Lumpectomy Versus Mastectomy for Early-Stage Breast Cancer


Every woman diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer faces a decision about what type of surgery to have. Together with her doctors, she will have to choose between breast-conserving surgery (BCS), also called lumpectomy, and mastectomy. BCS preserves the breast, removing the tumor and a rim of surrounding tissue, whereas mastectomy removes the entire breast. Patients with early-stage disease (with the main tumor less than 4 cm across and 3 or fewer lymph nodes positive for cancer) are usually eligible for either BCS or mastectomy. More importantly, lumpectomy followed by radiation is just as effective as mastectomy. One would think most women would choose BCS as a less invasive (and breast-conserving!) procedure, but the numbers tell a different story. Continue reading…


Super Patient: Guido Tracks Side Effects from His Chemotherapy as a Young Adult


Sixteen years ago, Guido’s right leg hurt, but none of his doctors could figure out why. “I knew something was wrong, but nobody knew the reason. The worst thing was I didn’t know what to do about it,” says Guido, who was a college student in Austria at the time.

Tests didn’t show anything out of the ordinary, so he just had to live with the pain. But then, after nearly a year, it got so bad he was hospitalized—and this time X-rays revealed something growing around his thigh bone (femur). Genetic testing identified the growth as Ewing sarcoma, a rare cancer that usually affects children and adolescents. “It’s very uncommon in people in their 20s,” Guido says. “It’s not the first thing physicians think of.” Continue reading…


The Role of Pertuzumab in Treating HER2+ Breast Cancer


Pertuzumab (Perjeta) is a relatively new drug that targets HER2, a protein found at higher-than-normal levels in about 15% to 20% of all breast cancers. Too much HER2 leads to tumor growth. Currently, all newly diagnosed breast cancer patients have their tumors’ HER2 levels tested. Knowing whether a patient’s HER2 levels are abnormally high (HER2-positive) or normal (HER2-negative) is a major factor in choosing a treatment, thanks to the availability of trastuzumab (Herceptin) and, now, other HER2-targeted drugs such as Perjeta, T-DM1 (Kadcyla), and lapatinib (Tykerb). These drugs are all used to treat HER2-positive patients. Continue reading…


Super Patient: Linda Wallace Says No to Aggressive Treatment for Breast Cancer


When Linda Wallace felt a lump in her left breast in the fall of 2011, she thought it was probably just another cyst. But she knew something was wrong a few months later when she experienced a sharp pain during a chiropractor visit. Linda knew she needed to see a doctor, but that took a while because her family was falling apart around her.

Her dad had died of prostate cancer the year before, her mom had just been diagnosed with a type of dementia, and her brother was succumbing to hepatitis C. “It was high stress,” she says. Continue reading…