costs around $5800.

In general, the debate concerns the quality of diagnostic tests, and costs. You may have heard that liquid biopsies of a patient’s cancer yield disparate findings, depending on the company. Doctors and patients need reliable and reproducible results. And so accreditation of labs that perform molecular testing becomes increasingly necessary as these tests becomes more relevant to everyday prescription of oncology drugs and clinical decisions.

As things stand, payment for molecular testing of cancer has limited uptake of some very useful tests. I will write more on this topic separately.

5. Tumor-agnostic prescription of cancer medications

This modern way of prescribing cancer drugs-based on molecular changes in malignant cells, and not necessarily in which body part the tumor occurs, like “breast” or “colon” makes sense. In general, I see this as the future of oncology.

Last May, for the first time, the FDA approved use of an immune oncology drug, Keytruda, for all patients with cancer in which the malignant cells have certain features, what’s called microsatellite instability. The next month, doctors at the annual big U.S. cancer meeting reported on an experimental drug, larotrectinib, which in initial studies helped most patients with a wide range of cancer types, including previously hard-to-treat cases, in which the cancer cells harbor TRK gene fusions. That medication is under review by the FDA; more will follow.

Not all oncologists see merit, or feasibility, of this sort of approach to treating cancer. Based on preliminary studies, it appears that responsiveness to some drugs may depend on the cancer’s location. At last spring’s AACR meeting, for instance, Dr. David Hyman and colleagues reported on the SUMMIT basket trials of patients with HER2 and HER3 mutations. Evidently, neratinib demonstrated some (and limited) activity in patients with HER2 abnormalities with advanced breast, salivary, bile duct and a few other tumors, but not with colon cancer. This was a limited trial, involving a relatively small number of patients with varied HER2 and HER3 mutations. Yet it points to the need for caution, and for collecting data including post-marketing data regarding tumor locations, and details of pertinent mutations—when anti-cancer drugs are prescribed based on their molecular features.

6. Patient-reported outcomes

How cancer patients feel matters. This has always been so, but doctors (and policy-makers) didn’t pay so much attention to their subjective descriptions of pain, nausea, tiredness and other symptoms. As more anti-cancer drugs become available, patient-reported outcomes (PROs) will enable doctors to identify subtle differences among what some deem “me-too” drugs and, also, weigh on risks and benefits of treatments that may, or more not, do more good than harm.

Some insist that extending overall survival is the main purpose of anti-cancer treatment. But as patients and doctors increasingly weigh treatments that might improve quality-of-life, without necessarily extending survival, these PROs become more relevant. How exactly these outcomes will be measured, especially as more data will be collected post-marketing of drugs, off of clinical trials in a non-blinded fashion, by patients who know what they’re on and may be vulnerable to something like placebo effect, or an anti-placebo effect and the willingness of doctors and policy-makers to trust their patients’ reports, is a Pandora’s box from which I look forward to reading, hearing, and learning more.

7. Artificial intelligence (AI)

Few doctors, even oncologists who subspecialize, can keep up with developments in the field. Whether its IBM’s Watson, about which I remain optimistic, or another brand of artificial intelligence delivering suggestions, data-driven algorithms will be needed to guide physicians’ recommendations. The emerging field of computational biology, which can take big data and apply it to individual patients’ cases, with recommendations based on real-time knowledge of cancer science and approved treatments, is the way forward.

Oncology needs be AI-driven, at least at the level of suggesting treatments to consider, because there is too much molecular information for most doctors or patients to grasp and with some 15 million new cancer cases expected around the globe in 2018 too much potential, otherwise missed, to improve outcomes for those affected.

What’s missing? I haven’t mentioned CAR-T cells, which in some ways dominated this year’s cancer news. While it’s clear these biological therapies, involving gene-edited white blood cells taken from each patient and re-infused, can effect remissions and cures as most cancer drugs have not, I remain skeptical about the possibility of manufacturing these agents safely and efficiently on a large scale so that tens or thousands of patients might be helped, by contrast to simpler cancer drugs.

Prevention is unfortunately absent from my list. Cancer prevention remains a personal priority: the best way to avoid cancer deaths, toxicity and costs of treatment, is to prevent the disease from happening. However, apart from discouraging smoking and its cessation, which is old news and in some parts of the world not trending, and giving vaccines to prevent HPV and hepatitis B infection, which is generally happening more, and continually reminding affluent humans to eat and drink less, there is too little progress on this front.

