Best of Breast: news for week ending 26 September 2014

The main highlights for breast cancer and cancer from Google Alerts, for the week ending 26 September 2014.

At the risk of being known as the cancer blog devoted to dogs sniffing out cancer, item 1 this week is about a labrador who detected his owner’s breast cancer.  I think this must make the fourth time I’ve seen this reported in the news this year, and I think it is remarkable that there is this amazing resource out there which is under-utilised.  I wish I had one of these dogs.  It would make it so much easier to know what’s going on without scans or blood tests.

Item 9 is about a researcher who is crowd-funding to develop a patent-free cancer drug.  This has significant implications for the US, where there is no central body that regulates or negotiates with the drug companies to get the best deal for cancer patients.  It is a travesty that drug companies can charge what they want.

A case in point is a recent expose by the CBS news reportage programme, 60 minutes, of the high-cost of cancer drug pricing in the US and how the doctors at Memorial Sloan-Kettering refused to prescribe a drug that they considered overpriced and more toxic than a competitor drug.  Watch the recording here:  http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-eye-popping-cost-of-cancer-drugs/

Dog-detected-breast-cancer

Missy the Labrador, who detected his owner’s breast cancer. Image credit: expressnewspaper.

1.  Woman’s breast friend: Dog saves owner’s life by detecting her cancer

Continue reading

Best of Breast: news for week ending 12 September 2014

The latest medical news in Breast Cancer and Cancer from Google Alerts, for the week ending 12 September 2014.

Wahey, it’s the week of the American Society of Oncology Symposium!  As usual it’s yielded the results of new trials or new research into cancer treatments.  Yet I’ve chosen to lead with another article on cancer-sniffing dogs.  Why is this?

While I appreciate what modern science is doing to prolong life and achieve remission, these treatments or diagnoses come with side-effects and long-term issues.  The research is also very technical and full of stats – nothing to touch the heart there.

So whenever I see a new method of detection that is simplicity in itself and with minimal side-effects, I cheer!  In previous posts I’ve covered how dogs have miraculously detected cancer in their owners.  There are also organisations that are now investigating how dogs detect cancer.  If you do not have cancer and would like to volunteer to provide a breath sample, please contact the number in the article.

As a layman, I’m interested in prevention, and things that I can do to help prevent or keep the cancer in remission, for example, diet – hence the article which implies that soy is dangerous for women with breast cancer, and another on how a probiotic, lactobacillus plantarum may help prevent cancer.

Another subject that is close to my heart is oncolytic virotherapthy, harnessing the body’s own immune system to fight the cancer.  In May this year, I posted about a woman with Stage 4 multiple myeloma who was went into remission thanks to a specially-engineered  measles vaccine.  She now has a blog, Let’s Go Viral.  Please note that this is not a cure-all – there was another patient who had the vaccine at the same time and did not go into remission.  Interestingly, the side-effects from the measles vaccine resembled those of Removab (a tri-functional antibody) – fever, shivering, headaches – but possibly more severe.

04/09/14 Medical Detection Dogs feature - Great Horwood

Daisy the Dog, awaiting for instruction at the testing centre

1.  Medical Detection Dogs need volunteers (without breast cancer) for the first ever canine breast cancer detection trail

Continue reading

Best of Breast: news for week ending 22 August 2014

Updated 16 September 2014

The weekly summary of medical news developments for Breast Cancer and Cancer for the week ending 21 August 2014.

This post focuses on screening.  Call it coincidence, but there were three articles on different ways to screen for breast cancer, this week.  The first is a trial into using dogs to sniff out breast cancer. I’ve covered dogs being used to sniff out cancer in previous posts, but this time, scientists are finally testing this on breast cancer.  Perhaps one day the gold standard in screening could be a golden labrador!

Dog

Dr Claire Guest and Daisy Photo: Janine Warwick

Item number 2 is a study that shows that MRIs are more accurate than ultrasound and mammogram in detecting recurrent tumours.  I wonder how MRIs compare to Pet-CTs in terms of radiation exposure.  There is no ionizing radiation in an MRI.  The dose for a typical PET-CT scan is 25 mSv for a 70-kg person.  The dose for a mammogram is 0.4 to 0.7 mSv.  The PET-CT gives 625 times more radiation.  CT scans alone produce 7 mSV, 10 to 15 times the dose of a mammogram.

RadiationDoseChart

From http://xkcd.com/radiation/. With thanks to Steve for this chart.

Continue reading

Best of Breast: news for week ending 23 May 2014

News from the world of breast cancer and cancer, as highlighlighted by Google Alerts, for the week ending 23 May 2014.

Angelina

It seems there’s been a rise in the number of women opting for double mastectomies, because of fear of recurrence, even when there is no genetic basis for breast cancer (i.e. no BRCA1/2 gene mutation].

I can understand and sympathise:  After all, who wants to go through the rollercoaster of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment again if it recurs in the other breast?  Why not get it all out in one go, with an increased chance that it won’t ever return?  There are other reasons women opt for contralateral mastectomies:  the need for symmetry is one.

But mastectomies carry risks and psychological consequences.  Furthermore, what the surgeons don’t tell patients is that the cancer can still return, mastectomy or no double mastectomy, in the same breast with the tumour.  The cancer cells lurk in the scar tissue, which is often the site of a recurrence.  This can happen even if patients have had radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

Continue reading