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!


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.


From With thanks to Steve for this chart.

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Best of Breast: news for week ending 2 May 2014

The highlights from the world of Breast Cancer and Cancer, as culled from Google Alerts, for the week ending 2 May 2014.


Science-fiction or fact?

This week’s leader comes under the “Too Good to be True” and “Revolutionary” heading.  In fact, it was so incredible, I checked the date of the PR statement for the news release in case it was 1 April 2014 and a prank.  I did a search on the internet just to play safe.

I sometimes dream of travelling into the future where the cure for cancer has been found, and travelling back with a key device that could get rid of cancer without any side-effects.  This week, there’s a device that seems to have fallen out of an alien’s time machine.

Chemotherapy, as we all know, comes at a cost.  It not only kills cancer cells, but also all fast-growing cells and damages nerves in the body.  It’s a bit like using chemicals to try to burn off your right ear while leaving your left ear intact.

Some of the side-effects of chemotherapy include low blood cell counts, fatigue and chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN).

CIPN sympoms include nerve damage, loss of sensation, and even severe pain in the hands, fingers and feet of cancer patients.

The American Cancer Society says that CIPN can even cause more serious problems like changes in your heart rate, blood pressure, dangerous falls, trouble breathing, paralysis and even organ failure. In many cases the pain caused by CIPN is permanent and can cripple the lives of cancer survivors 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Another study this week shows that many women who have chemotherapy are at higher risk of ending up unemployed 4 years after diagnosis.

The cure, is often more feared, then the disease itself.


Beam me up Scotty? Lazarus: the first device to prevent and reverse chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy.

Now it seems there may be a device that can prevent and reverse the effects of CIPN and some of the other side-effects of chemotherapy.  Better still, it does it using low-level laser technology, without chemicals or radiation.  The Lazarus device from Photetica sounds like something out of a science-fiction (or Biblical) B-movie, because it looks simple, but promises to deliver.  The only hitch?  It’s currently not approved by the FDA and is seeking funds for trials through crowdfunding.

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Best of Breast: news for week ending 4 April 2014

A summary of the weekly news for week ending 4 April 2014, for breast cancer and cancer, culled from Google Alerts.

Please watch this video.  It’s about a dog who sniffed out its owner’s breast cancer AFTER it was missed by a mammogram.  It is a heartwarming demonstration of the love between an owner and her dog, which just happens to save the owner’s life.

And yes, I’ve posted similar incidents previously with Daisy the Springer Spaniel in Best of Breast w/e 30 August 2013, Troy the Doberman in Best of Breast 7 February 2014, and dogs being trained to sniff out ovarian cancer.

The more I read about such amazing cancer-detection faculties from man’s best friend, the more I wish I had a dog.  I’ve got three cats, and comforting as they are, they’ve never once sniffed pointedly at my breasts and indicated things weren’t quite right.  I think there should be more research into dog scans – imagine, detecting early breast cancer that’s missed by mammograms, without a blood draw or biopsy!  With the millions that’s being poured into chemotherapy and radiotherapy with their concomitant side effects, aren’t scientists missing something very obvious and cheaper here?

[on the other hand, maybe it’s best if Big Pharma doesn’t get involved in patenting a breed of dog that can sniff out breast cancer – can you imagine how much they would charge for such a dog?]

Other items of interest:  (1) fatigue in patients who’ve had chemotherapy could be caused by latent Epstein-Barr Virus or cytomegalovirus.  Epstein-Barr is the fancy name for glandular fever, and is one of the most common viruses in humans.   In the United States, about half of all five-year-old children and 90 to 95 percent of adults have evidence of previous infection. (2) With the summer season coming, people will be dusting off their BBQs, so find out how to minimise the carcinogenic effects of BBQ food (3) why estrogen-blocking treatments (like Tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors) fail (4) chemotherapy contributes to early-ageing [I know we’re supposed to feel grateful for such treatments saving lives, but it’s hard when they add up to 15 years to the ageing process – thanks, cancer!]

1.  Dog Saved Owner’s Life By Detecting Breast Cancer That Mammogram Missed

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