January 13th, 2011
By: David Gutierrez
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of the breasts are so sensitive that they detect large numbers of non-cancerous tumors and lead to unnecessary breast removal surgeries, according to an editorial by surgeon Malcom Kell in the British Medical Journal.
Regular, x-ray-based mammograms have drawn criticism in recent years for their high rate of false positive results – the detection of benign tumors – leading to anxiety in patients and a higher rate of invasive and potentially dangerous procedures such as biopsies and even cancer treatment.
“Women who underwent a surgical biopsy as the result of a false positive mammogram screening ‘were more likely to report their work-up as a stressful experience than those who did not have a biopsy.’ So wrote members of the 1996 Task Force, in a statement of the obvious,” write Gerald E. Markle and Frances B. McCrea in their book What If Medicine Disappeared?
“This anxiety persisted long after the positive test was identified as false.”
Magnetic resonance mammography (MRM) is even more sensitive than standard mammography, and is increasingly being offered to young women who have been judged at high genetic risk for breast cancer. According to a study in The Lancet, MRM detects 92 percent of early breast lesions, while x-ray mammograms detect only 56 percent.
But not all lesions lead to cancer. Indeed, the only major study of MRM use in early cancer detection found that women who used MRM screening had the same risk of cancer recurrence as women who had not used the devices. Breast surgeon Kefah Mokbel of the London Breast Institute estimates that MRMs have a false positive rate of roughly 25 percent.
Even more alarming is evidence that false positives are leading to unnecessary breast removal (mastectomy) surgeries. The same Lancet study found that mastectomy rates were seven times higher among MRM patients than among those not undergoing that type of screening.
“[There is] no compelling evidence that this technique should be routinely used in newly diagnosed breast cancer,” Kell said.
November 15th, 2010
By: David Gutierrez
Eminent geologist Jane Plant is now promoting a dietary program for the treatment of cancer, saying that going dairy-free and eating cancer-protective foods helped cure her breast cancer where conventional Western medicine had failed.
Plant was first diagnosed with cancer at age 42. Over the next five years, the cancer recurred four times “despite a radical mastectomy, three further operations, 35 radiotherapy treatments, several chemotherapy treatments and irradiation of my ovaries to induce the menopause,” she writes in her book Your Life in Your Hands.
After the discovery of a cancerous lump in her neck, Plant came across statistics detailing the low rates of breast and prostate cancer in China. Since dairy is almost never consumed in China, she cut it out of her diet entirely and limited her intake of foods containing high levels of chemicals and hormones. She built her diet around foods that have been shown to protect against cancer.
The idea of a connection between diet and cancer is not new.
“The American Cancer Society estimates that of the 500,000 cancer deaths that occur in the United States, about one-third can be attributed to dietary factors, with another third being caused by cigarette smoking,” writes Phyllis A. Balch in her book Prescription for Nutritional Healing, 4th Edition.
Yet while the idea of preventing cancer with diet is widely accepted, the idea of treating it that way is more unconventional.
“Hence, the Plant Program (www.JanePlant.com) was born and, using it alongside conventional medicine, Jane has helped innumerable women and men to combat breast and prostate cancers – often not just stopping the cancer but reversing the disease’s path into secondaries and preventing it from returning,” writes Judith Potts in The Telegraph.
June 30, 2010
By David Gutierrez
(NaturalNews) A new study shows that the increasingly popular practice of “preventive mastectomy” in non-cancerous breasts provides no benefit to the vast majority of women.
“It’s important for women to understand that, except for one subset of breast cancer patients, they don’t need to do this,” said lead author Isabelle Bedrosian of University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. “Hopefully, it’ll reassure patients wondering if they should.”
Approximately 40,000 women die from breast cancer in the United States each year, and another 200,000 cases are diagnosed. Because cancer in one breast is known to increase the risk of cancer recurrence in the other breast, doctors are increasingly recommending that cancer survivors opt to have both breasts removed as a “preventive” measure. And women are opting for it in huge numbers, seeking the peace of mind that it is said to offer.
March 26, 2010
By: Maria Cheng
For some women, having a breast removed once they’re diagnosed with cancer doesn’t always mean they’ll live longer, a new study says.
Researchers said that in women with breast cancer who also have genetic mutations that make them more susceptible to the disease, women appear to live just as long whether they choose treatment that preserves their breast or have a breast removal, or mastectomy.
The study results were presented in Barcelona at a European breast cancer conference on Friday.
Dr. Lori Pierce, a professor of radiation oncology at the University of Michigan, and her colleagues observed 655 breast cancer patients in Australia, Israel, Spain and the United States, all of whom had genetic mutations that gave them a much higher chance of getting the disease. After 15 years, women who had a breast removed had about a 6 percent chance of a cancer relapse, compared with 24 percent of women who kept their breasts. If the latter group added chemotherapy, their risk dropped to about 12 percent.
