Category Archives: Blog

Supporting a Partner with Cancer

July 16 - 41633398Many people don’t know what to do when their spouse or significant other receives a cancer diagnosis. What should they say? How should they act? How can they be supportive, compassionate, helpful and strong?

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New BRCA Mutations Discovery

July-16-16692030Recent discoveries indicate there may be many more BRCA gene mutations than previously thought, and this may affect how we test for inherited breast cancer in the future.
A public-private partnership, called BRCA Share™, announced in June that it has found a number of new and previously unrecognized variants of the BRCA gene.

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Bone Genes and Breast Cancer

July 16 -11473748Researchers in Vienna, Austria and the University of Maryland who are working together on an international collaboration have found what appears to be a new route to preventing breast cancer. Their work shows that by blocking a genetic pathway to bone repair, a new drug may also prevent inherited breast cancer caused by the BRCA gene.

For several years, clinicians have used the antibody drug Denosumab to block a gene and its protein, collectively known as the RANKL/RANK system. The antibody prevents loss of bone in patients with various forms of cancer. This drug has very few side effects and is highly effective. The new research shows that mouse breast cells with BRCA mutation, when treated with this drug, were no longer susceptible to the development of breast cancers.

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The Fast-ing Track to Good Health

We’ve all heard the old saying “you are what you eat.” In recent years however, it’s become increasingly evident that when is just as important as what, or how much, you consume.

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How Soon To Start Chemo

You just had breast cancer surgery, and your doctor wants you to follow it up with chemo. But your son’s wedding is in six weeks. What should you do?

In a previous blog, we wrote that prolonging the Time to Surgery (TTS) from diagnosis reduces the overall survival for women with breast cancer.

How long after surgery you should start chemo, or the Time to Chemotherapy (TTC) is another commonly asked question, and many recent studies are attempting to provide answers.

Although there isn’t universal agreement on the optimal TTC, there is agreement that time matters, and that women for whom chemo is recommended shouldn’t wait too long before starting treatment. (more…)

Does Time to Surgery Matter?

female surgeon with scalpelWhen diagnosed with breast cancer, many women describe feeling pressure to “get the cancer out, FAST! ” Others, however, seem slightly annoyed (because of the excellent prognosis for early stage disease) with their diagnosis and would rather not change their plans. They’ll ask, “Can I still go on my cruise?” so that they can enjoy some time before treatment starts. In some cases, doctors have reassured patients that taking a few months to make a decision is perfectly fine, while others have discouraged any delay in surgery and/or treatment. (more…)

Why We’re Losing the Battle of the Bulge

fat woman measuring her stomach

This past July, the New York Times published an article entitled, “Americans Are Finally Eating Less”. The article explained how, after decades of bad diets and increases in obesity, our country’s eating habits had finally begun to improve and calories consumed were declining for the first time in over 40 years. Obesity rates had stopped rising for adults and children, and had actually decreased for younger children.

Good news, right? Not good enough, apparently. A subsequent Times article (published this month) tells a completely different story. Despite our country’s best efforts to fight obesity, including a major campaign by Michelle Obama, the share of Americans in that category has edged up.

What happened?

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what has caused the apparent reversal in progress. However, logical reasoning might indicate that, if lower calorie consumption has not led to a sustainable decrease in obesity, perhaps calorie consumption is not the problem.

Under the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, chain restaurants are required to publish the calorie content of their meals. The federal government has improved the requirements for school lunches, and many schools have completely removed soda machines from their hallways. Some states (such as Berkeley, California) have even begun to tax sugar-sweetened beverages. While these are certainly steps in the right direction, they don’t mean that Americans are stocking their fridges with fresh fruits and vegetables and replacing soda with water.

Calories are not the villain here. Understanding how to fuel our bodies in a healthy way is the key to fighting obesity and improving overall health. Fried chicken, for example, is packed with salt, saturated fat and unhealthy calories. On the other hand, an avocado is loaded with healthy fats which the body can use. The same is true of almonds and other tree nuts. While high in calories, these foods (when eaten in moderation) provide nutrition and energy that evens out blood sugar levels and fuels the body in a healthy way.