With a diminished EPA under the current U.S. administration, and few doctors willing to invest careers in the slow-paced field of environmental oncology, to designate carcinogens by proving cause-and-effect, it’ll be a long time before we see meaningful advances in understanding the toxic causes many cancers, and how to avoid those (carcinogens). There’s too little incentive. Maybe, in next year’s list, for 2019, that will change.

Also Read: Breast cancer study uncovers new genetic variants for increased risk

News Source: Forbes

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Cancer doctors cite risks of drinking alcohol

The American Society of Clinical Oncology, which represents many of the nation’s top cancer doctors, is calling attention to the ties between alcohol and cancer. In a statement published Tuesday in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the group cites evidence that even light drinking can slightly raise a woman’s risk of breast cancer and increase a common type of esophageal cancer.

Heavy drinkers face much higher risks of mouth and throat cancer, cancer of the voice box, liver cancer and, to a lesser extent, colorectal cancers, and the group cautions.

The message is not, don’t drink. It’s, if you want to reduce your cancer risk, drink less. And if you don’t drink, don’t start, said Dr. Noelle LoConte, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the lead author of the ASCO statement. It’s different than tobacco where we say, Never smoke. Don’t start. This is a little more subtle.

Other medical groups have cited the risks of alcohol as a possible cause of cancer. But this is the first time that ASCO has taken a stand.

Drinking overall, as well as heavy drinking and problem drinking, are on the rise in the U.S. and affect all segments of society, including women, older adults, racial and ethnic minorities and the poor, several surveys have shown.

Yet few adults, when asked, identify alcohol consumption as a risk factor for cancer, even though the vast majority were familiar with other cancer risk factors, like smoking and sun exposure, a recent ASCO survey of 4,016 adults found. Fewer than 1 in 3 adults identified alcohol as a risk factor for cancer. (Most also failed to mention obesity as a risk factor.)

For women, just one alcoholic drink a day can increase breast cancer risk, according to a report released in May from the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund that was cited by ASCO. That report analyzed 119 studies, including data on 12 million women and over a quarter of a million breast cancer cases, and concluded there was strong evidence that alcohol consumption increases the risk of both pre- and postmenopausal cancer, and that drinking a small glass of wine or beer every day about 10 grams of alcohol increases premenopausal breast cancer risk by 5 percent and postmenopausal risk by 9 percent.
The more you drink, the higher the risk, said Dr. Clifford A. Hudis, the chief executive of ASCO. It’s a pretty linear dose-response.

Even those who drink moderately, defined by the Centers for Disease Control as one daily drink for women and two for men, face nearly a doubling of the risk for mouth and throat cancer and more than double the risk of squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus, compared to nondrinkers. Moderate drinkers also face elevated risks for cancers of the voice box, female breast cancer and colorectal cancers.

The risk for heavy drinkers defined as eight or more drinks a week for women and 15 or more a week for men, including binge drinkers are multiples higher. Heavy drinkers face roughly five times the risk of mouth and throat cancers and squamous cell esophageal cancers than nondrinkers, nearly three times the risk of cancers of the voice box or larynx, double the risk of liver cancer, as well as increased risks for female breast cancer and colorectal cancer.

If you look at these figures, you see alcohol is a contributing factor; certainly it has a causal role, Dr. Hudis said.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization, first classified the consumption of alcoholic beverages as carcinogenic to humans in 1987, tying consumption to cancers of the mouth, throat, voice box, esophagus and liver, said Susan Gapstur, vice president for epidemiology at the American Cancer Society.

Since then, she said, more and more evidence has accumulated tying alcohol to a broader group of cancers, including colorectal cancer and, in women, breast cancer. A more recent IARC report concluded that alcohol is a cause of cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, colorectum, liver and female breast. (The esophageal cancer is largely specific to squamous cell carcinoma.)

One way alcohol may lead to cancer is because the body metabolizes it into acetaldehyde, which causes changes and mutations in DNA, Gapstur said. The formation of acetaldehyde starts when alcohol comes in contact with bacteria in the mouth, which may explain the link between alcohol and cancers of the throat, voice box and esophagus, she suggested.

Dr. Anne McTiernan, a scientist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center who was an author of one of the earlier reports on alcohol and breast cancer, said she was pleased that oncologists were focusing on alcohol.

That puts some weight behind this, she said. It shows they’re serious about it and willing to put their name on the line for changes in policy, and willing to say that even small amounts of alcohol can increase the risks of some cancers to a small degree.


