Category Archives: Cancer

6 Women on What Their First Mammogram Really Felt Like

If you’ve never had a mammogram, the breast cancer screening test might seem a bit daunting. Not only can it be nerve-wracking to consider what the series of X-rays might find, you may have heard that mammos are painful. Or maybe you’re uncomfortable disrobing in front of a stranger, no matter how professional.

That’s why we asked six women to tell us what their very first time was like. Reading their experiences below might make you feel a bit more prepared before your own first appointment.

RELATED: 9 Things to Know Before Your First Mammogram

"It wasn't as bad as I was expecting"

"I remember my mother saying that if men had to have mammograms, there surely would have been a more comfortable process invented. I had heard jokes about lying down on the driveway and having someone run over your breast–and it was like that! I think because of my mother’s reaction though, I was kind of prepared, so it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. I’ve found it gets easier with age, as breasts get less dense. And sometimes the technician makes a difference."


"The worst was what happened after the scans"

"During my breast exam at my last annual check-up, I mentioned to my doctor that about two months earlier, I had woken up one morning with a stain on my pajamas, around my left breast. It had only happened that one time, and I wasn’t too worried—but the look on her face told me I should be.

A week later I had my first mammogram. It wasn’t so much painful as uncomfortable. But the worst was what happened after the scans. The technician disappeared. For a long time.

I had left my phone in a locker with my clothes and other belongings, so I sat in the room in my gown, distraction-free, for what seemed like ages, with the worst-case scenario playing out in my head. I imagined the technician had seen something terrible on the scans and left to find the radiologist to break the news to me gently.

When she finally came back, she told me that whenever a woman has nipple discharge, they do an ultrasound in addition to a mammogram as a matter of course. My primary care physician had simply forgotten to order the ultrasound. So the tech had been trying to arrange it. That was all. I had my sonogram, and then the radiologist came in to tell me the results of both tests were normal.

I wish I had known in advance that they planned do both tests—or that I had asked the tech where she was going when she left the room. It would have made the whole experience less stressful."


"I didn't know the exact steps"

"I was 40 when I had my first mammogram, and I had really only heard what it would be like from what my mom shared. I knew what would generally happen, but I didn’t know the exact steps for it. I did know the technician would need to view all angles of my breast–which did happen. I was nervous because I thought it would be painful; it was a little uncomfortable, but not really painful. The technician was very gentle and extremely friendly, which helped me relax."


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"It was only a little uncomfortable"

"I was nervous, but I found out that my neighbor Jackie did mammograms at the hospital by me. When I made my appointment, I requested Jackie and told the woman scheduling the appointment that I’m a friend of hers. I remember the woman said, “Jackie is the best! She does all of the staff’s mammograms!” That made me feel great.

Jackie was indeed awesome; it was only a little uncomfortable. I have dense breasts and also had an ultrasound. I’ve had a few now, and the only bad thing about them is it takes a whole freaking day. The waiting for the results is a little nerve-wracking too."


"The waiting room felt like I could be at a spa"

"I was sent for a mammogram at 36 following an annual check-up with my gynecologist. My mom had just survived breast cancer and my paternal grandmother had survived it once but died of metastatic disease 30 years later.

I remember thinking the waiting room felt like I could be at a spa. We were all wearing ill-fitting robes and thumbing through magazines–but we were distracted and definitely not looking forward to a massage.

I wasn't scared–until I was called back for a second scan. The technician just stated simply that she needed to take more images. I was worried. I remember being upset that she didn’t acknowledge that I was probably terrified. I’ve had a few more mammograms since, and I’m still waiting for an empathetic technician."


"I felt a lump–but I was not scared."

"I had my very first mammogram when I was about 23, and not because that is routine, but because I felt a lump. I was not scared at all–I thought absolutely nothing about it. I did not for a second think I had breast cancer. But it was so uncomfortable. My breasts were smashed in a cold, hard machine and pushed by a tech who treated them as just a body part. While they are, they are still private to me! I found this a little awkward. 

My doctor told me I had "lumpy breasts" and to always do self-checks; I left still not thinking about breast cancer even though my grandmother had it when I was 5. 

I found a different lump when I was 40. When I pressed on it, black discharge came out. After a mammogram and an MRI, it was revealed that I did indeed have cancer."

–Ann Marie Otis, of Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer


*Indicates name has been changed for privacy “>
Breast Cancer –

Shannen Doherty To Undergo Surgery a Year After Announcing Breast Cancer Remission

One year after announcing that her breast cancer is in remission, Shannen Doherty is going to have surgery.

The actress, 47, did not share the exact nature of the procedure but told fans on social media Tuesday that per her doctor’s recommendation she autologous blood banking, which means storing your own blood, ahead of the surgery.

“My doctor had me bank some blood for my upcoming surgery,” Doherty wrote on Instagram along with a photo of her and her phlebotomist.

“[Phlebotomis] Mars P was patient with me and didn’t even roll his eyes at my anxiety over the needle size,” she continued. “He was patient, kind and really good. As I sat there banking blood for myself, I asked him about some of the people also donating… especially the ones with TVs.”

Added Doherty: “So two of them come every 2 weeks and donate platelets which takes 2 hours. Another girl comes as often as allowed to donate blood. To say I’m moved by the generosity of people is an understatement.”

Doherty went on to say that “as long as I’m cleared in the future, I will start donating.”

“Thank you to those selfless humans that donate,” wrote Doherty. “Thank you to Mars and all at the clinic in Woodland Hills for your smiles and hard work. Thank you to the @americanredcross #humbledagain.”

RELATED: Shannen Doherty Is ‘Staying Positive’ After a Post-Cancer Tumor Scan Came Back ‘Elevated’

Earlier this month, Doherty said she was “staying positive” after a post-cancer tumor scan came back “elevated” but stressed she remained in remission.

“Test and results. One tumor marker test came back good. Other… elevated,” Doherty said in an Instagram post on April 4. “Just means I get monitored and another test. But even after that call, I’m staying positive and taking stock of my life.”

Continued Doherty: “It certainly helps put things in perspective and reminds you of what you learned thru the cancer journey. And I sometimes, need a refresher. As I’ve said before, cancer changes your life in ways no one could ever imagine.”

Doherty added that the elevated levels on the tumor test “can be from all sorts of things” and that she’s “#stillacancerslayer.”

Doherty announced that she was in remission on April 28, 2017. When she shared that she was in remission, she was realistic about the chance of her cancer coming back.

“As every single one of my fellow cancer family knows, the next five years is crucial,” Doherty said on social media at the time. “Reoccurrences happen all the time. Many of you have shared that very story with me. So with a heart that is certainly lighter, I wait.”

In August, Doherty revealed that she had returned to work to film her new Paramount Network series, Heathers, which is set to premiere this year.

“Was back on set today. It’s been a rough two years. Fighting cancer. As an actor, people bench you. They assume you’re too weak, not able etc. etc. and yet it’s something like work that invigorates and renews strength to conquer the unimaginable beast,” she said at the time. “>
Breast Cancer –

Waht is Breast Cancer?

