Entries in Breast Cancer (133)


Fish Oil Might Help Fight Breast Cancer

Paul Tearle/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It’s a supplement that millions of Americans take each day, hoping to reduce their risk of heart disease. But a new review of research suggests that fish oil might protect against another killer: breast cancer.

Chinese researchers looked at 21 studies and found that a higher intake of fish oil, but not necessarily fish itself, appears to be linked to a lower risk of breast cancer later in life. Specifically, they found that a high intake of fatty acids found in fish oil was associated with a 14 percent reduced risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women.

If it’s real, the link could have big implications for women and their health. Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in U.S. women other than non-melanoma skin cancers, and the second deadliest cancer in women, following only lung cancer, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“These findings could have public health implications with regard to prevention of breast cancer through dietary and lifestyle implications,” the authors wrote in their study, published Thursday in the journal BMJ.

But while it is known that a healthy diet and lifestyle decrease the risk of breast cancer, past studies have reached different conclusions when it comes to the consumption of fish oil and breast cancer risk.

Science Still Slippery on Fish Oil Health Connection

One thing we do know is that including oily fish in your diet is good for you, a reason that it is recommended by many nutritionists. The benefits of fish oil supplements are less clear, although this has not stopped fish oil from becoming big business.

Americans spent $739 million on fish oil supplements in 2008, according to the trade publication Nutrition Business Journal. Proponents have primarily touted them as heart-healthy, and past research has also pointed to the effects of fish and fish oil on breast cancer risk.

But this research has been less than conclusive. On one hand, two large prospective studies and several case-control studies have suggested a protective effect on breast cancer risk. On the other, a number of studies have found no such association.

Dr. Kathy Helzlsouer, breast cancer expert and director of the Center for Prevention and Research at Mercy Health Services in Baltimore, Md., said the reasons behind the finding that fish oil supplements were linked to a lower risk of breast cancer, but that fish consumption was not, are unclear.

She also called the link between fish oil consumption and breast cancer prevention “modest,” and noted that it is still hard to say that these supplements deserve all the credit.

“Whether this is cause and effect is not certain,” Helzlsouer said, adding that the authors themselves admit in the paper that more research is needed to better understand the reasons for their findings.

What Women Should Do

The good news is that there is little out there to suggest increasing your intake of fish oil is harmful, and you might even be doing yourself some good.

But Helzlsouer says she believes the best, and perhaps tastiest, option to achieve the benefits of fatty acids found in fish is to eat more oily fish.

“I usually recommend consumption of fish rather than supplements,” she said. “I believe fish consumption is a healthy part of the diet and I have recommended it.”

Here are a few tips women should consider to reap the possible benefits of fish oil:
•    Nutritionists suggest one to two servings per week of oily fish like salmon, sardines or tuna;
•    If you’re not a fan of fish, taking a daily fish oil supplement might not be a bad idea;
•    The two important omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids found in fish are: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Try to look for these if you decide to go with a fish oil supplement.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Angelina Jolie’s Aunt Dies of Breast Cancer

Astrid Stawiarz/WireImage(NEW YORK) -- Angelina Jolie’s aunt, Debbie Martin, has passed away at the age of 61 after battling breast cancer.

Her death comes less than two weeks after Jolie revealed that she had a preventative double mastectomy after testing positive for a “faulty” BRCA gene that could lead to breast cancer.

Martin was the younger sister of Jolie’s mother, Marcheline Bertrand, who died from ovarian cancer in 2007 after a 10-year battle at age 56.

Martin’s husband, Ron, says his wife had the same defective BRCA1 gene that Jolie does, telling People magazine, “Because of the BRCA gene in the maternal side of the family, Angelina did the smartest thing on earth. It takes a lot of courage to have your breasts removed.”

In a New York Times op-ed published earlier this month, Jolie explains how her family’s history with cancer influenced her decision to undergo the surgery.

“My doctors estimated that I had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer,” she wrote. “Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much as I could. I made a decision to have a preventative double mastectomy.”