But when it came to survival, there was almost no difference whether the cancer patients had decided to keep their breast or have it removed. Women who kept their breasts had a survival rate of 87 percent after 15 years, and women who had mastectomies had a survival rate of 89 percent.
“This will be useful for patients who are bombarded with a lot of information at once,” said Pierce. “Being diagnosed with breast cancer and finding out (they have a genetic susceptibility) is a lot to process, and women may not want to think about a mastectomy right then,” she said. “Breast conservation therapy…with chemotherapy and hormonal therapy is a very reasonable alternative.”
She said the study results probably wouldn’t apply to women who have the genetic mutations but haven’t yet gotten cancer. “Their thinking is very different because they’ve often seen multiple family members die and they are much more likely to undergo a preventive mastectomy,” she said.
Doctors said Pierce’s findings should buy some recently diagnosed breast cancer patients a bit of breathing room.
“These are convincing data that show women can keep their breast and not be worse off,” said Dr. Alain Fourquet, head of radiation and oncology at the Institut Curie in Paris. Fourquet is the chair of the European breast cancer conference and was not linked to Pierce’s study.
Fourquet said that being genetically predisposed to breast cancer may be less important in determining a course of action once women actually get the disease, and that decisions to remove a breast should not be based on genes.
Maria Leadbeater, a clinical nurse specialist at Breast Cancer Care, a British charity, said the findings should change the discussions doctors have with breast cancer patients.
“Surgeons may be able to give more weight to patients’ thoughts and wishes,” she said. “If both options are equally effective, then what the patient wants may become more important.”
By Todd Ackerman
Breast cancer patients are increasingly having preventive surgery to remove the unaffected breast, but a new study suggests it’s not beneficial for the vast majority of women who undergo it.
Researchers at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center on Thursday reported that an analysis of the records of more than 100,000 patients revealed a survival benefit in 6 percent of those who opted to have a double mastectomy. Most who benefited fit a particular profile that doctors can easily identify at diagnosis.
“It’s important for women to understand that, except for one subset of breast cancer patients, they don’t need to do this,” said Dr. Isabelle Bedrosian, an M.D. Anderson professor of surgical oncology and one of the study’s two lead authors. “Hopefully, it’ll reassure patients wondering if they should.”
The observational study, which was published online Thursday in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, found a double mastectomy offers a slight but real benefit to patients 50 and younger whose cancer is estrogen receptor negative and in the early stages. The study is the first to find such an association between the procedure and survival.
The study found no benefit among patients 60 or older undergoing a double mastectomy and murky results among those aged 50 to 60.
Women diagnosed with breast cancer are known to have an increased risk of developing breast cancer in the opposite breast. But the study found that preventive surgery on the opposite breast had little survival benefit, save for the one subset, either because patients die from the cancer they already have or from other medical conditions, or because the risk isn’t realized in their lifetime.
The number of double mastectomies has grown dramatically in recent years. Many patients who choose that option say they do so because it gives them peace of mind.
Previous studies have found that the number more than doubled from 1998 to 2003, and Bedrosian said based on her experience the trend has seemingly continued to escalate. Statistics from 2003 show 11 percent of women having a mastectomy opted for one in their disease-free breast as well.
The increase is attributed to scans that can detect smaller, earlier cancers; genetic tests that can warn women of the inherited risk they face; and better plastic surgery techniques that make reconstructive surgery more appealing than it once was.
Bedrosian’s team identified 107,106 women in the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results registry who had a mastectomy to treat Stage I to Stage III breast cancer. Among that group, 8,902 women also had their unaffected breast removed.
At a five-year follow-up, 88.5 percent of those who had the elective mastectomy were alive, compared to 83.7 of those who didn’t.
After controlling for different variables, the M.D. Anderson team found that the younger women with early-stage tumors not fueled by estrogen had a survival benefit of 4.8 percent at five years, meaning for every 100 patients, fewer than five who would have died without the additional surgery were still alive. The prognosis is usually poorer for estrogen receptor-negative patients.
No other group showed a clear benefit.
One expert’s response to the data was to recommend that any woman requesting an elective mastectomy wait a year before having it done.
“In a younger woman with (estrogen receptor)-negative disease, an (elective) mastectomy may be considered,” said Dr. Victor Vogel, national vice president for research at the American Cancer Society. “In the vast majority of women older than 50 with ER-positive disease, prudent waiting is probably the most appropriate.”
Information for patients
One of Bedrosian’s patients was happy to have the data. Diagnosed in December with Stage II estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer, the 33-year-old woman hadn’t thought of a double mastectomy until learning of her particular susceptibility to the disease spreading.
“For me, it was a very matter-of-fact decision,” said Rachel Jackson, an Austin triathlete who has yet to schedule either mastectomy. “I’m planning to live to 70 or 80.”
