Tag Archives: Cancer

20 Things to Know About DCIS, or ‘Stage 0’ Breast Cancer

Ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS, is a confusing and controversial diagnosis often referred to as stage 0 breast cancer. Here’s what you need to know about prognosis, treatment, and the latest DCIS research.

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Breast Cancer – Health.com

Yes, Men Can Get Breast Cancer Too. Here’s What You Need to Know

Get the facts about breast cancer in men, from symptoms and treatments to how it's diagnosed and the latest research.

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Breast Cancer – Health.com

Meet the Breast Cancer Survivor Who Crafts Custom Nipples to Help Women After a Mastectomy

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I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in 2010 at age 33. My son was 4, and my husband and I had started thinking about having another baby. We tried and tried, but I didn't conceive. I went to see my doctor, who ended up prescribing me hormones after running several checks and tests. I asked another doctor why I had to do all those tests, and she said sometimes doctors don't want to give hormones to women who might have any small tumors growing in their bodies so the tumors don't become monsters. I remember she specifically said monster—something about it made me remember, somewhere in my subconscious, that I had a small bump in my breast. My doctor had checked it nine months earlier and said it was nothing, but this new doctor wanted me to have it checked again as soon as possible.

That was a Sunday morning, and by the next Sunday morning I was having a mammogram and a biopsy. The woman who did the biopsy told me it didn't look good, but I remember thinking it was either a bad dream or they had made a mistake. I was healthy, I ate nutritiously, I didn't smoke, I didn't have any cancer in my family. I thought, "No way!"

But it wasn't a mistake—turns out, I had cancer. I went through chemotherapy and hormone treatment, and after a year of those treatments, which were meant to shrink the tumor, I still needed a single mastectomy. I had reconstructive surgery with an implant too. I was bald from chemo, I was covered in scars, and I only had one nipple. I couldn't look at myself. For the first three months after my mastectomy, I showered in the dark, because I would end up crying if I saw myself. I hated trying on bathing suits or buying a new bra. It was so obvious to me that one nipple was happy, that I had one breast that was still mine, and on the other side, a reconstructed breast, but no nipple.

RELATED: 25 Breast Cancer Myths Busted

I became so obsessed with this missing part of me that I had to fix it. I wanted to feel complete again and not have this reminder 100 times a day that I don't have a nipple. I saw a doctor about having nipple reconstruction surgery. The doctor can make a nipple out of your skin, and then you can have the areola tattooed on. The surgeon told me my skin was still too sensitive after treatment. I would have to wait at least another two years.

That was way, way too long for me to wait. I remember going back to our house after that appointment and going to sleep, then waking up after an hour in a crazy-inspired mood. I told my husband I was going to the store to get supplies to make a mold to make myself a nipple. He joked that I must have been taking medical marijuana to come up with this idea. After I calmed down a little, we did some research online. While there are prostheses for many other human organs, there wasn't a good solution for nipples. I guess nobody thought it was that important!

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I thought it was important, so I learned how to make one myself. I went back to school to learn medical art from professionals. I was a marketing director at an advertising company; I thought I'd make nipples in the evenings as a hobby. Even if I was my only customer, I was going to do it. But after two months, it became clear there were other women like me who couldn't reconstruct their own nipples or didn't want another surgery who could use my product, so I started selling them, and my company Pink Perfect was born. It started as a small company here in Israel where I live, and then I opened in the U.S. as well.

My prostheses are ready-made ($ 280 for two) or custom-made ($ 410-$ 480 for two) silicone nipples, and they come in eight different color variations. They're waterproof, so women can swim and shower with them on. They feel like real skin, and they stick on with a medical adhesive, typically for about a week before you need to reapply. With proper care, they can last for years. I have sold over 1,000, and I still make them all myself. I'm a fanatic about it. As long as I can, I'll keep doing this, it's that important to me. Yes, it's a business, but even if women don't buy anything from me, I want them to know they have an option that doesn't require more surgery.

