October 21, 2010 at 10:50 am , by Julie Bain
You may have seen the headlines this week about a new study showing that postmenopausal women who take hormone therapy have a greater risk of getting invasive breast cancer—and of dying from it. If you’re one of those women trying to keep the crazy hot flashes at bay, try not to overreact. “Based on this information there is no need to flush your estrogen down the toilet,” says Lauren Streicher, M.D. (right), assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
Dr. Streicher, who will be on the Ladies’ Home Journal Medical Advisory Board (to be officially announced soon), says that the media often gets ahold of studies before doctors do. So doctors like her have to scramble to read the research, and make sense of it, before their phones start ringing with patients anxious for answers. But the bottom line, she says, is “if you look carefully at the numbers, it is not as significant as the screeching headlines make it sound.”
She wrote a great blog about it for the Dr. Oz site. So if you want a voice of reason on this subject, read it here.
October 18, 2010 at 3:12 pm , by Megan Weiss
October is, of course, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It seems like you can get almost everything in ribbon-pink these days (which is great because the products contribue to a good cause!) but we especially like this adorable scrub brush from Boston Warehouse. (How often do you get excited about a scrub brush!?) A portion of the sales from this Brushing Beauty Breast Cancer Brush (try saying that 5 times fast) will go to Susan G Komen for the Cure. The company even made a $15,000 donation guarantee to Susan G Komen in support of its promise to save lives and end breast cancer forever. Nice!
October 17, 2010 at 3:34 pm , by Julie Bain
Are you a fan of Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb and their freewheeling fourth hour of the Today Show? I am. I became a Kathie Lee fan years ago, when she sat next to Regis and wasn’t afraid or embarrassed to talk about anything. My dad loved her, and when I moved in with my parents for a while in the ’90s to help take care of him while he was ill, the show became a cheerful morning ritual for Dad and me.
So I was happy when I heard in 2008 that this old friend was joining Today. But who was Hoda Kotb (right)? I didn’t know then. But I feel I know her now, thanks to her new book, Hoda: How I Survived War Zones, Bad Hair, Cancer and Kathie Lee.
The book is a fun read, with gripping tales of her travels around the world to cover stories for Dateline, from war-torn Baghdad to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. And there’s plenty of entertaining inside scoop about getting to know Kathie Lee and finding their groove together for the show.
But the part that really got me was the raw, emotional recounting of what she calls “the bad year.” It was 2007, “the year my body and my heart broke at the same time,” as she describes it. She was 42, happily married, fit and healthy—or so she thought. “I had finally balanced my personal life and career, a real challenge for me up to that point.” She had always wanted kids. But in January of that year, she learned that her husband had been deceiving her—and that she had breast cancer. Read more
June 3, 2010 at 10:52 am , by Julie Bain
I was lucky enough to attend the premiere of Sex and the City 2 at Radio City in New York last week. The red carpet was lined with paparazzi and crazed fans, the stars looked glamorous and almost every scene in the film got raucous cheers from the passionate audience. I had a blast. Sure, the clothes, the locations, the action were all completely over the top. But hey, it’s been a long recession, and the movie provided pure escapism, just like Fred and Ginger did during the Great Depression. Still, one thing about the film bothered me, as it did my friend Courtney Bugler.
Courtney had just turned 29 four years ago when she heard the bad news: she had breast cancer. But she fought it hard. That included having her ovaries removed, although first she preserved some of her eggs. She suffered the symptoms of instant menopause, but later had one of her frozen embryos implanted. Now, four years later, she’s healthy and has a 1-year-old baby boy named Aidan, along with her husband Alan and four very large dogs. She has also become an advocate for young breast cancer survivors and runs the Atlanta affiliate of the Young Survival Coalition. I invited her to write a guest blog here and explain why one aspect of the movie really ticked her off. Read more
June 2, 2010 at 11:36 am , by Emily Chau
It’s not October yet, but Melina Kanakaredes (CSI: NY) wants you to “Think Pink” right now. The actress recently designed three shirts for Hanes to support their efforts with Susan G. Komen for the Cure , and now you can too! (Check out my interview with her above.)
Hanes—the same folks who provide race day t-shirts for the Komen walks—has a cool tool that allows you to make your own breast cancer awareness shirts. The apparel company has also pledged to make a $500,000 contribution to the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Series.
