Archive for June 2018

Medical Marijuana

What is medical marijuana?

Marijuana, also called cannabis and quite a few other names, is a plant grown around the world that has been used in herbal remedies for centuries. There are a number of biologically active compounds in marijuana, which are called cannabinoids. The two most-studied compounds in marijuana are:

  • delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which causes marijuana’s high
  • cannabidiol (CBD), which doesn’t cause a high

Each cannabinoid offers different benefits. Many people diagnosed with cancer feel that CBD is better at controlling pain than THC.

While marijuana is federally illegal in the United States, more than half of the states, as well as the District of Columbia, have passed laws legalizing the use of marijuana to treat certain medical conditions.

So medical marijuana means using marijuana or its cannabinoids for medicinal purposes.

What conditions is medical marijuana used for?

It’s extremely important to know that marijuana is not a treatment for breast cancer. People use marijuana to ease the side effects of treatment and pain caused by the cancer.

Still, because marijuana is federal illegal, research on marijuana to manage cancer treatment side effects is limited.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that marijuana may ease:

  • pain
  • nausea/vomiting
  • hot flashes
  • loss of appetite
  • anxiety
  • insomnia

caused by a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.

“It’s important for people to know that anything they ingest that produces a change in their bodies is acting like a drug, and it has the potential for side effects, interactions with other drugs, as well as benefits,” said Virginia F. Borges, M.D., MMSc., professor of medicine and director of the Breast Cancer Research Program at the University of Colorado Cancer Center. She specializes in treating young women diagnosed with breas…

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Types of Complementary Techniques

There are literally hundreds of complementary medicine techniques. While some treatments have been studied in breast cancer patients, others have not. We have noted which treatments have and have not been studied in breast cancer patients. ALWAYS check with your doctor before beginning any complementary treatment.

Although not every complementary technique is listed here, we’ve included information about the most widely used complementary techniques.

Complementary medicine treatments

Automated Breast Density Measurements Confirm Higher Cancer Risk for Dense Breasts

Dense breasts have less fatty tissue and more non-fatty tissue compared to breasts that aren’t dense.

Research has shown that dense breasts:

  • can be 6 times more likely to develop cancer
  • can make it harder for mammograms to detect breast cancer; breast cancers (which look white like breast gland tissue) are easier to see on a mammogram when they’re surrounded by fatty tissue (which looks dark)

About 43% of women ages 40 to 74 years old in the United States are classified as having dense breasts.

Still, no one method of measuring breast density has been agreed upon by doctors. Breast density is not based on how your breasts feel during your self-exam or your doctor’s physical exam. One way to measure breast density is the thickness of tissue on a mammogram. The BI-RADS (Breast Imaging Reporting and Database System), which reports the findings of mammograms, also includes information on breast density. BI-RADS classifies breasts as one of four groups:

  • mostly fatty
  • scattered areas of density
  • consistently dense
  • extremely dense

This way of measuring breast density is based on a radiologist reading the mammogram and deciding if the tissue is dense. Because radiologists are human, there is some subjectivity in breast density classification. If a woman’s breasts are in the middle of the density spectrum, one radiologist may classify them as dense while another may not.

A Norwegian study using automated software to measure breast density has confirmed that women with dense breasts have higher recall and biopsy rates after a mammogram, as well as a higher risk of breast cancer.

The research was published online on June 26, 2018 by the journal Radiology. Read the abstract of “Automated Volumetric Analysis of Mammographic Density in a Screening Setting: Worse Outcomes for Wo…

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Meet Our 2018 Volunteer Award Recipients

June 28, 2018
Eric Fitzsimmons

Volunteers are vital to Living Beyond Breast Cancer’s mission to connect people with trusted breast cancer information and a community of support. Our volunteers are the people on the ground across the country helping to connect our…

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Can Eating a Low-Fat Diet Improve Breast Cancer Survival in Postmenopausal Women?

Diet is thought to be partly responsible for about 30% to 40% of all cancers. But diet alone is unlikely to be the “cause” or the “cure” of cancer. In the 1970s, the theory that a high-fat diet increased breast cancer risk became popular, and some people still believe that theory. Still, studies done since that time have offered mixed results.

The very large WHEL (Women’s Healthy Eating and Living) study was designed to see if a very stringent diet that was low in fat and high in vegetables, fruit, and fiber made a difference in survival or breast cancer recurrence (the breast cancer coming back) in women who had been diagnosed. The results were published in 2007 and showed that the diet had no effect on survival or recurrence, which surprised many people.

In 2017, results from the Women’s Health Initiative Trial suggested that postmenopausal women who ate a low-fat diet after a breast cancer diagnosis were less likely to die from any cause compared to women who ate a diet that was higher in fat. Still, researchers wanted to know how much the low-fat diet affected survival.

A secondary analysis of the Women’s Health Initiative data suggests that postmenopausal women who eat a low-fat diet after being diagnosed with breast cancer are more likely to be alive 10 years after diagnosis compared to women who ate a diet that was higher in fat after being diagnosed.

The research was published online on May 24, 2018 by JAMA Oncology. Read the abstract of “Association of Low-Fat Dietary Pattern With Breast Cancer Overall Survival: A Secondary Analysis of the Women’s Health Initiative Randomized Clinical Trial.”

This research is part of the very large Women’s Health Initiative Clinical Trial and the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study. Both studies are commonly called the WHI. Together, the two studies includ…

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Advanced-Stage, Triple-Negative Breast Cancer in Women With BRCA1/2 Mutation Seems to Respond Better to Carboplatin Than Taxotere

Triple-negative breast cancer is:

  • estrogen-receptor-negative
  • progesterone-receptor-negative
  • HER2-negative

About 15% to 20% of breast cancers are triple-negative. Triple-negative cancers usually are more aggressive, harder to treat, and more likely to come back than cancers that are hormone-receptor-positive and/or HER2-positive. Hormonal therapy and targeted therapies such as Herceptin (chemical name: trastuzumab), Tykerb (chemical name: lapatinib), Perjeta (chemical name: pertuzumab), and others that target the HER2 receptor don’t work on triple-negative breast cancer.

Locally advanced-stage breast cancer is breast cancer that has spread to tissue near the breast, but not to parts of the body away from the breast. Metastatic breast cancer is advanced-stage cancer that has spread to parts of the body away from the breast — the bones, liver, or brain, for example.

Advanced-stage, triple-negative breast cancer is usually treated with chemotherapy, but response rates have been lower than doctors would like.

A study suggests that women diagnosed with advanced-stage, triple-negative breast cancer who also have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation have a better response to a chemotherapy regimen that includes carboplatin than a regimen that includes Taxotere (chemical name: docetaxel).

The research was published in the April 30, 2018 issue of Nature Medicine. Read the abstract of “Carboplatin in BRCA1/2-mutated and triple-negative breast cancer BRCAness subgroups: the TNT Trial.”

Most inherited cases of breast cancer are associated with two abnormal genes: BRCA1 (BReast CAncer gene one) and BRCA2 (BReast CAncer gene two). Women with a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene have up to an 85% risk of developing breast cancer by age 70. Their risk of ovarian ca…

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