News Source: The Post and Courier

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Wear it Pink this October in Support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month

This month you most likely will have noticed an abundance of pink. This is because the pink ribbon is the international symbol of breast cancer awareness and support.  Since 1985, October has been known as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual campaign organized by different breast cancer charities to increase awareness and fundraising for medical research into the disease.

Breast Cancer is the most common cancer in the UK. According to ‘Cancer Research UK’, around 55,200 people are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. That is a staggering 150 people every day. ‘Breast Cancer Now’, the UK’s largest breast cancer research charity, estimates that 11,500 women die each year from the disease. The terrifying reality of the disease is shocking, and all breast cancer charities maintain that the most important part of prevention is awareness and education; the main focus of the Breast Cancer Awareness Month campaign.

According to ‘Worldwide Breast Cancer’, 39 per cent of women who are diagnosed discover symptoms on their own, so being able to check yourself properly is vital. Consequently, ‘Worldwide Breast Cancer’ created a global campaign called ‘Know Your Lemons’. The campaign used the fruit to illustrate the twelve key symptoms of breast cancer: thick mass, indentation, skin erosion, red or hot, new fluid, dimpling, bump, growing vein, sunken nipple, new shape or size, orange peel skin, or invisible lump. As well as self-examination, mammograms are used to check breasts before symptoms are seen or felt.

The ‘American Cancer Society’ suggests that annual mammograms should be arranged after the age of 40. In fact, according to ‘Cancer Research UK’, more than 90 per cent of women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer survive their disease for at least five years, compared to 15 per cent of women diagnosed at the most advanced stages. These figures highlight the importance of self-examination, knowledge of possible symptoms and early detection.

In 2013, Angelina Jolie underwent a preventative mastectomy after discovering she was very likely to develop breast cancer. In the following year, research by ‘Prevent Breast Cancer’ showed that the number of women in the UK receiving referrals for genetic counselling and testing for breast cancer risk has doubled. This response was called ‘The Angelina Effect’. In further positive news, within the next six months a genetic test that accurately calculates the risk of developing breast cancer will be introduced in some hospitals around the UK. This technology seeks to reduce the number of women getting unnecessary preventative mastectomies, and increase the number of women getting effective, risk-reducing surgeries.

This month, there are countless opportunities to get involved, be it raising awareness of the disease, increasing education, or fundraising for research-based charities.

In 2002, ‘Breast Cancer Now’ initiated ‘wear it pink’, a fundraising day encouraging people around the UK to wear pink to work, school or university to raise money. Since its initiation, the event has raised over £30 million for life saving breast cancer research.

This year, ‘wear it pink’ day is on Friday 20 October, so get organizing a fun-filled event with your friends and family! ‘Breast Cancer Now’ is also currently running a campaign called ‘Good Enough?’, which is based on a policy report revealing that opportunities are being missed to save more lives from breast cancer. The charity claims that governments in the UK can and should attempt to take action against issues impacting the care of people with breast cancer. You can easily join us or donating with us at (https://bcra.charitycheckout.co.uk/), and sending a pre-written email to your local politicians and news sources asking them to take action.

If you’re looking to get involved or raise awareness in Edinburgh, ‘CoppaFeel Society’ is a breast cancer awareness charity on campus, aiming to educate people about the severity of the disease in a light-hearted way. All money raised goes towards making students and young people aware of how to check themselves properly and to learn how to spot early signs and symptoms. Their vision is to give everyone the best possible chance of surviving breast cancer and detecting it quickly, as well as having a little fun in the process. They throw hilarious events such as glitter parties, fun brunches, and games of boob-ball (dodgeball).br

News Source: (Students News Paper)

Also Read: Cell shape ‘maps’ could point to new cancer treatments

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BREAST CANCER : Symptoms, risk factors, and treatment

Breast cancer is the most common invasive cancer in women, and the second main cause of cancer death in women, after lung cancer.

Advances in screening and treatment have improved survival rates dramatically since 1989. There are around 3.1 million breast cancer survivors in the United States (U.S.). The chance of any woman dying from breast cancer is around 1 in 37, or 2.7 percent.

In 2017, around 252, 710 new diagnoses of breast cancer are expected in women, and around 40,610 women are likely to die from the disease.

Awareness of the symptoms and the need for screening are important ways of reducing the risk.

Breast cancer can affect men too, but this article will focus on breast cancer in women.


