The battle to defeat breast cancer still continues. While progress can seem slow at times, almost everyday researchers report advances in understanding and treating the disease.
Drawing on the latest three months’ findings, here are up-to-the-minute insights from this international effort:
1. High cholesterol?
It could lessen your breast cancer risk. A study of 16,000 women admitted to UK hospitals over a 13-year span finds that “women with high cholesterol were 45 percent less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer.”
When any of these developed breast cancer, “they had a 40 percent reduced chance of death,” according to the study’s senior author. (Sometimes, it seems, the universe makes up for guilty pleasures like butter and ice cream.)
2. Yes, annual mammograms from age 40 will save more lives.
Controversy has raged for years over the effectiveness of 12-month-apart mammography screenings, which could lead to false positives and unneeded treatment.
A study just published online by the U.S. S journal Cancer uses statistical methods to conclude that “annual screening reduced mortality by 39.6 percent ”— considerably more than less-frequent exams. (Which reminds us that modern medicine is a statistical science as well as a diagnostic skill.)
3. Less radiation found more effective in early-stage breast cancers.
Instead of full-dose radiation treatments to the whole breast following a lumpectomy (the current standard of care), limiting exposure to the area where cancer had been can halve the recurrence rate after five years of follow-up.
This UK study of 2,016 women, aged 50 or older diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer and treated with lumpectomy, was published in September by British journal The Lancet.
4. Antiperspirants now deemed OK during radiation treatment.
Using antiperspirants while undergoing radiation treatment for breast cancer is no longer a justifiable no-no, according to research published online by the American journal Radiotherapy & Oncology.
Doctors wary of the aluminium in commercial anti-sweat products, because of the possibility it increases radiation side-effects, are being reassured that this is not the case. (Irritation is a frequent side-effect of radiation treatments, with antiperspirants providing underarm odour relief.)
5. Patients may advance progress by opting into scientific trials.
While undergoing the latest treatments, breast cancer patients can share their experiences to move medical science forward.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI—one of the National Institutes of Health, of U.S Department of Health and Human Services) offers an online page (www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/clinical-trials/search) to search for NCI-supported clinical trials; simply fill in cancer type, patient age, ZIP code. (Risk: receiving ineffective treatment in a double-blind study.)
6. Sisters are doing it for themselves during major U.S. study.
The Sister Study, conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (another of U.S. National Institutes of Health), continues to follow over 50,000 women recruited from 2003 to 2009 at ages 35 to 74 after their sisters were diagnosed with breast cancer.
Tracking their health over at least 10 years, this study promises a better understanding of family factors contributing to breast cancer.
7. Dietary supplements being investigated for breast immunity.
According to the American Cancer Society online, those daily vitamins, minerals, and herbs you may already be taking for fitness’ sake are being studied to assess whether they can also reduce the risk of breast cancer.
Among these are vitamins B6 and D, as well as linoleic acid, folate, and omega-3 fatty acids. (Human studies with these supplements have been completed, but reporting of results still lags.)
8. Study: Alternative medicine won’t help your survival rate.
Breast cancer patients shouldn’t depend on supplements or unproven treatments, quite yet. A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute examined 1.68 million patient records, concluding that after 5 years patients with nonmetastatic breast cancer who had initially refused standard treatments were “nearly five times as likely to die if they had used an alternative therapy.” (It’s an uncomfortable statistic, necessary to acknowledge.)
9. Just a pill a day may keep breast cancer away.
The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several prescription drugs — with trade names like Evista and Nolvadex— to avert the onset of breast cancer when taken daily in pill form. More such meds are coming soon.
For those at high risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer, side effects have been minimized. (Some pills include benefits of curbing osteoporosis and other ailments.)
10. Personalized medicine — providing the ultimate cure?
Three French oncologists predict that the future of breast cancer management is “personalized medicine” (also known as “precision medicine”) — customizing treatment by applying a molecular analysis of patients’ and tumours’ specific genetic makeup.
Published in European journal Experimental Cell Research three years ago, their forecast is being borne out by the latest findings in the use of self-restorative immunotherapy and narrowly-targeted medicines for better outcomes without gruelling side effects.
Show your thoughts about this Article in the comments. And Try to awaken and keep spreading this awareness as Breast Cancer Awareness Month is Here Soon.