Jump to: Causes | Symptoms | Diagnosis | Types | Stages | Treatment | Prevention

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, after skin cancer. One in eight women in the United States (roughly 12%) will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. It is also the second leading cause of cancer death in women after lung cancer. Encouragingly, the death rate from breast cancer has declined a bit in recent years, perhaps due to greater awareness and screening for this type of cancer, as well as better treatments.

Breast cancer is a disease that occurs when cells in breast tissue change (or mutate) and keep reproducing. These abnormal cells usually cluster together to form a tumor. A tumor is cancerous (or malignant) when these abnormal cells invade other parts of the breast or when they spread (or metastasize) to other areas of the body through the bloodstream or lymphatic system, a network of vessels and nodes in the body that plays a role in fighting infection.

Breast cancer usually starts in the milk-producing glands of the breast (called lobules) or the tube-shaped ducts that carry milk from the lobules to the nipple. Less often, cancer begins in the fatty and fibrous connective tissue of the breast.

New cases of breast cancer are about 100 times more common in women than in men, but yes, men can get breast cancer too. Male breast cancer is rare, but anyone with breast tissue can develop breast cancer.

What causes breast cancer?

Breast cancer is caused by a genetic mutation in the DNA of breast cancer cells. How or why this damage occurs isn’t entirely understood. Some mutations may develop randomly over time, while others are inherited or may be the result of environmental exposures or lifestyle factors.

Most breast cancers are diagnosed in women over age 50, but it’s not clear why some women get breast cancer (including women with no risk factors) and others do not (including those who do have risk factors).

Some breast cancer risks may be preventable. Of course, you cannot control every variable that may influence your risk. Here are the key breast cancer risk factors to know.

  • Age and gender. If you are a woman and you’re getting older, you may be at risk of developing breast cancer. The risk begins to climb after age 40 and is highest for women in their 70s.
  • Family history. Having a close blood relative with breast cancer increases your risk of developing the disease. A woman’s breast cancer risk is almost double if she has a mom, sister, or daughter with breast cancer and about triple if she has two or more first-degree relatives with breast cancer.
  • A breast cancer gene mutation. Up to 10% of all breast cancers are thought to be inherited, and many of these cases are due to defects in one or more genes, especially the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. (Scientists are studying several other gene mutations as well.) In the U.S., BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations are more common in Jewish women of Eastern European descent. Having these defective genes doesn’t mean you will get breast cancer, but the risk is greater: A woman’s lifetime risk of breast cancer with a BRCA1 gene mutation, for example, may be more like 55% to 65% compared to the average 12%.
  • Breast changes and conditions. Women with dense breasts or with a personal history of breast lumps, a previous breast cancer, or certain non-cancerous breast conditions are at greater risk of developing breast cancer than women who do not have these conditions.
  • Race/ethnicity. White women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than Asian, Hispanic, and African American women. But African American women are more likely to develop more aggressive breast cancer at a younger age and both African American and Hispanic women are more likely to die from breast cancer than white women.
  • Hormones. Women with early menstrual periods (starting before age 12) and late menopause (after age 55) are at greater risk of getting breast cancer. Scientists think their longer exposure to the female hormone estrogen may be a factor, because estrogen stimulates growth of the cells of the breast. Likewise, use of hormone therapy after menopause appears to boost the risk of breast cancer. Oral birth control pills have been linked to a small increase in breast cancer risk compared with women who never used hormonal contraception. But that risk is temporary: More than 10 years after stopping the pill, a woman’s breast cancer risk returns to average.
  • Weight. Women who are overweight or obese after menopause are more likely to get breast cancer. The exact reason why isn’t clear, but it may be due to higher levels of estrogen produced by fat cells after menopause. Being overweight also boosts blood levels of insulin, which may affect breast cancer risk.
  • Alcohol consumption. Studies suggest women who drink two or more alcoholic beverages a day are 1 1/2 times more likely than non-drinkers to develop breast cancer. The risk rises with greater alcohol intake, and alcohol is known to increase the risk of other cancers too. For that reason, the American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that women stick to one drink a day–or less.
  • Radiation exposure. A woman’s risk of developing breast cancer may be higher than normal if she had chest radiation for another disease as a child or young adult.
  • Pregnancy history. Having no children or having a first child after age 30 may increase your risk of breast cancer.
  • DES exposure. Women who were given the now-banned drug diethylstilbestrol to prevent miscarriage decades ago face a slightly increased risk of breast cancer, as do their daughters.

Scientists are studying a slew of other factors to determine what role, if any, they may play in the development of breast cancer. There’s not enough evidence to say for sure whether smoking, dietary fat, or environmental exposure to certain chemicals, for example, ramp up the risk for breast cancer because study results to date are mixed.

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Breast cancer symptoms

Breast cancer symptoms vary from one person to the next. Knowing what your breasts normally look and feel like may help you recognize possible signs and symptoms.

What does breast cancer feel like? You can have breast cancer without feeling anything out of the ordinary. But, if you find an area of thickening breast tissue, a lump in your breast (usually painless, but not always) or an enlarged underarm lymph node, see your physician.

RELATED: The 15 Worst Things You Can Say to Someone With Breast Cancer

What does breast cancer look like? You may notice a change in the shape or size of your breast. You could have an area of skin that dimples or a nipple that leaks fluid.

Often, there are no early warning signs of breast cancer. Even if you develop a lump, it may be too small to feel. That’s why breast cancer screening, typically using mammography, is so important. Early signs and symptoms of breast cancer that some women and men might experience include:

  • New lump in the breast or armpit, with or without pain. Lumps are often hard but can be soft as well. (Not all lumps are breast cancer. Some lumps may be noncancerous changes or benign, fluid-filled cysts, but they should be checked by your physician.)
  • Change in breast size or shape. Look for swelling, thickening, or shrinkage, especially in one breast.
  • Dimpling, pitting, or redness. Breast skin may take on the appearance of an orange peel.
  • Peeling, flaking, or scaling breast skin.
  • Red, thick, or scaly nipple.
  • Breast, nipple, or armpit pain.
  • Inverted nipple. Look for a nipple that turns inward or flattens.
  • Nipple discharge. It may be clear or bloody.
  • Redness or unusual warmth. This can be a sign of inflammatory breast cancer, a rare and aggressive form of the disease.
  • Swollen lymph nodes under the arm or around the collarbone, which could be a sign that breast cancer has spread.

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Breast cancer screening and diagnosis

With breast cancer, early detection is key. The earlier the disease is diagnosed the less it has progressed, and the better the outcome with treatment.

Screening for breast cancer

A screening mammogram (a type of breast X-ray) can identify the presence of cancer, often before symptoms arise. Women at high risk for breast cancer may also be screened with other imaging tests, like a breast MRI.

Medical organizations and breast cancer advocacy groups urge women to undergo routine screening to find and treat breast cancer early. But experts do not agree on exactly when to begin screening or how frequently women should be tested.

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (an alliance of cancer centers) recommends annual screening beginning at age 40.

The ACS says women ages 40 to 44 should have the option to begin screening every year. It recommends annual screening for women ages 45 to 54. At 55, a woman can decide to continue annual screening or go for her mammogram every other year for as long as she is healthy and has 10 more years of life to live.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force advises women 40 to 49 to talk to their health care provider about when to start screening and how often to be screened. For women 50 to 74, it recommends a mammogram every two years.