I wanted to put cancer behind me, but I ended up putting cancer in front of me. If somebody would have told me I was going to make nipples as my job, I would have thought they were crazy, but this is what life brought me. The first time I made a pair for a friend, who had had a double mastectomy, she cried and said, "I have breasts again!" I couldn't give up on that.

Husbands have called me to thank me. One told me his wife hadn't shown him her breasts for three years. "I bought her those nipples and she put them on, and I saw her for the first time after reconstruction," he told me. "You saved my marriage." I had a grandmother who told me she had a long-standing ritual of taking a jacuzzi soak with her grandchildren, and after breast cancer she no longer felt comfortable doing so, until she tried my nipples. I think in a way I can help make women healthier if I can make them feel sexy and happy and feminine again. With everything I've been through, it's a privilege to help other women.

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Breast Cancer – Health.com

 The 5 Breast Cancer Stages, Explained

Breast cancer stages tell patients and their doctors important information that can help determine the best course of treatment for the disease.

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Breast Cancer – Health.com

6 Ways to Lower Your Risk of Breast Cancer

These six lifestyle changes can help reduce your risk of breast cancer.

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Breast Cancer – Health.com

Kathy Bates Was ‘Warned’ Not to Disclose Past Cancer Diagnosis Out of Fear It Could Negatively Impact Her Career

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This article originally appeared on People.com.

Despite Kathy Bates‘ success in Hollywood — including three Oscar nominations and one win — she was “warned” years ago that disclosing her cancer diagnosis at the time could negatively impact the future of her distinguished career.

“Back in 2003, when I had ovarian cancer, my agent told me not to tell anyone about it,” Bates, 69, told WebMD. “Even my gynecologist, whose husband worked in the business, warned that I shouldn’t come out with it because of the stigma in Hollywood. So I was very careful.”

She spent years keeping her health news under the radar, until she came across someone who inspired her to live freely.

“But then I saw Melissa Etheridge doing a concert and just wailing on her guitar with her bald head, and I thought, ‘Wow, I wanna be her!’ So, when the breast cancer diagnosis came, I knew I wanted to be honest about it,” she said.

In July 2012, the American Horror Story actress was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer. She opted for a double mastectomy, and her surgery also required the removal of 19 lymph nodes.

Since her double mastectomy, Bates has made the decision to forego reconstructive surgery. She has no breasts, and she plans to keep it that way.

“I’ve joined the ranks of women who are going flat, as they say,” she said, “I don’t have breasts — so why do I have to pretend like I do? That stuff isn’t important. I’m just grateful to have been born at a time when the research made it possible for me to survive. I feel so incredibly lucky to be alive.”

www.health.com/syndication/kathy-bates-warned-past-cancer-diagnosis-negative-impact-career “>
Breast Cancer – Health.com

I Gave Birth to My First Baby—and Weeks Later Was Diagnosed With Breast Cancer

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Poppy, my daughter, was born in July 2015. I had a regular delivery in a hospital near my home in Connecticut, and I began breastfeeding right away. For the first few days everything was good, with the exception of high fevers I started having. My discharge papers instructed me to call my ob-gyn immediately if I experienced a fever over 100.4 degrees, so I finally went to her office after days of denial.

She diagnosed me with mastitis—an infection of breast tissue often triggered by a plugged milk gland that causes swelling, tenderness, and redness—and put me on antibiotics. I continued to try to breastfeed, though it was painful. My high fevers persisted and breastfeeding became more difficult. I did another round of antibiotics, but when those proved to be ineffective, I was referred to a breast surgeon.

The surgeon did an ultrasound and attributed my symptoms again to mastitis. I was reassured throughout this process that everything was fine, and I had nothing to worry about. So I didn’t panic when I went back a month later for a follow-up ultrasound and then a biopsy, which the radiologist said was a standard procedure.

RELATED: A Complete Guide to Breast Cancer Screening

Through this entire process, breast cancer didn’t really cross my mind. While friends with cancer scares told stories of the anxiety-ridden time between getting the biopsy and receiving the results, I felt calm. I was a brand-new mom trying to manage life with a newborn baby, and breast cancer seemed like a non-issue—until it wasn’t.