Nearly 200,000 U.S. women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, and 40,000 die of it. The majority do not have mastectomies.
Bedrosian emphasized that the study findings should not be interpreted as “a uniform mandate.”
“This is still a decision to be made by the patient after talking with her doctor,” Bedrosian said. “A younger woman with early-stage ER-negative breast cancer might have good reason not to want a (double) mastectomy, and an older woman — say, with a significant family history — might have good reason to want one.”
January 18, 2010
By Anna Tomova
Reporting a new advancement in late stage breast cancer treatment, Dr. William Dooley, Director, Surgical Oncology, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Centre reports, a recent study reveals microwave heating of breast tissue, not only helps shrinks tumours, but also makes chemotherapy more effective.
Earlier, the only treatment for late stage breast cancer was mastectomy, however, women now have a better chance of surviving breast cancer and do not have to have their breasts removes, as figures from the initial study indicate, this new technology may reduce the need for a mastectomy by 90%.
It is not known yet, why the cancer cells are so sensitive to microwave generated heat, and Dr. Dooley is of the opinion that this treatment will not work on other cancer types.
Researchers have for long been trying to find a treatment for breast cancer that does not involve mastectomy, as body image and self confidence are important in helping a patient heal fully, after going through with this horrible ordeal.
Already, researchers have begun to plan the next phase of clinical trials this year for testing the therapy on even larger tumours.
November 23, 2009
By Mike Adams
There’s a lot of talk about mammograms and cancer screenings this week. A U.S. government task force altered its recommendations, saying that women under 50 should receive no mammograms at all because the risk of harm far outweighs any promise of saving lives. This, in turn, led to a very vocal backlash from cancer industry promoters and even a few deeply misinformed celebrities like Sheryl Crow who swear by mammograms. (Sheryl Crow has a poor understanding of the effects of ionizing radiation.)
Rather than providing new answers, this week’s debates on mammograms have actually raised all sorts of new questions. Here, I present twenty-one questions that came to mind once I started pondering this issue in more detail.
Twenty-one questions about mammograms
#1) If mammograms are supposed to be based on “science,” and yet all the recent science says mammograms cause far more harm than good, then how can the White House and cancer doctors in good conscience disregard the precautionary conclusions that women under 50 should not get mammograms?
#2) Why do male surgeons recommend “preventive mastectomies” for preventing breast cancer but never “preventive castration” for preventing testicular cancer?
#3) If radiation causes cancer, then why does the cancer industry use radiation-emitting machines to “screen” for cancer?
#4) If women stop getting annual mammograms, exactly how much profit will the cancer industry lose each year?
#5) Vitamin D prevents 77% of all cancers. Why doesn’t the cancer industry give women vitamin D after each cancer screening? They claim to be interested in “helping people…” shouldn’t that help include the most obvious nutritional advice of all?
#6) If buying pink products raises money for cancer research, how much more stuff do we have to buy before cancer will be cured?
#7) Related question: Why are many of the pink-ribbon products sold to raise money for “cancer research” actually made out of cancer-causing chemicals!
#8) Where are all the cancer cures that were promised by the cancer researchers decades ago? Hint: They’re still working on them. All they need is more of your money…
#9) Fifth-grade word problem: If walking ten miles raises fifty dollars for the Susan G. Komen foundation, and if all that money goes to fund cancer screening “recruitment” events that cost $1.25 per irradiated patient, how many miles will we all have to walk in order to irradiate the breasts of 100,000 women? Bonus question: How many new chemotherapy patients will be produced from this irradiation campaign ten years down the road?
#10) If “early detection saves lives” then why are more women dying of cancer today than ever before?
#11) If mammograms are so good for women, why don’t the people who invented mammography machines puts their skulls in them and irradiate their own brains once a year to screen for brain cancer?
#12) Did you ever notice that men invented mammogram machines that smash women’s breasts and blast them with radiation? But then, did you ever wonder why there are no machines that smash men’s testicles (and other junk) and blast the whole package with radiation while calling it “early detection?”
#13) Since cancer doctors don’t track the results of patients who decide to do nothing after being diagnosed with cancer, how can they talk with any authority about the risk vs. reward of harsh chemical treatments like chemotherapy?
#14) How many false positives from cancer screening does it take to make one legitimate cancer tumor?
Click here for the full report
November 12, 2009
The U.S. News
By Kathleen Doheny
The research, published in the Nov. 11 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, strengthens earlier findings, said study senior author Dr. Henrik Kehlet, a professor of perioperative therapy at Rigshospitalet at Copenhagen University. But this work indicates which women are most likely to experience persistent pain.
“Several previous scientific reports have shown a risk of chronic pain after breast cancer surgery,” said Kehlet. The strength of this study, he noted, is the large number of participants — more than 3,000 — and the evaluation of many types of treatments.