Women at high risk of developing breast cancer should be screened earlier and more often. The ACS recommends annual mammograms and breast MRIs starting at age 30 for women with a higher-than-average risk of developing breast cancer, including those with a known breast cancer gene mutation or a first-degree relative with an inherited breast cancer gene mutation.

RELATED: 25 Breast Cancer Myths Busted

Since men have less breast tissue and less breast cancer, they are not routinely screened for the disease. If there is a strong family history of breast cancer or a known breast cancer gene mutation in the family, a man might consider having genetic testing to see if he has a mutation that increases his risk for male breast cancer.

Men who are at high risk for breast cancer should talk to their health care provider about having their breasts examined during routine checkups and doing breast self-exams.

Male or female, it is helpful to know what your breasts normally look and feel like so that you can report any changes to your doctor. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends “breast self-awareness,” meaning knowing what’s normal for your own breasts and paying attention to any changes you may feel.

Regular breast self-exams are no longer recommended as a routine screening method for women because there isn’t sufficient evidence that they offer any early detection or survival benefits.

But should women still have their breasts examined by a doctor every year? Some medical groups see no clear benefit of a clinical breast exam, while others continue to recommend one every year as part of a routine checkup.

Diagnosing breast cancer

An abnormal finding on a screening mammogram or discovering a lump or other breast changes doesn’t necessarily mean you have breast cancer.

First, your doctor will need to perform follow-up testing using one or more types of scans. A diagnostic mammogram, which involves more X-rays than a screening mammogram, can offer a more detailed view of the area of concern. Two other tests, a breast MRI or a breast ultrasound, may be ordered to gather additional diagnostic information.

There is only one way to confirm a cancer diagnosis. You will need a biopsy to extract cells or tissue from the area of the breast that is causing concern. A fine needle may be used to remove cells or tissue, or you may undergo a surgical procedure to remove a piece of breast tissue.

A pathologist will use these specimens to look for cancer under a microscope and may perform additional testing on the tissue sample. The pathology findings can confirm whether or not you have breast cancer and what your chances of beating it–your prognosis–may be. This information can help your medical team (your doctor, your surgeon, your radiologist, and other providers) determine the best course of treatment.

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Types of breast cancer

You and your doctor need to know the type of breast cancer you have to get the best outcome. Your treatment will depend on where your cancer started, whether it has invaded other breast tissue or spread to other parts of your body, and whether hormones like estrogen or progesterone fuel its growth, among other factors.

Most breast cancers are carcinomas, or cancers that start in cells lining the organs or tissues. “In situ” breast cancers haven’t spread to surrounding tissue, which makes them more treatable, while “invasive” breast cancers have invaded surrounding tissue. “Metastatic” breast cancer means it has spread to other parts of your body, such as the lungs, bones, liver, or brain. And “recurrent” breast cancer means breast cancer has returned.

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)

This highly treatable pre-cancer (sometimes called “stage 0” breast cancer) starts in a milk duct. It’s the most common type of non-invasive breast cancer, meaning the cells are abnormal but haven’t spread to the surrounding tissue. Over time, DCIS may progress to invasive breast cancer.

Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC)

This is the most common breast cancer, accounting for 80% of all invasive breast cancer diagnoses. Also called “infiltrating ductal carcinoma,” IDC starts in a milk duct, breaks through the duct wall, and invades the surrounding breast tissue. It can spread to other parts of the body as well. There are also several subtypes of IDC, which are categorized based on features of the tumors that form.

Invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC)

This type of breast cancer begins in the milk-producing glands, called lobules. Also known as “infiltrating lobular carcinoma,” ILC can spread beyond the lobules into surrounding breast tissue and metastasize to other parts of the body. It accounts for about 10% of invasive breast cancers.

Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS)

LCIS, also called lobular neoplasia, starts in the milk-producing lobules. Technically, it’s not breast cancer (even though it has carcinoma in its name), but rather a collection of abnormal cells. People with LCIS are more likely to develop breast cancer in the future.

Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC)

This rare, aggressive type of breast cancer causes redness and swelling of the breast. The affected breast can feel warm, heavy, and tender. The skin may become hard or ridged like an orange rind. See a doctor right away if you have these symptoms. Inflammatory breast cancer tends to strike five years earlier, on average, than other types of breast cancer, and it might not show up on a mammogram. African American women are at greater risk for IBC than white women.

Paget disease of the breast (or the nipple)

This rare cancer affects the skin of the nipple and the darker circle of skin, called the areola, surrounding it. People with Paget disease may notice the nipple and areola becoming scaly, red, or itchy. They may also notice yellow or bloody discharge coming from the nipple. Most people who have this condition also have one or more tumors (either DCIS or invasive cancer) in the same breast.

Metaplastic breast cancer

This rare, invasive breast cancer begins in a milk duct and forms large tumors. It may contain a mix of cells that look different than typical breast cancers and can be more difficult to diagnose.

Angiosarcoma of the breast

This quickly growing cancer is rare. It is usually a complication of a prior radiation treatment of the breast.

Breast cancer subtypes

Breast cancers can also be classified by their genetic makeup. Knowing your cancer’s hormone receptor and HER2 status can help guide treatment.

Hormone receptor positive breast cancer

Some breast cancers are fueled by the hormones estrogen and/or progesterone. Some are not. Knowing whether your cancer is sensitive to these hormones is a crucial piece of the treatment equation. Hormone receptor-positive breast cancer cells have proteins called hormone receptors that attach to estrogen and/or progesterone circulating in your body. Hormonal therapies may be used to fight hormone receptor-positive breast cancer. All invasive breast cancers and DCIS should be tested for hormone status, according to the ACS.

HER2-positive breast cancer

Some breast cancers have higher levels of a protein that promotes cancer growth called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2). Using certain medicines that target HER2 can help kill the cancer.

Triple negative breast cancer

Triple negative breast cancer is estrogen receptor-negative, progesterone receptor-negative, and HER2-negative. Using hormone therapies or HER2 drugs will not slow these aggressive cancers. Triple negative breast cancer is more common among Hispanic and African American women, as well as younger women.

Triple positive breast cancer

Cancers that are positive for estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors, and HER2 can be treated with hormone therapies and drugs that target HER2.

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Breast cancer stages

All breast cancers are assigned a stage based on biopsy results plus other findings from blood tests and imaging scans. Staging can help you and your medical team make decisions about appropriate treatment and understand your chances of survival.

RELATED: 22 Ways to Help a Friend With Breast Cancer

Breast cancer stages reflect the size of the tumor, whether it is invasive, whether it has reached the lymph nodes (glands that are part of the body’s immune system), and whether it has spread to other parts of the body.

Stage 4 breast cancer

At Stage 4, breast cancer has traveled to distant sites in the body, often the bones, liver, brain, or lungs. This is called metastatic breast cancer. Although this stage is considered incurable, new treatments allow patients to live longer with their disease.

Stage 3 breast cancer

Stage 3 breast cancer is an advanced cancer. It’s in the lymph nodes but has not spread to other organs. This stage is divided into three categories, 3A, 3B and 3C, based on the size of the tumor and how many and which lymph nodes are involved.