An alarming text from the hospital

I had Poppy asleep in my arms when a notification from the hospital came through my phone: Reminder, your oncology appointment is tomorrow at 9 a.m. I was in total shock. Until that moment, I did not have an oncologist. I called the hospital and when I explained the situation, the woman on the other end of the phone gasped.

She put me through to a doctor who said that the notification was “an oversight.” She said, “I wanted to call you in [for an initial appointment] because I want you to be prepared. You’re going to have a lot of appointments in the next few days.”

She was right about that. A subsequent CT scan and an MRI showed what looked like a 3 cm malignant mass in my left breast. I had stage 3 breast cancer, but more specifically, I had pregnancy-associated breast cancer (PABC), which is breast cancer during pregnancy or in the first year after delivery. It’s relatively rare, striking approximately 1 in 3,000 pregnant women. (About 3% of all breast cancers are diagnosed in pregnancy.) But it’s the second most common malignancy affecting pregnancy, I later learned.

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Egg retrieval—then breast removal surgery

The size and proximity to the breast skin meant a mastectomy was my only option. Even though I had no family history and later tested negative for the breast cancer gene mutations, and the doctors said my risk of having cancer in my right breast was less than 1%, I opted for a double mastectomy.

Before that, however, I was referred me to a fertility clinic, which was a really harrowing experience—having a newborn while in an IVF office and being a cancer patient and in a state a shock. I was told I would likely need chemotherapy, which leads to infertility at least 60% of the time. If I wanted more children in the future, egg freezing was my best option. I began the hormone injections, had my eggs retrieved and frozen 16 days later, and then the following Monday was scheduled for breast surgery.

Throughout the three weeks from diagnosis to my mastectomy, I was still a new mom, getting up every three hours a minimum to feed my baby. After my diagnosis, I stopped trying to breastfeed. It was physically painful, but I knew within weeks I would not have breasts at all, so mostly it was psychologically difficult. Luckily Poppy took to formula, and that lifted one worry off my mind. I know Poppy would be fed and she was okay.

RELATED: 25 Breast Cancer Myths Busted

Recovery, chemo, and a baby to care for

After my mastectomy (the 3 cm mass was actually 7 cm, I later found out), I came home from the hospital in pain, with limited mobility, and anxiously thinking about the pathology results. I also couldn’t lift Poppy, who now weighed 14 pounds, for 8 weeks. My mother stayed with us during that time to help. Poppy would be placed on my lap and also I could snuggle with her in bed. But it was heartbreaking to hear Poppy cry and not be able to pick her up on my own. I had just become a mother, yet I needed my own mother’s help.

Despite cancer, Poppy and I still spent a lot of time together. She slept a lot, and I did too. She was bald, and so was I. I wanted to take her to more Mommy & Me classes, but I didn’t have the strength. The times I had to go back into the hospital were hard for us. I had reconstruction surgery, and I also went into isolation at one point because my immune system was so weak, and I was susceptible to germs. FaceTime was how we connected.

Then the pathology report came in, indicating that I was high-risk for cancer recurrence. An aggressive chemotherapy regiment offered the best chance for long-term survival. I was thankful I had my eggs harvested; following chemo, I faced hormone therapy that would effectively put me into menopause for 10 years. The hope was that by taking away the hormones that fueled my cancer growth, it would reduce the risk of recurrence.

The first year of Poppy’s life brought the joy of new life, mixed with fears of mortality. I went through more body changes than I had experienced in the time in my life that I could remember. From being relatively stable in weight and composition for the last decade to gaining almost 50 pounds during pregnancy. I had to surrender my eggs, my breasts, and for a time my mobility, eventually losing the baby weight from being violently ill during chemo.

RELATED: 10 Celebrities Who Battled Breast Cancer

Becoming a breast cancer advocate for others

Since my treatment ended, I’ve been cherishing my time being a mom to Poppy. Instead of simply hoping that she never has to worry about this disease, I’ve been doing everything I can to make sure she doesn’t have to. That includes lending my voice to Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF), a top breast cancer organization in the US, because I know that research is the only way we’re going to eradicate this disease.

