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Breast Health & Disease Archive
Cancer treatment: Is a clinical trial right for you?
Fear of cancer recurrence: Mind-body tools offer hope
As the number of cancer survivors continues to grow, many continue to worry for years after treatment ends about a recurrence of the disease. These people need post-treatment support, and mind-body techniques offer a promising solution.
Heart disease and breast cancer: Can women cut risk for both?
While they share many risk factors, far more women are living with heart disease than with breast cancer. Exercise and a healthy diet can cut a woman’s risk for both.
Women with DCIS may benefit from radiation in addition to lumpectomy
Research we're watching
A new study published online August 10 by the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that women with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) — cancerous changes to the cells inside the milk ducts of the breast — may have better results if they have radiation in addition to a lumpectomy.
Researchers examined 15-year outcomes in 140,000 women with DCIS who underwent either lumpectomy or mastectomy alone, or both lumpectomy and radiation. Women who had radiation in addition to lumpectomy procedures were slightly less likely to die from breast cancer than women who had either a lumpectomy or mastectomy procedure alone.
Eating highly processed foods may raise cancer risk
Prepackaged, processed foods are typically high in fat, salt, and sugar. If that's not enough to make you put down a cookie or resist a frozen dinner, consider an observational study published online Feb. 14, 2018, by The BMJ. It analyzed dietary questionnaire answers of 105,000 middle-aged men and women in France for five years. Foods were grouped according to degree of processing — that is, the amount of change the ingredients go through as food makers improve flavor, coloring, and shelf life. For example, dehydrated soups, baked goods, sugary cereals, processed meats, biscuits, and sauces were considered ultra-processed foods. Less processed foods included canned vegetables, cheeses, and freshly made unpackaged bread. Every 10% increase in consumption of ultra-processed foods was associated with a 12% higher risk for cancer in general and an 11% increased risk for breast cancer. No significant link was found to prostate or colorectal cancer. The study doesn't prove that ultra-processed foods cause cancer, but researchers say the cumulative effects of food additives remain largely unknown.
Treatments for breast cancer may harm the heart
But surveillance and other strategies — especially exercise — can limit the risk.
Image: © Khuong Hoang/Getty Images
Better treatments for breast cancer have contributed to the growing number of breast cancer survivors, now about three million in the United States. However, these women may face a heightened risk of heart disease from the cardiotoxic effects of chemotherapy and radiation, according to a statement from the American Heart Association in the Feb. 20, 2018, issue of Circulation.
Doctors have long known that certain cancer drugs can decrease the heart's pumping ability, especially doxorubicin (Adriamycin) and trastuzumab (Herceptin), two common treatments for breast cancer. Many women receive radiation therapy as well, which can cause heart tissue to scar or stiffen, possibly leading to valve disorders, coronary artery disease, or other heart problems. But specialists who focus on keeping the heart healthy during and after cancer treatment — known as cardio-oncologists — can offer strategies to both prevent and treat heart damage from cancer therapy.
Screening mammograms: One recommendation may not fit all
Research shows that the risk of breast cancer, and its severity, is greater for women of certain racial and ethnic backgrounds. These factors have not yet been included in formal guidelines for screening mammograms, but women need to be aware of them.
Study finds weak link between birth control and breast cancer
Overall risk is very small, and older women who used hormonal contraceptives many years ago aren't likely to have a higher risk.
Image: © designer491/Getty Images
Hormonal birth control — whether it comes as pills, injections, a ring, an intrauterine device (IUD), or an implant — may raise your risk of breast cancer, according to a study published Dec. 7, 2017, in The New England Journal of Medicine.
If you're like many women who currently use one of these contraceptive methods, or if you used one for years in the past, should you be worried?
Revisiting options for improving results of breast reconstruction
Women who choose breast reconstruction after mastectomy but are unhappy with the results have another option: fat grafting, in which liquefied tissue from another part of the body is injected into the reconstructed breast.
When you look for cancer, you might find heart disease
Screening for lung and breast cancer may reveal information about the health of your heart's arteries.
Image: © Jupiterimages/Thinkstock
Screening tests for two of the most common forms of cancer involve detailed x-ray images of the chest. Growing evidence suggests that these tests — chest computed tomography (CT) scans and mammograms — may also offer clues about a person's risk of heart disease.
"Both doctors and their patients should be aware that the low-dose CT scans used to find lung cancer can also detect plaque in the arteries of the heart," says Dr. Ron Blankstein, a cardiovascular imaging specialist and preventive cardiologist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital. CT scans take a series of rapid-fire x-rays in seconds. Combined, the images allow doctors to "see" structures inside the body.
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