Kehlet’s team reviewed questionnaires filled out by 3,253 women who had undergone breast cancer treatment in Denmark between 2005 and 2006. Their treatments varied and included breast-conserving surgery, mastectomy, radiation, chemotherapy and dissection of the lymph nodes.
The women were asked whether they experienced pain, in what areas of the body, how bad it was and how often they experienced it.
In all, 1,543 — 47 percent — reported pain in one or more areas. Of those, 52 percent reported severe or moderate pain.
Among those who had severe pain, 77 percent said they had it daily. For those who reported their pain as light, 36 percent had it every day. Pain was reported in the breast area, the armpit, the arm and the side of the body.
The research was funded by the Danish Cancer Society, Breast Friends and a private organization that funds science research, the Lundbeck Foundation.
Women under 40 were more than three times more likely to have chronic pain than older women, the researchers found. Those having radiation therapy were more likely to have pain than those who had chemotherapy. Dissection of the axillary (under arm) lymph node was associated with increased likelihood of pain compared to dissection of the sentinel lymph node (the first node to which the cancer is likely to spread).
Why does the pain linger?
“There are multiple mechanisms to explain the risk of chronic pain,” Kehlet said, “such as young age, risk of nerve damage during axillary dissection, radiation therapy or a general pain hyper-responsiveness in some patients.”
More research is needed on the pain mechanism in those who experience high levels of discomfort, he said. The focus for now should be on identifying patients at high risk for pain and providing preventive treatment and nerve-sparing treatment when possible.
The results do not surprise Dr. Robert H. Dworkin, a pain specialist and professor of anesthesiology, neurology, oncology and psychiatry at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in New York, who has also published on lingering cancer pain.
But the findings may come as a surprise to oncologists and others who treat cancer patients, he said. “Women tend not to tell their surgeons about this continuing pain,” he said, citing clinical experience. Why? “They fear that the fact they are in pain might mean a recurrence, and they don’t want to deal with it,” he said. Or, “they don’t want to hurt the oncologist’s feelings.”
A third reason is “they don’t want to distract the physician from thinking about the cancer,” he said.
Even pain specialists can’t say for sure why the pain lingers. “We have little understanding of what causes this kind of pain,” Dworkin said.
A woman in pain after breast cancer treatment “should not be shy in talking to her physician about it,” Dworkin said. He advises such women to ask for a referral to a pain specialist.
August 24, 2009
By Sherry Baker
A new review of breast cancer treatment just published online in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians concludes that the growing use of high tech magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to assess the extent of early breast cancer may be harming instead of helping women with early breast malignancies. The study shows MRIs increase the odds a woman will be subjected to more extensive surgery, i.e. a mastectomy, over conservative approaches such as a simple lumpectomy — and there is absolutely no evidence that the radical surgical approach does anything to improve the treatment or prognosis of women with early breast cancer.
“Overall, there is growing evidence that MRI does not improve surgical care, and it could be argued that it has a potentially harmful effect,” the authors of the study, scientists from the University of Sydney in Australia and the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, concluded.
A number of randomized controlled trials have demonstrated that women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer who are treated with conservative therapy (consisting of a simple local excision and radiotherapy, if indicated) have the same survival rates as women who are subjected to the major surgery and trauma of total breast removal. However, in recent years the medical industry has pushed for MRIs to be used more and more in the preoperative staging of the affected breast in women with newly diagnosed breast cancer. The reason? MRIs supposedly can detect additional areas of cancer that do not show up on conventional imaging such as mammography and the imaging technique helps surgeons plan for breast tissue removal.
But when Dr. Nehmat Houssami of the University of Sydney and Dr. Daniel F. Hayes of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center reviewed all the available data on the use of preoperative MRI scans in women with early stage breast cancer, the researchers found a lot of assumptions on the benefits of MRIs have simply never been validated. For example, it has been assumed that the detection capability of MRIs must improve surgical treatment by improving surgical planning and that could potentially lead to a reduction of more surgery in the future for breast cancer patients. In addition, by guiding surgeons to remove additional disease detected by MRI, the odds of a recurrence of breast cancer have been assumed to be reduced.
However, after reviewing the data, Dr. Houssami and Dr. Hayes concluded that using the MRI approach to local staging of breast cancer changes surgical management from breast conservation to more radical surgery without evidence of improvement in surgical outcomes or an improved long-term prognosis. In a statement to the media, the researchers called for well-designed, randomized controlled trials to find out any potential benefit of MRIs versus the harm they could be causing, including harm to the quality of life of women who may be having unnecessary radical mastectomies.
“We acknowledge that logistics and costs of conducting such large-scale, multicenter trials are enormous. If the technology is truly as beneficial as its proponents claim, then these costs are worth it. If it is not, then they are outweighed by the costs of adopting expensive technology and associated intervention without evidence of clinical benefit,” they concluded.