I also advocated for and rewrote a bill requiring health insurance companies to cover the cost of fertility preservation treatments for women facing a cancer diagnosis. The bill, Melissa’s Law, was passed unanimously this past June in Connecticut. My IVF costs were so expensive, and I paid for them out of pocket because my infertility was a result of chemotherapy, not a pre-existing condition. I’m not the only one with this reality.

Now Poppy is 22 months old, and I can’t keep up with her. I say, “Let’s go this way” and she just runs the other way. I hope that sharing my story encourages young women to be vigilant about their health, particularly during and, notably, after pregnancy. 

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Breast Cancer – Health.com

9 Breast Cancer Symptoms That Aren’t Lumps

While they may be your first thought when it comes to breast cancer symptoms, lumps aren't the only sign that something may be wrong.

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Breast Cancer – Health.com

Could City Lights Increase Your Risk of Breast Cancer?

THURSDAY, Aug. 17, 2017 (HealthDay News) — New research reveals an unexpected potential risk factor for breast cancer: city lights.

The Harvard Medical School study found an association between living in areas with high amounts of ambient nighttime light and slightly increased odds for breast cancer in younger women who smoke.

“In our modern industrialized society, artificial lighting is nearly ubiquitous. Our results suggest that this widespread exposure to outdoor lights during nighttime hours could represent a novel risk factor for breast cancer,” study author Peter James said in a Harvard news release. He’s assistant professor of population medicine at Harvard’s Pilgrim Health Care Institute.

As the investigators explained, earlier research had suggested that high levels of exposure to light at night disrupts the body’s internal clock. In turn, that might lower levels of a hormone called melanin which, in turn, might boost the risk of breast cancer.

Testing the theory further, James’ group tracked almost 110,000 U.S. women, followed as part of a long-term study of nurses from 1989-2013.

The researchers used nighttime satellite images and records of night shift work to help figure out the amount of nighttime light each woman might have been exposed to.

The study wasn’t designed to prove cause and effect. However, the Harvard group found that breast cancer levels in premenopausal women who currently smoked or had smoked in the past grew by 14 percent if they were in the 20 percent deemed to have had the most exposure to outdoor light at night.

Furthermore, as levels of outdoor nighttime light went up, so did the likelihood of breast cancer for this subgroup of women, James’ team said.

Older women, and women who’d never smoked, did not seem affected, the researchers said.

The study also found evidence that working night shifts might boost the breast cancer risk.

Given that millions of younger women have little control over the amount of nighttime ambient light they’re exposed to, what, if anything, should be done?

One expert in breast cancer care said it’s just too soon to take anything concrete from this research.

“The findings in this study have to be taken with caution,” said Dr. Stephanie Bernik, chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “Although circadian rhythm disruption may be a factor in increasing the risk of cancer, it could be other factors related to working at night as well.”

For example, she said, “women who work night shifts may not eat well or exercise, both of which affect breast cancer risk. Also, the study found the risk greatest in smokers — which leads one to believe these women might not be living as healthy a lifestyle as the group that was sleeping at night.”

Overall, Bernik said, “more insight as to the root cause of the increased rate of cancer in night owls is needed.”

The study was published Aug. 17 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

More information

For more about breast cancer, visit the American Cancer Society.

www.health.com/healthday/could-urban-lighting-raise-breast-cancer-risk-some-women “>
Breast Cancer – Health.com

What It’s Like to Lose Weight Without Wanting To—From a Woman Dealing With the Side Effects of Breast Cancer

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I first want to acknowledge that losing 15 pounds is not particularly devastating. Yet the weight loss I experienced was an undesired side effect of stage IV metastatic breast cancer. It was brought on by the cancer pushing inside my abdomen, making it physically impossible for me to keep down solid food.