Stage 2 breast cancer

At Stage 2, breast cancer is growing but is only in the breast or nearby lymph nodes. This stage has two categories, 2A and 2B, based on how large the tumor is and whether or not it has spread to nearby lymph nodes.

Stage 1 breast cancer

Stage 1 is an invasive cancer, meaning it is invading healthy breast tissue, but it has not spread outside the breast. This stage also has two categories, 1A and 1B, based on whether there is any evidence of small clusters of breast cancer cells in nearby lymph nodes.

Stage 0 breast cancer

Also called pre-cancer, this is the earliest stage of breast cancer. It involves abnormal cells that have not spread into breast tissue from the ducts or lobules where they began. Stage 0 breast cancer also has not spread to lymph nodes or other parts of the body. Stage 0 breast cancer is non-invasive, like ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS).

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Breast cancer treatment

Breast cancer treatment regimens differ widely based on the type of cancer, its stage, its sensitivity to hormones, the patient’s age and health, and other factors. Treatments for men and women are similar.

Surgery and radiation therapy are mainstays of breast cancer treatment. These are known as “local therapies” because they target the tumor without affecting the rest of the body.

With a breast-conserving surgery called a lumpectomy, only the portion of the breast containing cancer is removed. A mastectomy involves removing the entire breast and possibly some of the surrounding tissue. Lymph nodes may be removed as part of breast cancer surgery or a separate operation.

RELATED: Why Are So Many Women Getting Double Mastectomies They Might Not Need?

Radiation therapy uses high-energy waves to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. It may be recommended for patients who have breast cancer surgery or whose cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Cancer-killing chemotherapy medicines are delivered intravenously (into a vein) or taken by mouth. Chemo may be given before or after surgery. It’s also used in treating advanced cancer cases. Because these medicines travel through the bloodstream, they can have significant side effects, including mouth sores, hair loss, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Some breast cancers are sensitive to hormones produced in the body. In these hormone receptor-positive breast cancers, estrogen and/or progesterone fuels cancer growth. Hormone therapy can lower the body’s estrogen levels or stop hormones from binding to cancer cells. This category of breast cancer treatment includes the oral medicine tamoxifen, which is often given after surgery to women with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer.

Newer medicines, called targeted therapies, specifically attack cancer cells while sparing normal cells, meaning patients experience fewer side effects. Trastuzumab (Herceptin), for example, is a drug that starves HER2-positive breast cancers by blocking the HER2 protein.

Treatment outcomes may depend on the stage of cancer, a patient’s response to treatment, and other factors.

Generally speaking, stage 0 and 1 breast cancers are highly treatable. The five-year survival rate for women diagnosed with breast cancer in these early stages is close to 100%. At stages 2 and 3, some 93% and 72% of women, respectively, can expect to live at least five years after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Stage 4 or metastatic breast cancer is difficult to treat. The five-year survival rate is about 22%.

For men with breast cancer, the five-year survival rates are similar: 100% for stages 0 and 1, 91% for stage 2, 72% for stage 3, and 20% for stage 4.

Remember, breast cancer statistics are just averages. They don’t reflect an individual patient’s experience.

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Breast cancer prevention

While no one can tell you how to prevent breast cancer with any sort of guarantee, there’s evidence to suggest that certain healthy lifestyle changes can lower your breast cancer risk.

  • Limit your alcohol intake. The more you drink, the higher your risk of breast cancer.
  • Watch your weight. Being overweight or obese boosts your breast cancer risk.
  • Exercise. Women who work out regularly have a lower risk of breast cancer than less active women.
  • Consider breastfeeding your baby. Women who breastfeed have a lower risk of breast cancer than moms who do not breastfeed their children.
  • Reduce your hormone intake. Hormone therapy users are at higher risk for breast cancer. If you’re taking hormones to relieve menopausal symptoms, talk to your doctor about taking the lowest dose that works for you for the shortest time.

RELATED: Celebrities Who Battled Breast Cancer

Patient advocates hope that greater breast cancer awareness will lead to earlier detection and better outcomes. You, too, can join the fight against breast cancer. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a great time to join a breast cancer walk near you.

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7 Things You Need to Know Before You Try 23andMe

National DNA Day, observed every year on April 25, commemorates the discovery of DNA’s double helix in 1953 and the successful completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003. Since these discoveries, the field of genetics has expanded even further—all the way to our own front doors, in fact, thanks to at-home genetic tests such as 23andMe.

Ever since 23andMe’s Health + Ancestry Personal Genetic Service was approved by the FDA in 2015, millions of people around the world have purchased these kits, which cost between $ 99 and $ 199 depending on which features are included. Customers mail back saliva samples for testing in the lab, in hopes of learning more about their family history, their ethnicity, and maybe even their risk for certain health conditions.

Now, to celebrate National DNA Day and the science behind these tests, the company is offering 30% off all kits for a limited time. Before you click that purchase button, however, there are a few important things everyone should know about what you can—and can’t—learn from this test. Health spoke with Reed Pyeritz, MD, professor of genetics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, about what he thinks consumers should keep in mind.

The test’s ancestry tools aren’t complete, and they’re not 100% accurate

When 23andMe began issuing Ancestry reports, it compared customer’s DNA to 31 different ancient populations. Earlier this year, the company released an update that added another layer—and data from 120 additional regions around the globe—to help give customers a more accurate idea of their more recent ancestors.

That’s a huge improvement, says Dr. Pyeritz, but the company’s ancestry data still isn’t complete. "There are an awful lot of genetic variations that are known for Northern Europeans and Eastern Europeans, and so results in regards to those regions is going to be pretty accurate," he says. "But in some other populations, there have been fewer people studied and that means there’s more of a tendency for error."

Women who get tested will also receive slightly incomplete ancestral analyses, because males inherit certain genetic material—called haplogroups—from both their fathers (through their Y chromosome) and mothers (through mitochondrial DNA), while women only inherit it from their mothers. However, 23andMe says the "vast majority" of its ancestry features are based on autosomal DNA, which both parents pass on to male and female offspring.

You can opt out of certain test results

Even if you send in your saliva for 23andMe’s Health + Ancestry service, that doesn't mean you have to look at your results for every genetic variant. The company’s Genetic Health Risk reports can tell you, for example, if you carry genetic markers that raise your risk for breast cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, or Parkinson’s disease—but you can also choose not to access any or all of those reports if you’d rather not know.

Reports that don’t have an opt-out option include genetic information associated with higher risk for Celiac disease, age-related macular degeneration, and other rare hereditary conditions that may cause health problems later in life. You’ll also get a wellness report that indicates how your genes may play a role in your height, weight, muscle mass, likelihood of being lactose intolerant, and more.

Your results don’t mean you will (or won’t) get a disease

It might be a relief to learn that you don’t carry any of the variants 23andMe tests for that are known to raise the risk of certain diseases. But that doesn't mean you can’t still get sick one day: Other genes can still play a role, as can lifestyle factors and environment.

"These tests are only looking at specific genes, and those genes only account for a tiny proportion of people who have these disorders," says Dr. Pyeritz. "I do think that 23andMe is pretty explicit in stating this fact in their results, but not everyone who spits in a cup is going to take the time to read those disclaimers or their entire report."