The fact of the matter is: When certain foods become unavailable or restricted, they often gain traction as ‘forbidden fruit’ and become all the more appealing. Restricting or taxing soda doesn’t mean that people acquire a deeper understanding of the health risks associated with it. If people want sweets or fast food, they don’t have to look far to find it. If soda isn’t available, there are plenty of substitutes. The prevalence of “low fat” cookies and desserts only fools people into thinking that they are making a better choice. In fact, this can lead consumers to eat larger portions of these products when, in fact, they generally contain higher levels of sugar to offset the decreased fat. Hardly a good choice.

Where is the data coming from?

These figures are released every two years by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, considered by many to be the gold standard for federal health data. The numbers show that about 38% of American adults were obese in 2013 and 2014, up from 35% in 2011 and 2012. Marion Nestle, a professor in the department of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, said that the trend is “very unfortunate and very disappointing”. She added, “Everybody was hoping that with the decline in sugar and soda consumption, we’d start seeing a leveling off of obesity.”

Some of the most startling numbers were among minorities. From 2011 to 2014, 57% of black women were obese, the highest rate of any demographic. The next highest were Hispanic women (46%) and Hispanic men (39%). Of white women and men, 36% and 34% were obese, respectively.

Obesity and breast cancer

For women, the dangers of obesity (particularly post-menopause) include a possible increased risk for breast cancer. Fat cells produce estrogen and cause inflammation, which is considered a contributor to the development of breast cancer. Maintaining a healthy body weight and exercising regularly can lower the risk.

It seems that, within only six months, our nation’s health situation has deteriorated from promising to discouraging. There are no quick fixes here. Until more Americans become better educated about how what they eat affects their overall health, the fight against obesity will be hard won.

The Flu: What You Need to Know

fluseasonaheadThe flu season is upon us, and we all cringe at the potential disruption it can bring to our busy lives. While there is no way to completely guard against the flu, there are things you can do to minimize the risk: (more…)

Exercise and Cancer Outcomes

Last week, I received a call from a woman who I consider a business genius. Her exercisefriendship is a gift, and she offers a wealth of experience not only in business and finance, but also in travel, hobbies, and relationships. She is a “self-made “success who embodies the vital ammunition of hard work and the type of focus that’s necessary to complete the toughest challenges.

When she called to tell me that she had just been diagnosed with breast cancer, her usual calm and confident voice sounded panicked. (more…)

Oncotype DX Breast Cancer Test Can Simplify Treatment Plans

Researchers hand holding test tube with DNA model in front of DNA transparency slide

Many women tell me that the worst part of being diagnosed with breast cancer is hearing that you need chemotherapy. The disease itself is bad enough, but having to deal with the side effects of chemo—hair loss, nausea, fatigue and months of trips back and forth to the hospital—just intensify their fears. However, there is a relatively new test that can be performed at the time of biopsy and diagnosis that can provide valuable information in tailoring a woman’s treatment plan. (more…)

What to Expect on the Day of your Breast Surgery

There are so many things to think about when facing breast surgery or any in-patient BreastBag_websurgical procedure. Besides packing for the hospital, you have to make sure that everything is in order for your return home. Although your doctor will explain the physical constraints you will face post-surgery, it’s difficult to know what you’ll be dealing with until you actually experience it first-hand. (more…)

Dr. E’s DO’s and DON’Ts: Tattoos

DrelogoIt used to be unusual to see a man or woman with a tattoo, but not anymore. In fact, $1.6 billion is spent in the U.S. each year on tattoos, and 45 million Americans have them. Of that amount, a whopping 40% are adults age 26-40. Back in July, we posted a blog on how tattoo ink can be mistaken for the spread of cancer to the lymph nodes. However, on the flip side, tattoo ink can also hide potentially problematic moles by making it hard to evaluate them. (more…)