Fast facts on breast cancer:

Here are some key points about breast cancer. More detail is in the main article.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women. Symptoms include a lump or thickening of the breast, and changes to the skin or the nipple. Risk factors can be genetic, but some lifestyle factors, such as alcohol intake, make it more likely to happen. A range of treatments is available, including surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

Many breast lumps are not cancerous, but any woman who is concerned about a lump or change should see a doctor.

What is breast cancer?

After puberty, a woman’s breast consists of fat, connective tissue, and thousands of lobules, tiny glands that produce milk for breast-feeding. Tiny tubes, or ducts, carry the milk toward the nipple.

In cancer, the body’s cells multiply uncontrollably. It is the excessive cell growth that causes cancer.


Breast cancer can be:

Ductal carcinoma: This begins in the milk duct and is the most common type.

Lobular carcinoma: This starts in the lobules. Invasive breast cancer is when the cancer cells break out from inside the lobules or ducts and invade nearby tissue, increasing the chance of spreading to other parts of the body.

Non-invasive breast cancer is when the cancer is still inside its place of origin and has not broken out. However, these cells can eventually develop into invasive breast cancer.


The first symptoms of breast cancer are usually an area of thickened tissue in the breast, or a lump in the breast or in an armpit.

Other symptoms include:

  • a pain in the armpits or breast that does not change with the monthly cycle
  • pitting or redness of the skin of the breast, like the skin of an orange
  • a rash around or on one of the nipples a discharge from a nipple, possibly containing blood
  • a sunken or inverted nipple
  • a change in the size or shape of the breast peeling, flaking, or scaling of the skin on the breast or nipple

Most lumps are not cancerous, but women should have them checked by a health care professional.

10 risk factors

Breast cancer usually starts in the inner lining of milk ducts or the lobules that supply them with milk. From there, it can spread to other parts of the body.

The exact cause remains unclear, but some risk factors make it more likely. Some of these are preventable.

  1. Age

The risk increases with age. At 20 years, the chance of developing breast cancer in the next decade is 0.6 percent. By the age of 70 years, this figure goes up to 3.84 percent.

  1. Genetics

If a close relative has or has had, breast cancer, the risk is higher.

Women who carry the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes have a higher risk of developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer or both. These genes can be inherited. TP53 is another gene that is linked to a greater breast cancer risk.

  1. A history of breast cancer or breast lumps

Women who have had breast cancer before are more likely to have it again, compared with those who have no history of the disease.

Having some types of benign, or non-cancerous breast lumps increases the chance of developing cancer later on. Examples include atypical ductal hyperplasia or lobular carcinoma in situ.

  1. Dense breast tissue

Breast cancer is more likely to develop in higher density breast tissue.

  1. Estrogen exposure and breast-feeding

Being exposed to estrogen for a longer period appears to increase the risk of breast cancer.

This could be due to starting periods earlier or entering menopause later than average. Between these times, estrogen levels are higher.

Breast-feeding, especially for over 1 year, appears to reduce the chance of developing breast cancer, possibly because pregnancy followed by breastfeeding reduces exposure to estrogen.

  1. Body weight

Women who are overweight or have obesity after menopause may have a higher risk of developing breast cancer, possibly due to higher levels of estrogen. High sugar intake may also be a factor.

  1. Alcohol consumption

A higher rate of regular alcohol consumption appears to play a role. Studies have shown that women who consume more than 3 drinks a day have a 1.5 times higher risk.

  1. Radiation exposure

Undergoing radiation treatment for a cancer that is not breast cancer increases the risk of breast cancer later in life.

  1. Hormone treatments

The use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and oral birth control pills have been linked to breast cancer, due to increased levels of estrogen.

  1. Occupational hazards

In 2012, researchers concluded that exposure to certain carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, for example in the workplace, could be linked to breast cancer.

In 2007, scientists suggested that working night shifts could increase the risk of breast cancer, but more recent research concludes this is unlikely.


Cosmetic implants and breast cancer survival

Women with cosmetic breast implants who are diagnosed with breast cancer have a higher risk of dying from the disease and a 25 percent higher chance of being diagnosed at a later stage, compared with women without implants.

This could be due to due to the implants masking cancer during screening, or because the implants bring about changes in breast tissue. More research is needed.


A diagnosis often occurs as the result of routine screening, or when a woman approaches her doctor after detecting symptoms.

Some diagnostic tests and procedures help to confirm a diagnosis.

Breast exam

The physician will check the patient’s breasts for lumps and other symptoms.