Similarly, learning that you do have a genetic predisposition to a condition like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease may not do you much good. First, there’s still no guarantee you’ll develop the disease, and second, there may not be much you can do about it.

The one exception? Learning you have a cancer/heres-what-you-need-to-know-about-brca-genetic-testing” target=”_blank”>BRCA mutation that puts you at increased risk for breast and ovarian cancer can provide an opportunity to actually do something preventative, says Dr. Pyeritz—like increased screenings or even prophylactic surgeries. "The information can be used for genetic counseling,” he says, "and if something is found, then it can be treated earlier and more aggressively."

It could affect your plans for having children

23andMe’s test can also tell you if you’re a carrier for more than 40 genetic disorders, which means you carry one genetic variant for a condition (such as cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, or hereditary hearing loss) and could potentially pass that variant down to your children.

If you and your partner are both carriers, there’s a 25% chance you could have a child born with that condition, says Dr. Peritz. 23andMe makes this clear, as well: "Understanding your carrier status helps you work with your doctor to prepare for the health of your future family," the company’s website states.

You can choose how the company stores and uses your data

As a 23andMe customer, you can decide whether or not the company should store your saliva sample or destroy it after analysis. You can also decide whether you want your account to be visible to other 23andMe members, and if you want to participate in a tool that connects you with relatives based on your DNA similarities. You can also change these settings at any time.

It’s also important to know that 23andMe does not sell, lease, or rent any identifiable information at the individual level. The company does, however, share aggregated customer data (stripped of people’s names, contact information, and personal details) with third parties "in order to perform business development, initiate research, send you marketing emails and improve our services."

23andMe also offers customers the opportunity to participate in scientific research, both at home or online. But participation is voluntary, and choosing not to do so won’t impact your analysis the results you get out of the service.

Not all the results are super-serious

Along with ancestry and genetic health risk, a 23andMe report can give you fun insights into how your DNA may affect your physical and personality traits. For example, it can tell you if you have genetic variants that make you more likely to be a vegetarian, to drink a lot of coffee, to be a sound sleeper, to have frizzy hair, or to have two different sized feet.

Recently, 23andMe even started testing for genetic variants for misphonia—a condition in which everyday noises (like the sound of someone chewing) can send a person into a rage or panic. Test results can also tell if a person has higher-than-average odds of disliking cilantro, or turning red in the face (flushing) when they drink alcohol.

You could discover new relatives

As part of your genetic report, you have the option to participate in a tool called DNA Relatives, which allows you to connect with other people who have used the service who share familial DNA.

Even before opting into this additional service, your report can tell you how many close relatives (like siblings, parents, grandparents, and first cousins) are in 23andMe’s database, as well as how many more distant relatives. It can also tell you where these relatives are located around the country and the world.

Activating the DNA Relatives tool means sharing your profile picture, your name or initials, and some of your report results with your genetic relatives. "Remember that by using this tool, you may discover unexpected information,” the website cautions. “Though uncommon, unexpected relationships may be identified that could affect you and your family." “>
Breast Cancer –

Bride with Stage 4 Cancer Lives to See Wedding Day After Doctors Urged Her to Move Up Ceremony

In September, doctors urged 29-year-old Laurin Bank to move up her wedding date, fearing that the cancer patient wouldn’t live to see March 24. She said “no.”

“This date was special to us,” Bank says of herself and her now-husband Michael. “We felt like moving that date was giving up and giving in to the cancer and letting it run our lives. We didn’t want to give in. That was our goal … and I was able to walk down the aisle to my husband. I was able to dance with him and I didn’t need a wheelchair or oxygen. I did it I made it.”

Bank, of Columbia, South Carolina, was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer in September 2014. She underwent chemotherapy, radiation and a double mastectomy before being declared cancer-free in April 2015.

“When I learned I was cancer free I felt ecstatic,” she tells PEOPLE. “I felt free and that I had gotten my life back. And I was more ready than ever to live my life.”

Michael (left) and Laurin Bank

However, her health took a turn in August 2017 when doctors told Bank her cancer had returned as stage four, and had metastatized to her bones, liver and lungs.

“It’s not news I wanted to hear,” she tells PEOPLE. “I looked at my oncologist and said, ‘quality over quantity. That’s my goal. And if there’s treatment, I want to do it.’ I was ready to fight. I fought once and I knew I could fight again. Being stage four is scary but I’m young, so I have a lot of fight in me.”

Bank began treatment as part of a clinical trial and her health began to improve. But, in September, doctors gave her a fierce warning.

“The oncologist said waiting six more months to get married would be risky. She said she wasn’t sure whether I’d need a wheelchair to get me down the aisle. She said it would be best for us to move up our wedding date. The doctor also said with my lungs not being so strong, I might need oxygen for my wedding day.”

Michael (left) and Laurin Bank

However, she says she and Michael picked March 24 because it’s the anniversary of their first date three years ago.

“Mike looked at me and said, ‘Don’t you dare worry. It’s going to be okay,’ ” says Bank, who chronicles her health journey on her personal blog, The Polka Dot Queen. “We didn’t want to give in to the cancer. We wanted to have [our wedding] on our terms.”

And they did. On March 24, a smiling Bank walked down the aisle, wed Michael and danced energetically in front of 230 of her closest family and friends.

Laurin (left) and Michael Bank

Laurin (left) and Michael Bank

“I danced until the last song of the night,” she says. “The wedding day was the best day ever. I was so shocked that I made it! I felt good and I felt strong. It was an emotional morning. As I walked down the aisle to him, I was just bursting with joy and happiness because I was so excited to marry him.”

Now, Bank says her health is improving and she’s continuing her treatment. She says she and Michael are looking forward to their trip to Italy in September, as they haven’t been able to fly overseas for their honeymoon as a result of Bank’s illness.

“Our goal is to go on our dream honeymoon like we originally planned,” she says. “Until then we’re planning a bunch of mini trips to celebrate and enjoy.”

Michael adds: “I made the decision that I want to be there for her and support her 100 percent. I’m going to support her through this fight.” “>
Breast Cancer –

I Was Diagnosed With Stage 3 Breast Cancer at 28

I was breastfeeding my son Caleb around Christmas 2016 when I felt a lump. I figured it was a clogged milk duct and that it wasn’t a big deal, so I thought I’d wait until things settled down after the holidays to get it checked out. I went for my annual physical in January. I mentioned to my doctor that I’d had this lump for a little while and asked her to check it out.

“This is too big to be a duct,” I remember her saying. “We need to look into it further.”

Still, I didn’t think much of it. I was only 28; I had always thought breast cancer was for older women. I had no reason to think I was at any risk. So I went home and told my husband, “The doctor must be overreacting, but tomorrow I’m going for a mammogram and an ultrasound.”

RELATED: cancer/things-to-know-first-mammogram”>9 Things to Know Before Your First Mammogram

I went to a local non-profit organization that does breast cancer screenings for the tests. The doctor there looked at the results of my mammogram and ultrasound and said I’d need to come back the next day for a biopsy. She told me that I needed to stop nursing Caleb right away.

Caleb is very medically complex. We had tried seemingly every formula in the U.S. and even some we’d had shipped from overseas, but he couldn’t stomach anything enough to thrive. Probably 75% of his diet was breast milk, so he was very reliant on me. Hearing that I had to wean him was when all the emotions hit: This could be something really serious. What would we do for him?