In fact, we might already be one step closer to beating breast cancer. Everyone’s been buzzing about the promise of a new breast cancer vaccine. Researchers from the Cleveland Clinic tested a preventive vaccine on mice that were susceptible to cancer, and it had a 100 percent success rate. All of the vaccinated mice remained tumor-free, while all of the controls developed breast cancer. A vaccine for women might not be that far off—human trials may begin as early as next year.
Want to hear more good news about cancer?
February 4, 2010 at 8:00 am , by Julie Bain
Lisa M. Masterson, M.D., stopped by our office yesterday (that’s her in the middle with me and Emily Chau, my fellow LHJ Health Lady) to fill us in on some of her latest adventures and causes. She was just back from Haiti, where she and her fellow physicians from the TV show The Doctors arrived with 7,000 pounds of much-needed supplies—and treated a number of victims. A specialist in obstetrics and gynecology, Dr. Masterson helped a pregnant woman with a leg injury find the care she needed. See clips from that episode here.
Dr. Masterson, who’s based in L.A., was in New York for an event promoting screening for human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer. She says that for women over 30, combining a pap test with an HPV test is the best way to prevent this cancer, which still kills some 4,000 women every year.
The good doc also got on her soapbox about the recent changes in screening guidelines for breast cancer. She’s afraid that many women will stop getting mammograms, especially if their insurance won’t pay for them to be done annually. She also wants to encourage women to continue to do self-exams, or at least “get to know their own breasts,” she says. “I’m seeing breast cancer more in younger women.” Feeling something and having it checked out by your doctor could save your life.
November 18, 2009 at 5:20 pm , by Julia Kagan
UPDATE December 2, 2009
The mammogram debate continues. If we screen only “high risk” women, we’ll miss 75-90% of those get breast cancer, says Daniel B. Kopans, M.D., professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School and director of breast imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital, at a Radiology Society Of North America press conference.
Earlier this week, the distinguished U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) announced its new breast cancer screening guidelines, reversing many of its 2002 recommendations. In a move that has already become a point of controversy, USPSTF now recommends that women start getting mammograms later in life and less frequently. But after years of preaching “prevention, prevention, prevention,” what should we do now?
1. USPSTF advises women to start getting routine mammograms at age 50—not 40—until age 74. However, those between ages of 40-49 who are at high risk for breast cancer should talk to their doctor whether to begin regular screenings sooner.
2. USPSTF suggests getting a routine mammogram every two years, instead of every year—again, women in high-risk groups may need a greater frequency.
3. USPSTF recommends that doctors should not teach women how to do breast self-exams.
The reasoning: USPSTF found that among women ages 40-49, mammograms save one cancer death per every 1,904 people screened for 10 years. Among those ages 50-74, this number increases to 1 in every 1,339 women, and to 1 in every 337 women ages 60-69.
Based on these findings, the USPSTF concludes that for women ages 40-49, the risk of overtreatment (unnecessary biopsies, stress) from a mammogram outweighs its benefits. There is also data showing breast self–exams don’t find cancers in a more treatable stage or decrease deaths (read a Q&A with Susan M. Love, M.D. about this topic from our October 2009 issue after the jump, below).
The controversy: Not everyone agrees with USPSTF’s interpretation. “The panel acknowledges that screening mammography for women in their 40s saves lives, but considers it too costly in dollars per woman saved and in false positives. This seems inappropriate to me and would be to most women in their 40s, I think,” says Etta D. Pisano, M.D., Kenan Professor of Radiology and Biomedical Engineering and Director of the UNC Biomedical Research Imaging Center at UNC School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. “I do think the data support less frequent screening for older women,” she adds—but whether that should “start at 50 or later when women have fatty breasts…would be important to study.”
Moreover, the American Cancer Society still recommends women get an annual mammograms starting at 40. And so does Susan G. Komen for the Cure. And in terms of limiting mammograms from age 40 to 50 to just those with identified high risk factors: It turns out, according to Komen, that most women diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. do not have any risk factors aside from being female and getting older, and breast cancer that occurs in younger women is often more aggressive than breast cancer in women in their 50s or older.
The bottom line: Right now you still get to choose which recommendation you want to follow. And for women who hate mammograms, this is medical confirmation that you can have them much less often. But if you want to keep being tested according to the old standards, be prepared that insurance companies and Medicare may look at whether they should reduce the number of mammograms they are willing to cover.