Breast Health Newsletter | Newsletter 2000 | Imaginis - The Women's Health & Wellness Resource Network

The Women's Health Resource. On the web since 1997. Breast Health Newsletter

January 06, 2000 - Volume 2, Issue 1

Comprehensive Information of Breast Cancer and Breast Health Issues


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1. In the News:

- Arimidex May Be More Successful Than Tamoxifen in Post-Menopausal Breast Cancer Patients...
A large study revealed that post-menopausal women with advanced breast cancer may benefit more from treatment with the drug Arimidex (generic name anastrozole) than with the commonly prescribed drug, tamoxifen (trade name Nolvadex). Women treated with tamoxifen were found to have a 13% higher risk of disease progression than those treated with Arimidex. Arimidex was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in January 1996 as treatment for post-menopausal women with metastatic breast cancer who have not responded well to treatment with tamoxifen.

- Benign Breast Disease Linked to Increased Breast Cancer Risk...
The results of a study published in the December 15, 1999 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute revealed that women who are diagnosed with epithelial hyperplasia lesions lacking atypia (EHLA) may be at higher risk for developing breast cancer than women without EHLA. EHLA is a benign (non-cancerous) breast condition often referred to as "usual duct hyperplasia." EHLA is found in nearly 25% of benign breast biopsy samples but usually goes untreated because most physicians do not believe it indicates breast cancer. This is the first time researchers have found credible evidence of a biologic marker of increased breast cancer risk in women with benign breast disease.

- FDA Panel Recommends Approval of Digital Mammography...
An advisory panel to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended the approval of the General Electric Medical Systems "full-field" digital mammography scanner to screen for and diagnose breast cancer. The advantages of digital mammography include faster image acquisition, shorter exam, easier image storage, and physician manipulation of breast images for more accurate detection of breast cancer. Digital mammography has the potential to significantly reduce the amount of time required to acquire a mammogram from 10 to 15 minutes to less than a minute. This will provide a shorter, more comfortable exam for the woman and possibly allow mammography facilities to conduct more mammograms in a day.

-New Study Reveals Near 100% Survival Rate in DCIS Patients Regardless of Treatment...
The results of a 10 year study revealed no difference in long-term survival among women with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) who chose mastectomy (removal of the affected breast) over lumpectomy (removal of a breast lump) or vice versa. DCIS is the most common form of non-invasive breast cancer among women. Although the number of breast cancer recurrences was higher among women who were treated with lumpectomy, a near 100% survival rate among DCIS patients regardless of treatment indicates that women with DCIS are at very little risk of dying from cancer recurrence. In the past, most physicians have recommended that women with DCIS have mastectomy. However, in recent years, breast-conserving therapy (lumpectomy followed by at least six weeks of radiation therapy) has become a popular surgical option because it allows women to preserve their breast(s).

-USA Today Reporter Who Published Breast Cancer Journal Dies...
Cathy Hainer, 38, a reporter for USA Today who routinely published her experiences with breast cancer, died of the disease at a northern Virginia hospice on December 14, 1999. Hainer began publishing her breast cancer diary in USA Today during the Spring of 1998, a few months after she was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. While fighting advanced breast cancer, Hainer continued leading an active life: she bought a house, got engaged, and inspired millions of women with the courageous voice of her breast cancer journal. Hainer’s journal chronicles her battle with breast cancer from the time of diagnosis on January 9, 1998 to her final days with the disease.

2. What is Breast Cancer?
Cancer is a group of diseases in which cells in the body grow, change, and multiply out of control. Usually, cancer is named after the body part in which it originated; thus, breast cancer refers to the erratic growth and proliferation of cells that originate in the breast tissue. A group of rapidly dividing cells may form a lump or mass of extra tissue called tumors. Tumors can either be cancerous (malignant) or non-cancerous (benign). Malignant tumors penetrate and destroy healthy body tissues. The term, breast cancer, refers to a malignant tumor that has developed from cells in the breast. This article explains breast cancer and identifies several forms.

3. New Technologies to Aid in the Detection of Breast Cancer - CAD and Digital Film Viewer
A new device has recently been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help radiologists more accurately detect breast cancer on mammography films. The computer aided detection (CAD) system, called the R2 Imagechecker, helps radiologists reduce interpretative errors by identifying and marking "regions of interest" (ROIs) or features on mammography films that may be associated with breast abnormalities. Researchers estimate that for every 100,000 cancers currently detected during screening mammography, the use of the CAD system could result in an additional 12,800 breast cancers being detected each year.

The FDA has also approved the Digital Film Viewer which helps radiologists to better interpret mammography films, by making the breast image sharper and easier to interpret. Using the Digital Film Viewer, the average radiologist is able to detect 30% to 60% smaller diameter objects compared to a normal light box. As with CAD technology, the Digital Film Viewer may help radiologists to detect breast cancer at an earlier stage when the cure rate is higher.

4. Who Should Receive Genetic Testing for Breast Cancer?
Every woman is born with the BRCA1 (breast cancer gene 1) and BRCA2 (breast cancer gene 2) genes. When functioning normally, these genes do not pose any risk to a woman's health. However, some women may be born with or experience mutations of the BRCA genes through their lifetime, increasing their risk of developing breast cancer. With advances in genetic testing, technologists are now able to identify BRCA mutations by analyzing a blood sample. This article discusses how BRCA mutations are identified, the advantages and disadvantages of genetic testing for breast cancer risk, and coping with the results of genetic testing.


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