I had gone to my physical on a Tuesday. On Friday, I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer, meaning it had spread to my lymph nodes. That’s how quickly I went from thinking this was no big deal to getting thrown into a cancer diagnosis.

RELATED: What to Do After a Breast Cancer Diagnosis, According to Women Who Have Been There

Fighting for my life–and my family

As a family, we were about to start fighting for my life—but we had Caleb to think of too. I remember my doctor saying, “If you’re going to be here for him, you really do have to wean him now.” I did, with no real plan, just taking things day by day and using the formula that worked best for him. His doctors fought harder to find a diagnosis for him because they no longer had me to rely on. He did get a diagnosis and then medication; now he’s thriving, which helped me relax a little.

I was tested for genetic mutations and the results came back positive for the BRCA2 gene mutation. I knew my grandmother had breast cancer in her 60s, which I thought of as the typical age for the disease. I’m not very close to that side of my family, but I called her to tell her about my diagnosis, and I found out she had several cousins who also had breast cancer. If I would have known about my family history, maybe I would have been a little more proactive, but my diagnosis came out of the blue for me.

Within a couple weeks, I started chemo. After the tumor shrank from the chemo, I had surgery, followed by radiation. Now I’m doing immunotherapy until September. Chemo was terrible. I was stuck in my bed most of the time. My mom, dad, and sister live a block away, so they were at our house helping us every day. My husband has a great boss who had gone through cancer himself. He understood that when my husband needed to go home, he needed to go home. The support from our family and our community was huge.

Talking to my kids about cancer

Besides Caleb, we have another special-needs son, and just days after my surgery my daughter had an accident that took about six months of recovery. Honestly, I don’t even know how to describe the emotions. For a while, it felt like we were fighting every day to wake up in the morning and remind ourselves we could make it another day.

The whole time, my husband and I were open and honest with our kids—now 7, 5, and almost 3. One of my biggest fears when I was diagnosed was how to tell them. What if you say it the wrong way and scare them? My husband and I talked to our pediatrician and the social worker at MD Anderson Cancer Center, where I was getting treated.

With Caleb in the hospital a lot that year too, we didn’t want to say, “Mommy’s going to the hospital.” We didn’t want the kids to look at him and think he would have to do chemo or come back with no hair too. We didn’t want them to associate his hospital visits with cancer.

We said things like, “Mommy has cancer,” instead of, “Mommy is sick,” and “Mommy’s going to MD Anderson for chemo,” instead of, “Mommy’s going to the hospital.” We even said, “Mommy’s going to the oncologist”—we made sure we used the correct terms.

My kids knew I was sick, but they knew it was temporary. We gave them a goal: What do you want to do when Mommy’s done with treatment? Of course, they said Disney World. It’s a little expensive for us—now my husband and I look at each other like, “Uh oh, we promised, what are we going to do?” But we’ll make it work.

Getting my energy back

I had some scar tissue from the surgery to remove my lymph nodes, so I started physical therapy. I told the therapist how tired I felt, how I used to go on long walks with my kids and now I didn’t have the strength. Chemo wears you out so much. She made me an appointment to join the MD Anderson Healthy Heart program, which focuses on improving heart health and fitness in cancer patients and survivors. I thought it sounded great, like something that could really help me get my life back the way it had been before cancer.

I was given a Fitbit to track my weekly workouts. The doctor who runs the program helped me set goals that fit in with my schedule and also satisfied what she wanted from me. It was eye-opening at first to see how difficult it was to just find 30 minutes for myself three times a week. I was giving so much to the whole family and not taking care of myself. Sometimes I get my exercise on my own when my husband can watch the kids; other times, we’ll do something together as a family, like walk the trails at a local wildlife reserve. I’m going to get my energy and my life back.

RELATED: The Best Foods for Cancer Patients

My kids want every minute with me now that I’m feeling good. They were so used to going out all day together on Saturdays for bike rides or to parks before my diagnosis. But when I was sick, even just reading a book or watching a favorite show with popcorn in bed was a treat, and somehow they saw it as just as exciting. Even if you do something little, it means a lot to kids. Just the other day, my older son said, “Mom, remember that time you let us eat popcorn in your bed? Remember how fun that was?” I was fearful they lost out on so much during my treatment, but they didn’t.

To get our top stories delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Healthy Living newsletter

I want other women going through cancer treatment and recovery to enjoy those little moments. When something is almost taken away from you, you realize how important just rocking your kids to sleep or reading a book to them is. You might be scared to ask for help, but it’s okay to have somebody pick up your laundry or bring you dinner. It’s hard to get to that place, but it’s something you have to do. Remember to make special memories, even in pajamas and with no hair. “>
Breast Cancer –

Breast Cancer Stripped Me Down Physically and Emotionally—and Taught Me More Than I Ever Imagined About Love


The most unlikely and important love affair of my life began with me lying half-naked on an examination table.

“How long has this been here?” my doctor asked as she probed a sensitive area near the nipple on my left breast.

I told her I’d noticed the lump about four months earlier, during a massage. But that was a lie. I couldn’t bring myself to tell her I’d actually felt it over a year ago.

A wave of panic flooded me at the admission. I’d been keeping a number of symptoms secret (frequent sinus infections, recurring cases of pink eye, losing weight), refusing to acknowledge them even to myself. A master in magical thinking, I had convinced myself they were all nothing.

As I lay on the exam table, I had a momentary flashback: I had spent my early teens praying I would one day get boobs, and then much to my surprise, the summer I was 16 my breasts and I blossomed into a somewhat shocking fullness. While my prayers had been answered, I didn’t know what to make of my new voluptuous breasts. So I spent the next few years trying to minimize their existence, uneducated in how to appreciate and accentuate them—until I went to college and met a group of girls who were equally well endowed.

We and our DD breasts became the best of friends. We received nicknames from our male peers, like “the rack”—which at the time we thought was funny, but in reality required us to navigate a precarious line between feeling objectified and appreciating the fullness of our bodies. We celebrated many life events in the years that followed college, getting together for milestones like weddings, the births of children, and big birthdays. There were eight of us … eight.

While my doctor ordered a mammogram, I kept hearing the statistic “1 in 8 women” in my head. I thought of my best friend Courtney. But that would make two of us. It didn't add up.

RELATED: I Was Diagnosed With Incurable Breast Cancer and Got Married 6 Days Later

Courtney had been diagnosed with breast cancer just a couple years prior. Before then, I hadn’t been the best at keeping in touch. Courtney lived in Washington, D.C. while I was in Austin. But when I heard about her diagnosis, I’d sent care packages in an attempt to rekindle our friendship and provide support. I visited Courtney while she was in the midst of chemotherapy. I’d expected her to be frail and weak, but instead she’d taken me to a hot yoga class.

“Gotta move the chemo toxins through,” she’d quipped. She was amazing and inspiring. We stayed up all night talking, laughing, and crying. It was just like in college, only instead of smoking pot before a Phish concert, we smoked in her living room to ease the side effects of the chemo.