Spotlight On: Flakka–The New Designer Drug

Equipment used in the preparation of illegal street drugs.In Spanish, the word flake is a term of endearment for a thin person. When I was a teenager, my friend’s Colombian father used to call me “flakita”. But the word Flakka is anything but that. It’s the street name for a new designer drug that is highly addictive and extremely dangerous. (more…)

Hormone Therapy: “Bioidenticals” Can Be Risky

iStock_000020503776_SmallThere’s nothing pleasant about sweating through your blouse during an elegant dinner party or having to get up in the middle of the night to change pajamas, but that’s precisely the sort of discomfort faced by many menopausal women. (more…)

Dr. E’s DOs and DON’Ts: School Lunches

DrelogoAs the new school year approaches and we’re bombarded with back-to-school sales and advertisements for everything from backpacks to paper clips, it’s time to focus on what your kids are going to be eating throughout their busy days. (more…)

For Breast Cancer Prevention, More Exercise is Better

It’s no secret that body fat increases postmenopausal breast cancer risk. Regular exercise is an integral part of breast cancer prevention and, further, exercise should play a key role Multi-ethnic group of mature women (50s) exercising in gym, lifting hand weights.in breast cancer recovery as well (we posted a blog on the subject last summer). But how much exercise is optimal for reducing breast cancer risk? According to a recent study, more seems to be better.

A clinical trial conducted in Alberta, Canada between 2010 and 2013 studied how different levels of exercise affected the body fat levels of 384 previously inactive postmenopausal women (aged 50 to 74 years) in both normal and obese body fat ranges. The participants were randomly assigned workout regimens of either 30 or 60 minutes per day for five days each week (with no dietary changes) and continued the regimens for 12 months. Body fat measurements taken before and after the trial showed that decreases in body fat were significantly higher in those women who participated in a higher volume, more intense exercise regimen (300 vs. 150 minutes per week).

Overall, the women exercising 300 minutes weekly lost 1% more body fat than those in the 150 minute group. An important finding, however, was that those exercising at the higher level did not lose significantly more weight. Many cancer studies focus on how weight affects cancer risk, but this study focused specifically on body fat levels.

Christine Friedenreich, PhD led the study along with her colleagues at Alberta Health Services in order to differentiate between how body fat, not just weight, could lower cancer risk. She said that general guidelines for exercise concentrate on lowering blood pressure and other heart disease-related measurements. But for cancer prevention, Friedenreich says, “We may need to exercise at higher volumes. So yes, doing 150 minutes of activity a week is good, but if you can do more, then from a cancer prevention perspective, 300 minutes is better.”

Since fatty tissue is the main source of hormones that can drive postmenopausal breast cancer, the study results are significant. Fat also plays a role in the body’s immune and inflammatory responses, both of which are involved in cancer. So when it comes to exercise and breast cancer prevention, upping your game could really improve your odds!

Spotlight on: Lara Devgan, MD, MPH

Dr. Lara DevganLara Devgan, MD, MPH is a board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon in New York City. Here is an interesting and provocative blog she posted on her website. (more…)

Dr. E’s DOs and DON’Ts: “Dieting”

DrelogoFor some of us, the onset of summer brings a wave of anxiety about how we’ll look in shorts, sleeveless tops and….of course…..swimsuits. It’s hard to imagine being in a women’s clothing store without overhearing self-loathing comments such as, “I could never pull this off unless I lost 10 pounds”, or “I really need to go on a diet”. (more…)

Breast Surgery and Medical Testing: Understanding What’s Going On

Doctors examining medical testsWhen you’re facing breast surgery, there’s a lot of information to process. In addition to all the physical and emotional prep, there are myriad medical imaging and other tests that you may have to undergo. Here’s a list and explanation of the tests that could be necessary (more…)

Tattoo Ink or Cancer?

A cropped shot of a tattooed young woman

Read our blog on The Huffington Post about how tattoo ink can be mistaken for cancer cells.

Spotlight on: FORCE

FORCE logo Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE) is the nation’s only nonprofit organization dedicated to families facing hereditary breast, ovarian and related cancers. (more…)