The megastar wrote of her mother, “She held out long enough to meet the first of her grandchildren and to hold them in her arms. But my other children will never have the chance to know her. We often speak of mommy’s mommy, and I find myself trying to explain the illness that took her away from us. They have asked if the same could happen to me.”

Jolie started the medical procedures in secrecy back in February, and completed the process at the end of April.

“The decision to have a mastectomy was not easy,” Jolie wrote. “But it is one I am very happy that I made. I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Men Struggle with Wives' Breast Cancer

Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Seventy two hours after Elissa Bantug's mastectomy, she felt broken. She was only 25 years old, but she had lost both breasts and her strawberry blonde hair to cancer. Drainage tubes still hung from her chest to remove excess fluid from the operation.

In that moment, she just wanted to have sex with her boyfriend.

"I just needed something to make me not feel so broken," said Bantug, who is now 31. "Anything to make me feel beautiful."

But instead of responding to her advances, Bantug said, her boyfriend pushed her off of him and told her it was crazy for her to have sex when she was so sick -- and so obviously in pain.

"It was awful," said Bantug. "It ended in a screaming match with doors being slammed."

Bantug said it was just one of the instances in which she and her boyfriend -- to whom she is now married -- didn't communicate well during her cancer experience. He had a hard time figuring out when he was supposed to let Bantug make decisions and when he was supposed to help her decide what to do. He didn't tell her how afraid he was.

When they did have sex, Bantug's boyfriend didn't know where to put his hands or whether putting them certain places would draw attention to Bantug's scars and upset her. He thought he should sleep in the guest room because he thought she needed the space to heal, but that made her worry that he was pulling away.

Now, Bantug knows better than to stay silent about these things, and it's her job to make sure cancer patients at Johns Hopkins Medical Center do, too. She runs the hospital's Breast Cancer Survivorship Program, where it's her job to answer the questions cancer patients and their spouses feel silly asking their oncologists.

Couples want to know about what to eat and how to tell their children about the diagnosis, but they also want to know about nipple sensitivity, body image and whether cancer patients will be able to have an orgasm again, she said.

Even though breast cancer is primarily about the woman fighting it, psychologist Jennifer Wolkin said conversations about relationships inevitably come up in her sessions with patients.

In addition to finding themselves thrust into the unfamiliar role of emotional supporter, men feel they need to deny their own feelings to be stoic, said Wolkin.

"They give off an air of self-assuredness to protect women, but, ironically, it comes off as rejection," said Wolkin, who works at the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women's Health at NYU Langone.

She said men often lack support centers and have to journey through cancer alone. If they show their feelings, they worry it somehow makes them weak. Sometimes, a man's libido can even drop -- not so much because he's no longer attracted to his wife, but because of the uncertainty associated with the situation and her body.

But it doesn't have to be that way. Men and women just need to communicate and ask for help when they need it.

"Mastectomy is horrific, but I think it has potential to offer this place where a man and woman could really significantly grow in their relationship," Wolkin said.

It's important for both partners to be as informed as possible about what's going to happen during breast cancer treatment and recovery, said Lynn Erdman, the vice president of community health for Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Erdman, a nurse who specializes in oncology, said men have their own set of concerns and emotional issues when it comes to having a spouse with breast cancer, but they often don't feel comfortable talking about them because they think it makes them selfish. She said many hospitals now offer support groups for men as a safe place for them to ask questions that would otherwise seem taboo.

"What we hear a lot of times is, 'What's the breast going to feel like after the implant is in and the tissue in it has been removed?'" Erdman said. "'If I hug her, is it going to hurt her?' 'Will it change our sex life?'"

"I've seen it often bring couples much closer together," she said."It's part of going through the cancer battle together."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Mammogram Rate Did Not Decline After Controversial Recommendation

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Despite a 2009 recommendation from the United States Preventative Services Task Force that women between the ages of 40 and 49 not undergo routine mammogram breast screenings, mammogram rates actually rose among women in that age group.

The recommendation from the USPSTF was a controversial one, because some experts argued that delayed screening would increase breast cancer deaths.