She exhibited such grace, strength, and humor, without denying the hardship of her reality. I found myself almost jealous of her experience, which felt odd. I walked away from that trip and took a long hard look at my own life. All was good. I had a successful business, an amazing family, a new boyfriend. But I was a master at internalizing my stress and unhappiness. Inside I knew I was on the verge of burnout, and felt like I was disappointing everyone around me, including myself.

Almost two years after my visit to Courtney, on Valentine’s Day 2013, my breast cancer diagnosis was confirmed. After initial texts and calls with my family, I called Courtney. We sat in silence for a few moments, where no words were needed. She knows what only someone else who has heard the word "cancer" in direct relation to themselves knows. And I hate that she knows.

“How is this happening?” she finally said. It seemed impossible to find ourselves entangled in this reality, in which two of us from our group of eight had breast cancer.

Nine months prior to my diagnosis I had adopted a formal meditation practice in an effort to reduce stress and feel more connected in my life. It was working. Meditation soothed my nervous system. I was sleeping better, and felt better able to cope in high-demand situations. In the midst of learning the overwhelming details of my diagnosis, I experienced so many unexpected moments of peacefulness that I remember thinking to myself, Oh, this is why people meditate.

My meditation practice coupled with Courtney’s practical guidance helped me believe that I could get through the multiple surgeries and six months of chemotherapy it would take to heal my body and spirit.

RELATED: 22 Ways to Help a Friend With Breast Cancer

Courtney embodied a strength, practicality, and honesty that was assuring. She became my mentor in so many ways, like my big sister at Camp Cancer. Preparing for my bilateral mastectomy, it was Courtney who provided the most helpful advice: get safety pins for the drains; this pillow from Relax The Back; cozy flannels, like we used to wear in college. She knew I wouldn’t be able to lift my arms for six weeks.

Towards the end of chemo, when my present-moment awareness and positive attitude were waning, Courtney provided the perspective I needed. She knew in a way no one else could how it felt to lose one’s taste buds and eyelashes simultaneously. We let our hearts break open together as we shared our fears and died laughing at the ridiculous moments we found ourselves in. Oops, poor choice of words—cancer humor.

Once I finished treatment, I found myself in the unknown waters of survivorship. This is the time that's most challenging for many women, my oncologist warned. This period where we enter the world as survivors, and are expected to behave as if nothing has changed when everything has. Regardless of whether you're told you're in remission, free from evidence of disease, or need to be closely monitored, the realities of "scanxiety" and frequent follow-up appointments are a constant reminder that there are no certainties.

RELATED: 14 Things Women With Metastatic Breast Cancer Want You to Know

I experienced a lot of frustration when my recovery and reconstruction took longer than I had anticipated. I was careful not to over share my experience with Courtney, who was further along in her recovery and moving on with her life as mine was seemingly falling apart. But I could tell that being there for me helped her to reclaim some part of herself too. Bearing witness to others going through a shared experience reminds us of how far we’ve come, and the unimaginable strength we possess, as well as the importance of both receiving and giving support.

Neither Courtney nor I really connected with the word “survivor.” It was a technicality that neither one of us could rely upon with any certainty—only time would tell. We decided “thriver” was a better depiction of our realities.

Together we discovered new ways of coping. I shared feng shui tips I had used to make my once cancer-centric home into a space of health and vibrancy. Courtney shared new medical protocols and integrative practices. We compared blood work and new genetic tests we’d heard about.

When she told me about the USA show Playing House, about two best friends, one of whom gets cancer, we binge-watched it virtually together, and grew obsessed with trying to meet the actresses. It was as if they had hijacked some of our conversations and put them into their dramady. We felt grateful for the camaraderie, and for the release that laughter provided. Throughout all of it, our friendship continued to blossom.

Cancer cracked my heart wide open. It stripped me down physically and emotionally, helping me to discover my genuine spirit—innocent, tender, and vulnerable. There is a picture that someone captured of me laughing about something after one of my chemotherapy treatments. When I look at that image, I don’t recognize myself.

My bald head is surrounded by an aura of light—technically it was just good lighting, but there is something more potent in that image. I see a magical blend of joy, love, and open-heartedness pouring out of me. It feels like I was awake and seeing myself for the first time in my life. I look at that picture and know: that’s the moment I started to fall in love with myself. The kind of love that isn’t based on externals, but on a deep connection within. A love that is unconditional and inherent to us all. I like to think of Courtney as my Cupid, her arrow full of love, support, and the reminder of the importance of connection and friendship through the ups and downs of life.

In many ways, it is fitting that my cancerversary falls on Valentine’s Day, for it marks the ultimate love story. I’ve fallen head over heels with myself, and gained an even greater and loving bond with so many special people in my life. Especially with Courtney—my bosom buddy and breast friend forever.

Paige Davis is a mindfulness and meditation teacher. Her book Here We Grow: Mindfulness Through Cancer and Beyond will be published in May 2018 (She Writes Press). Follow Paige at and on Instagram @hellopaigedavis. “>
Breast Cancer –

Julia Louis-Dreyfus ‘Feeling Happy and Ready to Rock’ After Breast Cancer Surgery

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Julia Louis-Dreyfus has undergone surgery as she continues to fight her battle with breast cancer.

On Wednesday, the 57-year-old Veep actress revealed the news of her operation on Twitter — telling fans that she was recovering well.

“Hoorah! Great doctors, great results, feeling happy and ready to rock after surgery,” Louis-Dreyfus wrote. “Hey cancer, ‘F— you!’ ”

Ever the comedian, Louis-Dreyfus included a glamorous photo of herself with the tweet, which she joking referred to as, “My first post op photo.”

Louis-Dreyfus was diagnosed with breast cancer in September, days after she won her sixth consecutive outstanding lead actress Emmy for her role as Selina Meyer on Veep (which set the record for most wins for a performance in the same role for the same series).

“1 in 8 women get breast cancer. Today, I’m the one,” she tweeted at the time. “The good news is that I have the most glorious group of supportive and caring friends, and fantastic insurance through my union. The bad news is that not all women are so lucky, so let’s fight all cancers and make universal health care a reality.”

The Seinfeld alum has remained positive on social media throughout her battle. In January, she completed her last round of chemotherapy — something the sons she shares with husband Brad Hall (Charlie, 20, and Henry, 25) celebrated on Instagram with a video of themselves lip-syncing the words to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.”

“My beauty boys @henryhallmusic @charlie_hall made this for me today, my last day of chemotherapy,” Louis-Dreyfus captioned the video. “Pretty swell, right? Ain’t they sweet?”

Later that month, Louis-Dreyfus was rewarded for her work in Veep with the trophy for outstanding performance by a female actor in a comedy series at the 2018 Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Though she watched the 2018 show from home, Louis-Dreyfus addressed her win in a tweet.

“I wish I could have been @SAGawards tonight but have to admit it’s pretty fun to watch in my pj’s,” she joked on Twitter. “So honored to win. So proud to be a union member. So happy for my @VeepHBO bozos for winning ensemble award. Miss being at the table with you all. How was the chicken?”

Before the show, Louis-Dreyfus’ Veep costar Tony Hale gave an update on her health status, saying she’s doing “fantastic” since completing chemotherapy.