It felt like there was a lid at my diaphragm, which covered my stomach and blocked anything from going down. I would feel a pang of hunger and rush to eat one or two bites, and then have the sensation that there was no room left for more. I was, essentially, starving. I went from 110 pounds down to 95—about 15% of my weight—in a couple of weeks.

RELATED: 10 Celebrities Who Battled Breast Cancer

I had no energy. I struggled to climb the three floors to my apartment. I’d start to get ready for work and immediately need to lie back down because the strength it took to shower was all I had. On the days I made it to the office, I prayed no one would notice that I never left my desk or that I was drinking Ensure for lunch.

I tried desperately to consume more calories, one night sending my husband out to a friend’s apartment for weed in the hopes that the munchies could supersede the cancer. (It didn’t work.) I spoke to a nutritionist, who told me to eat anything I could—ice cream, heavy cream, whatever—to put on weight in order to function. As we waited to see whether the chemo I was undergoing would shrink the cancer and allow my appetite to return, I continued to shed pounds.

Ordinarily, my body is muscular and somewhat pear-shaped; I’ve always had a butt. I’m small but not remarkably small. And aside from the freshman 15, I’ve been roughly the same size for a long time.

But now, very suddenly, my body was different. My ribs protruded and my butt flattened out. Getting dressed was upsetting. I’d open my closet, which was full of things I loved to wear, and find only one or two items that still fit. I went to H&M to buy inexpensive options, but how much money did I really want to spend on a second wardrobe? These weren’t my skinny jeans, these were my emaciated jeans.

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If one thinks of weight as a spectrum, being somewhere in the middle isn’t noteworthy. From the middle, inching toward the extreme in either direction, there is a point at which a person's size does become become a defining trait, like having pink hair. A friend who is 6’7” tells me that strangers come up to him to say, “Wow, you’re so tall.” Since being tall isn’t generally considered a bad thing, people presume that this comment isn’t rude or inappropriate.

In New York City, where I live, it’s the same with being thin. Suddenly, people I barely knew felt that my size was an acceptable conversation starter: “You’re so thin.” But think if I was on the other end of the spectrum, inching toward obesity—would anyone ever say to me, “You’re so fat”?

The comments I received varied, but plain statements of fact became preferable. The receptionist at the dance company where I work (and where I am not out in my illness) once said, “You’re so thin, are you doing okay?” I made up a lie about losing weight when I’m stressed. (If that were true, it would mean I’d hardly ever been stressed before.) Disturbingly, a donor to the company told me I looked “wonderful.” Thank you?

At the bodega on my corner, I was buying an avocado after my appetite had returned, and the clerk remarked, “Is this dinner? That’s how you stay so thin.” I’ve lived in my neighborhood for four years and I saw this man often, but never before had he said something like this. I felt the urge to defend myself by explaining that the avocado was going to be sliced on top of a burrito and that I was planning to have ice cream afterwards.

I also felt the urge to snap back, “I have cancer; that’s how I stay so thin.”

My weight loss, however, finally stalled. Once we found a chemo that worked, I was able to eat again. It was a thrilling time. I needed vitamins, but I also needed fat, so I let myself indulge in anything I wanted. My husband and I visited his mother and it was like something out of Hansel and Gretel—being fed bread and butter and pie after every meal, while they watched with satisfaction. I discovered a local bakery that stayed open until midnight and I tried a new pastry every night. My macaroni and cheese consumption would have made Liz Lemon blush.

RELATED: 22 Ways to Help a Friend With Breast Cancer

It took me 2-3 weeks to lose the weight and about 2-3 months to put it back on. Now my clothes fit, I have energy and color, and my butt came back. I know my body better, what fuel it needs and how much it can withstand.

Now that I’m closer to the middle of the spectrum, I don’t receive any out-of-the-blue comments on my size. While the cancer is under control, it's not in remission. So if this whole thing happens again, as the current drug someday loses its effectiveness, I’ll be more prepared for the comments and questions, with a good retort to the next person who says, “You’re so thin.”

www.health.com/breast-cancer/breast-cancer-caused-me-to-lose-weight “>
Breast Cancer – Health.com