A recent study in the journal Cancer found that doctors and female patients have largely ignored the recommendation from the USPSTF. Researchers studied data from nearly 28,000 women and found that 53.6 percent of women had a mammogram in 2011, up from 51.9 percent in 2008. Within the population of 40 to 49 year old women, 47.5 percent had a mammogram in 2011, up from 46.1 percent in 2008.

The study did not determine why mammogram rates rose after the recommendation, but did point out that a number of prominent advocacy groups continued to recommend screenings for women between the age of 40 and 49 despite the USPSTF recommendation.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


African-American Women More Likely to Die of Breast Cancer

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- African-American women with breast cancer are much more likely to die from it than women of other ethnic groups are, according to a new study from the American Association for Cancer Research.

“Our study provides the insight that is not the breast cancer subtype that explains the difference,” said researcher Candyce Kroenke, noting that the higher fatality rate was true across all breast cancer types, not just the much harder to treat “triple negative” type.

Researchers attempted to adjust their study to account for a variety of different factors, including smoking, lifestyle factors, and weight differences, but even adjusting for these factors didn’t explain the association. They admit that they don’t have a reason why this disparity in fatality rates exists.

Kroenke says that the big takeaway from the study is that there’s more research to be done.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Diagnosed with Breast Cancer? Get Second Opinion, Experts Say

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Mammograms are not something most women look forward to, but just like the 37 million other women who get a routine mammogram each year, Judy Valencia of Saginaw, Mich., has been vigilant about her check-ups.

"My sister had breast cancer, my mother had breast cancer and my three aunts also had breast cancer," Valencia told ABC's Nightline anchor Cynthia McFadden.

But when doctors saw an abnormality on one of her mammograms, they decided to biopsy Valencia's breast tissue.  Based on the results of that biopsy, she was told she had cancer.

"There is no one who questions a biopsy and gets it double checked," Valencia said.

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 230,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer in women are diagnosed each year and breast cancer is the second leading cause of death in women, after lung cancer.  But Dr. Elisa Port, one of the nation's leading breast surgeons who works at Mount Sinai's Dubin Breast Center, said women must absolutely get a second opinion if they have been diagnosed.

"We see patients all the time, they come in with their reports all the time and their diagnosis says breast cancer," Port said.  "We pass the slides off to our pathologists, who sends me back a report a day later saying, 'don't agree, this is not cancer,' and it's very clear cut that it is not."

"That's probably one of the most critical pieces of information," she added.  "That's why no one gets near an operating room until those slides are reviewed."

In 2006, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the prominent breast cancer survivors' organization in the U.S., released a study that estimated that as much as 4 percent of breast cancer diagnoses were incorrect, meaning more than 90,000 people currently living with breast cancer may have been misdiagnosed.

Dr. Ira Bleiweiss, one of the country's leading breast pathologists, said diagnosing breast cancer these days can be more difficult because mammograms have become so much better, now able to detect smaller and smaller lesions.

While some diagnoses are straightforward, not all cancers are the same.  Bleiweiss said it is a "very common occurrence" for him to be presented a slide where the tissue can seem ambiguous.

"These are things that are subject to interpretation and more expertise in making that interpretation is better," Port added.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Woman Runs Marathon After Surviving Breast Cancer, Heart Transplant

Toni Wild(NEW ORLEANS) -- Toni Wild finished her first marathon on Sunday, an impressive feat for anybody. Still, what makes Wild’s accomplishment so incredible is that she had to overcome two bouts with breast cancer and heart failure to run it.

Wild, 50, was first diagnosed with breast cancer at age 29 in 1992. Chemotherapy and radiation left her cancer-free for five years. Tragically, a mere week after she had been given a clean bill of health, her husband was struck and killed by a car while changing a tire during a trip the two of them had taken.

Doctors asked whether Wild wanted to donate his organs, something they'd never talked about before.

"I made that decision," she said. "I was actually able to provide three families with a second chance at life.”

Her breast cancer came back a year after that. She would have to undergo more chemotherapy and radiation, but once again she was cancer-free by 1998.

However, all that chemotherapy had done damage to her heart. After an initial struggle to get doctors to listen to her suspicion that she had more than a minor illness, she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure,  three months after her last round of chemotherapy. Her heart wasn't able to pump enough blood to the rest of her body.