“She’s really doing great,” he said on The PEOPLE, Entertainment Weekly & TNT Official SAG Awards Red Carpet Live Show, adding that they’ll likely resume filming on the final season of the HBO hit this summer.

Matt Walsh tole EW that Louis-Dreyfus has even started easing back into work. “We’ve seen [Julia], she’s done some table reads, she’s doing well, she’s finished her last chemo, she’s in recuperation,” he said. “Her prospectives have remained excellent throughout. She’s very well loved; she’s a tremendous person.” “>
Breast Cancer –

Julia Louis-Dreyfus Shared a Video Her Sons Made for Her Last Day of Chemo, and I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying

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Some big news out of the office of the Former President of the United States of America: Today is the *last* day of chemotherapy for Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who was diagnosed with breast cancer late last year.

The Emmy-winning actress — who has perfectly played Veep/President/Former Veep and President Selina Meyer — has been undergoing chemotherapy to treat the cancer. She has been sharing her journey along the way with all of us, because we love her, and we literally only want the best for her. Production on Veep’s seventh and final season was also juggled around to accommodate JLD’s treatment, and she has kept a positive, upbeat outlook since she first announced this back in September.

And now, she’s here to announce that her chemo is finally done, and rather than post a celebratory Instagram, she’s instead sharing what her sons sent her. Her sons with husband Brad Hall, Henry and Charlie, put together a cute little video where they jam out to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” — obviously to signify that it’s about time the cancer BEAT IT out of JLD’s body.

Oh, wait, also did I say cute video? I mean to say incredibly cry-worthy, because come on, they’re celebrating their mom, our president, JLD finishing chemo. It deserves a good cry.

Her sons aren’t the only ones celebrating this victory right now. When Julia finishes with her cancer treatment, we’re all rootng for her.


Also JLD’s birthday is in *two* days, so yeah, this milestone is a pretty good reason to really celebrate extra hard this year. We’re sending JLD all our love and the best. We need this former President now more than ever. “>
Breast Cancer –

This Device Might Help Find Signs of Breast Cancer—but Do You Really Need It?

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We’re all afraid of breast cancer. Let’s get that out in the open right off the bat. It's understandable, considering that breast cancer is the leading type of cancer and the second-highest cause of cancer death (after lung cancer) in women.

Naturally, most of us want to do whatever we can to lower our risk of breast cancer or to catch it early, when it’s easiest to treat. That goal has fueled years of debate over when women should start going for regular mammograms and how often to get them. Personally, after years of reporting on breast cancer screening and other medical exams, I'm leery of looking too hard for something—a concept experts call over-testing, which can lead to over-diagnosis.

RELATED: 9 Things to Know Before Your First Mammogram

Now, there's an at-home device that supposedly can give women even more information about their boobs. The device, called the Pink Luminous Breast, is kind of like a high-tech flashlight. When a woman presses it against her skin, a red LED light illuminates her breast tissue. With your boob aglow, you’re supposed to be able to spot clusters of new blood vessels (called angiogenesis) which can, in some cases, be a sign of possible cancer. Should a women spot shadows or clusters when using the device, she can bring that information to a doctor to see if her breasts warrant further testing.

"We want to inspire an awareness lifestyle,” says Pink Luminous Breast founder Marylin Dans. After having a nodule in her breast removed at age 17, she’s always been extra careful with her breast health, she explains. “I think you should keep it next to your electric toothbrush, turn off the lights, and check yourself every so often. It motivates you to do more self-exams and allows you to feel a little more secure.”

But doctors are skeptical. “I don’t think too many radiologists would recommend this as any sort of screening method,” says Janna Andrews, MD, a breast and gynecological cancer specialist and assistant clinical professor of radiation medicine at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell in New York. Because it’s categorized as a class one medical device by the FDA, it can be sold without the stringent clinical testing required of medical devices that can actually diagnosis or treat a condition, Dr. Andrews explains. “We don’t have any evidence of its efficacy or how it compares to mammography,” she says.

RELATED: 9 Breast Cancer Symptoms That Aren’t Lumps

If illuminating your breast did turn up abnormalities, you'd still need a mammogram to know what those irregularities mean. “This is not under the guidance of anybody who is trained,” says Christine Greves, MD, an ob-gyn at Orlando Health Hospital in Florida. If everything looks all-clear with the device, you might be tempted to skip a visit to the doctor. “It may give a false sense of security," she says. "I wouldn’t want anybody to miss anything.”

The device could also cause unnecessary concern. “Clinical breast exams are no longer encouraged because of false positives,” Dr. Andrews explains. Monthly breast exams find too many suspicious lumps that turn out to be nothing to worry about. “I have to think that something like this could potentially lead to more false positives as well.”

Instead, experts recommend sticking to routine mammograms and getting familiar with your breasts the old fashioned way–with your hands. If you feel a lump or notice other changes in your breasts, it’s always worth bringing up with a professional. “If you notice something is feeling a little different than it always has, you can inform your doctor about that,” Dr. Greves says. “Just be aware of your breasts so you can be the first one to know if there’s a change.”

RELATED: All the Ways Your Boobs Change as You Age

The Pink Luminous Breast website says the device “is intended to be a breast health familiarity assistance tool,” something that could help you in the process of getting to know your girls. Personally, I don't see the need to spend $ 149 on a breast health familiarity assistance tool when I have two hands, but Dans disagrees. “I feel awkward doing it—it’s weird to touch yourself,” she says. “What Pink does is it gives you the ability to use a second sense—your eyes—and look underneath your skin.”

I decided to give it a hesitant try. After charging the device for a few minutes, I turned off the lights in my bathroom and bumped up the brightness on the Pink Luminous Breast.

The resulting sorta-creepy red illumination made me feel like I was a passenger on Ms. Frizzle's Magic School Bus. I checked out a few different vantage points, pausing as I looked at shadowy veins, all of which seemed pretty normal to me. Still, I found myself becoming a little queasy about peering into my body so intimately. So I powered down the device, feeling more awkward about looking at blood vessels than I do about feeling myself up.  

I still have more than a decade to decide when to have my first mammogram. But a mammogram—or at least an appointment with a doctor—is the only way to figure out what to do with the information gleaned from using the Pink Luminous Breast. Trying it out left me wondering what would have happened if I was more of a worrier about my breast cancer risk. Would I have booked an appointment for the following day? 

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In most women with an average risk of breast cancer, screening doesn’t start until at least age 40 and sometimes later. But Pink Luminous Breast’s website says women over 25 should start using the device. “Even in a woman with a very high risk of breast cancer, we typically don’t recommend starting screening before age 30,” Dr. Andrews says. That’s because women in their 20s have just a 0.1% risk of developing breast cancer in the next 10 years, according to the American Cancer Society. For women in their 30s, that number rises to just 0.5%. Younger women also have denser breasts, which might obscure the view. “I would have to think it would not be as effective in dense breasts,” Dr. Andrews says.

For now, I'm sticking to old-fashioned, device-free breast familiarity. Both Dr. Andrews and Dr. Greves expressed gratitude that Pink Luminous Breast wants to help women, but they didn't think it built a strong enough case to ignore current standards of care just yet. Bottom line, says Dr. Greves: “We can’t recommend or endorse a product that’s not fully regulated or FDA approved.” “>
Breast Cancer –