If you are at high risk for developing breast cancer because of family history or because you have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, you have several preventative treatments to consider. These options include close surveillance, chemoprevention, and prophylactic mastectomy, with or without breast reconstruction.
When the COVID-19 pandemic was first declared in March 2019, there was a lack of information about the virus. As time went on and more and more research was conducted, we were able to learn more about how the virus worked, who it was infecting, its symptoms and more. One of the pieces of information from this research was that cancer patients were more likely to have adverse outcomes if diagnosed. Although there was not enough evidence to pinpoint which cancers made individuals more susceptible or enough research to definitively say whether past and present patients had the same concerns, the few findings were enough to label individuals diagnosed with cancer as high-risk. Of course, one’s risk level is dependent on many different factors and varies from person to person.
The goal of World Lymphedema Day is to make cures for lymphedema and lymphatic diseases a global priority. It is an annual awareness event with participation in many countries around the world. The Lymphedema Association of Ontario (LAO) has committed to improving the lives of people living with lymphedema since it began in 1996 and has become a more dynamic organization in the last year. World Lymphedema Day offers us an opportunity to continue our advocacy and awareness work. LAO partners with hospitals, our professional members, and patients to bring attention to lymphedema in Ontario.
Traditional cancer therapies (such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy) have shown widespread success against various cancer types, but are known to have toxic, undesirable side effects as they do not selectively kill cancer cells and therefore actively damage healthy cells as well. This is where immunotherapy comes into play. Immunotherapy is a form of therapy that uses the body’s own immune system to fight the cancer within it. Think of your body as a battlefield and your immune system the frontline of soldiers, ready to attack foreign invaders. The problem with cancer cells is that they are not easily recognized as foreign pathogens (such as viruses or bacteria) because they originate in the host’s body and mutate from normal cells. It has long been postulated that the immune system could be used to target and kill cancer cells, but the process of figuring out how to harness this ability is not a simple task.
The San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium is the annual breast cancer conference that brings together researchers, clinicians, patients and manufacturers from all over the world to discuss the latest breast cancer research. While the 2020 symposium was held virtually, there was still an incredible amount of new research shared.
While Canada has a universal healthcare system, this system does not universally cover prescription drugs, nor does it address out-pocket-costs that many, including breast cancer patients, face when they navigate our healthcare system. Every country that has a universal healthcare system also has universal prescription drug coverage – every country but Canada. This results in unequal access to treatment based on a variety of factors, such as where a person lives, the type of insurance they have, their age, their income, and more. To address this, many have suggested implementing national pharmacare – a universal drug coverage system that is publicly funded. We’ve written on pharmacare in the past, on what it is and why it should matter to breast cancer patients and on where Canada’s federal parties stand on pharmacare.
Some breast cancer patients who had a mastectomy have reported feeling painful and non-painful sensations in the area of the breast that was removed. This condition, known as phantom breast syndrome (PBS), usually start in the first year after a mastectomy. Sensations due to PBS usually occur in the chest, armpit, surgical scar, and inner arm and last far beyond the expected time for post-surgical pain. The prevalence of PBS is not exactly known, most likely due to a lack of reporting as patients either feel like it is not that big of a deal or because they find it hard to describe. PBS has been reported to affect anywhere between 4% to 56% patients; other studies report that it affects anywhere between 10% to 55% of women.
When you have a cut or an injury, blood clots are useful in stopping the bleeding in order to help your body heal. However, there can be a negative side to blood clots. If a blood clot develops in a vein, which is called a venous thromboembolism (VTE) or venous thrombosis, or if it develops in a deep vein, which is called a deep vein thrombosis (DVT), there may be cause for concern.
Lymphedema is abnormal swelling of the arms, hands, breast, or torso. Breast cancer-related lymphedema generally occurs when the lymph nodes or the lymphatic vessels are damaged or removed following breast cancer treatment. When this happens, blockage in the lymphatic system prevents lymph fluid from properly draining which is what leads to the swelling.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ‘advocate’ as a verb that means “to support or argue for”. ‘Self-advocacy is defined as “the action of representing oneself or one's views or interests”. While the word, advocate might make us think of protests or political signs, that is not always the case. As someone with a breast cancer diagnosis, self-advocacy and being an advocate simply means being a part of your health care team. It means knowing yourself and speaking up for yourself to make sure that your cancer care needs are met. Self-advocacy is part of participatory medicine where “patients are actively working alongside their physicians to choose the best course of cancer treatment.”