For the next 11 years, Wild lived with varying signs and symptoms of heart failure, but medications and regular rest allowed her to live normally. The extreme fatigue and shortness of breath returned when she was 46. Wild's heart was worn out, and if she didn't get a heart transplant, she would die.

Only a week after doctors put her on the transplant list, the phone rang. She had a heart.

“It makes me realize there's so much truth in the statement of 'paying it forward,'" she said. "In 1997, when I decided to donate my husband's organs, I had absolutely no idea, would not even fathom the thought that, years down the road, I would find myself in that exact situation of needing a heart."

Now, she runs simply because she can. She says her donor allowed her to do something she never thought possible, so she doesn't say, "I ran seven half marathons," she says, "We ran seven half marathons."

On Sunday, four years after the transplant, she ran her first full marathon, called Rock 'n' Roll New Orleans. It took her six hours and 36 minutes because a virus kept her from training for 23 days before the race, but she finished.

"It was absolutely the most incredible day of my life," she said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


According to New Study, Alcohol Increases Risk of Cancer Death

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- According to a new study, drinking alcohol is a major contributor to cancer mortality and costs drinkers years of their lives.

The study, which was published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that "alcohol consumption resulted in an estimated 18,200 to 21,300 cancer deaths, or 3.2 percent to 3.7 percent of all U.S. cancer deaths."

While some studies have shown that moderate drinking has cardiovascular benefits, the new report states that "there is no safe threshold for alcohol and cancer risk." The most frequent alcohol-attributable cancer deaths were from breast cancer in women, and mouth, throat and esophogeal cancer in men.

According to the American Cancer Society, it is unclear how exactly alcohol consumption might increase cancer risk. The study determined that minimizing or eliminating alcohol consumption is "an important and underemphasized cancer prevention strategy."

"If you do drink, limit your consumption," said Susan Gapstur, vice president of epidemiology at the Cancer Society. She also pointed out that smoking is much more significant in terms of increasing risk of cancer.

While approximately 20,000 cancer deaths each year can be attributed to alcohol, smoking is to blame for over 100,000 cancer deaths annually.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Documentary Shows Beauty in the Face of Cancer

The Light that Shines via YouTube(PARIS) -- You would never guess that the woman in a photo who is smiling and swishing a pink tulle gown in front of the Eiffel Tower underwent 16 rounds of chemotherapy and five surgeries when she was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago. You would also never guess that after a yearlong remission, she was diagnosed with incurable bone cancer.

Jill Brzezinski-Conley is beautiful even with a gap in her dress where her right breast used to be, and she wants other women to feel that way too.

“If I could change one woman’s life, I would die the happiest woman,” she says during the opening of the 15-minute documentary about her, The Light That Shines.

The film already has more than 358,000 views, and it’s only been up for two weeks on

“A woman who’s diagnosed or already has it, I’m sure she’s scared and she feels alone,” Brzezinski-Conley told, addressing why she decided to share her story with the world. “I didn’t want people to feel alone anymore.”

In the documentary Brzezinski-Conley takes a trip to Paris to pose in couture gowns for photographer Sue Bryce, while first-time documentary maker Hailey Bartholomew films the experience. The film also includes reenactments of pivotal moments in Brzezinski-Conley’s story as she tells it – from crying in the car after the startling breast cancer diagnosis after just a few months of marriage to going out on a dinner date with her husband and ditching a fancy wig halfway through because “this isn’t me.”

Since the film debuted online, Brzezinski-Conley said she receives 500 messages a night from people all over the world who want to thank her for making their wives feel better about cancer, teaching their daughters to appreciate their bodies, or just being courageous enough to show her scarred chest. She’s received notes from fans in Poland, Russia, Kenya, India and New Zealand.

But perhaps the best reaction came from Brzezinski-Conley’s mother.

“She started crying and said, ‘I’ve never been so proud of you,’” Brzezinski-Conley said.

Still Brzezinski-Conley said she doesn’t want to sugarcoat her experience with cancer.