The patient will be asked to sit or stand with her arms in different positions, such as above her head and by her sides.

Imaging tests

A mammogram is a type of x-ray commonly used for initial breast cancer screening. It produces images that can help detect any lumps or abnormalities.

A suspicious result can be followed up by further diagnosis. However, mammography sometimes shows up a suspicious area that is not cancer. This can lead to unnecessary stress and sometimes interventions.

An ultrasound scan can help differentiate between a solid mass or a fluid-filled cyst.

An MRI scan involves injecting a dye into the patient, so find out how far the cancer has spread.



A sample of tissue is surgically removed for laboratory analysis. This can show whether the cells are cancerous, and, if so, which type of cancer it is, including whether or not the cancer is hormone-sensitive.

Diagnosis also involves staging the cancer, to establish:

  • the size of a tumor
  • how far it has spread
  • whether it is invasive or non-invasive
  • whether it has metastasized, or spread to other parts of the body

Staging will affect the chances of recovery and will help decide on the best treatment options.



Treatment will depend on:

  • Chemotherapy can be an option for breast cancer.
  • Chemotherapy can be an option for breast cancer.
  • the type of breast cancer
  • the stage of the cancer
  • sensitivity to hormones
  • the patient’s age, overall health, and preferences

The main options include:

  • radiation therapy
  • surgery
  • biological therapy, or targeted drug therapy
  • hormone therapy
  • chemotherapy

Factors affecting the choice will include the stage of the cancer, other medical conditions, and individual preference.



If surgery is needed, the choice will depend on the diagnosis and the individual.

Lumpectomy: Removing the tumor and a small margin of healthy tissue around it can help prevent the spread of the cancer. This may be an option if the tumor is small and likely to be easy to separate from the surrounding tissue.

Mastectomy: Simple mastectomy involves removing the lobules, ducts, fatty tissue, nipple, areola, and some skin. Radical mastectomy removes muscle from the chest wall and the lymph nodes in the armpit as well.

Sentinel node biopsy: Removing one lymph node can stop the cancer spreading, because if breast cancer reaches a lymph node, it can spread further through the lymphatic system into other parts of the body.

Axillary lymph node dissection: If there are cancer cells on a node called the sentinel node, the surgeon may recommend removing several nymph nodes in the armpit to prevent the spread of disease.

Reconstruction: Following breast surgery, reconstruction can recreate the breast so that it looks similar to the other breast. This can be done at the same time as a mastectomy, or at a later date. The surgeon may use a breast implant, or tissue from another part of the patient’s body.


Radiation therapy

Controlled doses of radiation are targeted at the tumor to destroy the cancer cells. Used from around a month after surgery, along with chemotherapy, it can kill any remaining cancer cells.

Each session lasts a few minutes, and the patient may need three to five sessions per week for 3 to 6 weeks, depending on the aim and the extent of the cancer.

The type of breast cancer will dictate what type of radiation therapy, if any, is most suitable.

Adverse effects include fatigue, lymphedema, darkening of the breast skin, and irritation of the breast skin.



Medications known as cytotoxic drugs may be used to kill cancer cells, if there is a high risk of recurrence or spread. This is called adjuvant chemotherapy.

If the tumor is large, chemotherapy may be administered before surgery to shrink the tumor and make its removal easier. This is called neo-adjuvant chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy can also treat cancer that has metastasized, or spread to other parts of the body, and it can reduce some symptoms, especially in the later stages.

It may be used to reduce estrogen production, as estrogen can encourage the growth of some breast cancers.

Adverse effects include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, sore mouth, hair loss, and a slightly higher susceptibility to infections. Medications can help control many of these.


Hormone blocking therapy

Hormone blocking therapy is used to prevent recurrence in hormone-sensitive breast cancers. These are often referred to as estrogen receptive (ER) positive and progesterone receptor (PR) positive cancers.

Hormone blocking therapy is normally used after surgery, but it may sometimes be used beforehand to shrink the tumor.

It may be the only option for patients who cannot undergo surgery, chemotherapy, or radiotherapy.

The effects normally last for up to 5 years after surgery. The treatment will have no effect on cancers that are not sensitive to hormones.

Examples include:

  • tamoxifen
  • aromatase inhibitors
  • ovarian ablation or suppression
  • a luteinising hormone-releasing hormone agonist (LHRHa) drug called Goserelin, to suppress the ovaries
  • Hormone treatment may affect a woman’s future fertility.