Doctors diagnosed Brzezinski-Conley with breast cancer when she was 31-years-old, and she had a double mastectomy as a result. Although she initially had two breast implants, one became infected because of the radiation, so it had to be removed.

“I’ve been through hell and back,” she told “The chemo was so intense. I felt like it was killing me. The side effects you hear about and read about – it was times ten. But good things are finally starting to happen. ”

Yet Brzezinski-Conley posed bare-chested for Bryce and Bartholomew proudly, flexing her arm muscles and smiling down at her scar in a few shots.

“If we can show everybody through her how to just be so beautiful, so beautiful with those scars out, then anybody pretty much can confront anything in themselves after seeing something that beautiful,” Bryce says in the film.

Brzezinski-Conley says in the film she has a prosthetic breast, but she doesn’t bother to wear it. She told that people talk about mastectomies and breast cancer, but they never show what it looks like, and she wanted to change that.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women of all races, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2009, the most recent year available, nearly 212,000 women were diagnosed with the disease.

“I will say that the entire time that she was without clothes I never saw any scars on her body,” Bryce said. “I only saw this incredible smile.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Victoria's Secret in Talks with Mom, Daughter on 'Survivor Bra' YORK) -- Allana Maiden, a 27-year-old from Virginia whose mother is a breast cancer survivor, discovered the power of people who care on Thursday when she and her mother were given an audience with the giant fashion chain Victoria's Secret.

She and her mother, Debbie Barrett, 57, hand-delivered more than 118,000 petition signatures to the company's office in New York City, asking them to create a line of "survivor" bras to help women who have had mastectomies and wear prostheses to feel beautiful again.

They met with Tammy Roberts Myers, vice president of external communications for Limited Brands, the parent company of Victoria's Secret, who offered to fly the pair to the Columbus, Ohio, headquarters for more discussions and a tour of the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, a recipient of donations from Victoria's Secret.

"We were just blown away," Maiden told ABC News after the visit.  "They actually want to send us out there and are taking this seriously.  I didn't know what to expect meeting someone so high in the company.  I thought it would just be a pat on the back -- 'Good job, we can't do it.'  It was amazing.  I do think that [Victoria's Secret] is interested in figuring out how to do this."

Maiden and Barrett carried the petition signatures to the meeting in Victoria's Secret's pink-striped shopping bags.

Limited Brands has acknowledged the importance of supporting women who have breast cancer, but did not commit to making a new line of bras.

"We celebrate those who champion the fight against breast cancer," the company said in a prepared statement for ABC News.  "Victoria's Secret and ... Limited Brands, have been dedicated to helping eradicate this disease and have committed tens of millions of dollars to cancer research.

"Ultimately, we are working towards celebrating the day when breast cancer is a thing of the past," it said.  "In the meantime, we are listening and learning to understand if there are additional ways for our company to continue to extend its support."

Maiden said she is "amazed" that her petition got this far.

"The support we got is awesome," she said.  "I knew that there were a lot of people out there who do care deeply about the issue of breast cancer.  I wasn't sure how many would get behind something like this.  People go on walks and buy pink ribbons, but I didn't know if they would respond to this."

On Friday, the department store Nordstrom also responded to Maiden's petition, offering to cover the cost of customizing a few bras for Barrett.

"We actually offer a service where we can convert any of our bras or camisoles in-store into mastectomy bras through our prosthesis program," Nordstrom spokesperson Kelly Skahan wrote in an email to ABC News, looking for contact information for the mother and daughter.

"We can do it right in-store and it makes it so customers can still enjoy the lingerie they've always loved even after a mastectomy," Skahan wrote.  "We'd love to talk to Debbie and Allana and invite them into our store in Richmond so Debbie can have an appointment with one of our bra fitters."

Maiden doesn't remember too much about her mother's breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent mastectomy.  She was only 6 years old at the time.  But ever since, Maiden has watched her mother struggle to feel beautiful -- and to find a bra that fits.

Her mother wears a prosthetic because at the time of her mastectomy, insurance did not cover breast reconstruction. And, because she lives in a rural part of Virginia, she has to drive 1.5 hours to find a store that sells bras that hold prosthetic breasts.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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