Biological treatment

Targeted drugs destroy specific types of breast cancer. Examples include trastuzumab (Herceptin), lapatinib (Tykerb), and bevacizumab (Avastin). These drugs are all used for different purposes.

Treatments for breast and other cancers can have severe adverse effects.

The patient should discuss with a doctor the risks involved and ways to minimize the negative effects, when deciding on treatment.

Prevention and outlook

There is no sure way to prevent breast cancer, but some lifestyle decisions can significantly reduce the risk of breast and other types of cancer.

These include:

  • avoiding excess alcohol consumption
  • following a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables
  • getting enough exercise
  • maintaining a healthy body mass index (BMI)
  • Women should think carefully about their options for breast-feeding and the use of HRT following menopause, as these can affect the risk.
  • Preventive surgery is an option for women at high risk.


With treatment, a woman who receives a diagnosis of stage 0 or stage 1 breast cancer has an almost almost 100 percent chance of surviving for at least 5 years.

If the diagnosis is made at stage 4, the chance of surviving another 5 years is around 22 percent.

Regular checks and screening can help detect symptoms early. Women should discuss their options with a doctor.

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MALE SURVIVORS: Remind us that men get breast cancer, too

Newsflash – men have breast tissue, which means they can get breast cancer just like women. Yet guys grappling with the disease get lost in Breast Cancer Awareness Month’s pink tidal wave.

Even the National Football League – the epitome of all things macho – sees players sporting pink cleats and gloves this month.

“October should not be 100% pink. I’m trying to put a splash of blue in there,” says Michael Singer, a six-year breast cancer survivor advocating for Male Breast Cancer Awareness Week running Oct. 16-22.

Michael Singer, 56, from the Bronx, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010.

Michael Singer, 56, from the Bronx, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010.


“That’s one thing I’m a little upset with the NFL about – they’re forgetting to mention my guys,” adds Singer, 56, from the Bronx. “It’s all pinkwashed, and it gets a little frustrating.”

Fellow survivor Stephen Cone, 66, who’s battled breast cancer twice, feels just as overlooked. “It’s like we’re totally invisible,” says the Washington, D.C. resident. “Men [with breast cancer] are never mentioned by the NFL. We’re not mentioned by Susan Komen. We’re definitely not on the radar.”

While breast cancer is about 100 times less common among men than women, some 2,600 men will still be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer this year, according to the American Cancer Society. And 440 will die.

Worse, breast cancer is often found later in men because they haven’t been trained to detect it the way women have been. When’s the last time you heard of a man booking a mammogram or doing a self breast exam?

“There is this myth that men can’t get it, so that leads to lumps and masses being ignored, and treatment and diagnosis is delayed,” warns Dr. Paula Klein, an oncologist from Mount Sinai Beth Israel. And the longer you wait, the more time you give the cancer to spread. Hence, men with breast cancer have a significantly lower survival rate than women.

And there’s not a lot of clinical data on breast cancer in men, because it is so under-studied in favor of women. Which means many men suffer from the stigma attached to having a disease that predominantly impacts women.

The Male Breast Cancer Coalition reminds people men have breasts, too, with pink and blue merchandise.

The Male Breast Cancer Coalition reminds people men have breasts, too, with pink and blue merchandise.


Cone couldn’t find any meet-ups for men with breast cancer. “There was nothing for me unless I joined a women’s support group,” he says.

That turns a lot of men off. “I would walk in a waiting room where women who had breast cancer could talk freely … but how do you inject yourself into that conversation when you’re just a guy?” asks Singer.

And when Singer was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer in 2010, he was so embarrassed, he told people he had “chest cancer” because “I couldn’t bring myself to say ‘breast cancer.’”

“What was wrong with me that I had this women’s disease? I couldn’t find any other men who had it,” he says.

His outsider outlook changed when he saw male breast cancer survivors featured on Katie Couric’s former talk show not long after his surgery. He was inspired to see guys like himself speaking out, so now he advocates for the American Cancer Society and the Male Breast Cancer Alliance.

Survivor Michael Singer has worked with Gov. Andrew Cuomo to raise male breast cancer awareness.

Survivor Michael Singer has worked with Gov. Andrew Cuomo to raise male breast cancer awareness.


“Men, if you do get diagnosed with this, you are not alone,” says Singer, who hands out pink and blue ribbons, and sports pink and blue t-shirts to remind the public that men get breast cancer, too. “You have that loneliess, and all of the fear and emotions running through you, but there are other men out there you can reach out and talk to.”

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