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Breast cancer survivors with romantic relationships could have better health outcomes

Researchers say lower stress levels could make the difference

While romantic relationships can affect everything from parenting outcomes to finances, a new study found that a satisfying romantic partner can also boost health outcomes. 

According to researchers from Ohio State University, breast cancer survivors had fewer health concerns when they were in positive romantic relationships. 

“It is important for survivors, when they’re going through this uncertain time, to feel comfortable with their partners and feel cared for and unde...

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    Julia Louis-Dreyfus announces she has breast cancer

    ‘Veep’ star calls out limited health care, cancer awareness

    Actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus recently revealed to fans on Twitter that she is battling breast cancer. In a tweet captioned, “Just when you thought,” the Emmy winner announced that she was among the 1 in 8 women to be diagnosed with the disease in her lifetime.

    The post also thanked her “supportive and caring family and friends, and fantastic insurance through my union.” She concluded by bringing up the national health care discussion.

    "The bad news is that not all women are so lucky, so let's fight all cancers and make universal health care a reality,” she said. 

    Louis-Dreyfus has received an outpouring of support on Twitter, from fans and celebrities alike. Real-life politicians Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton took to Twitter to support the actress, whose depiction of fictional Vice President Selina Meyer on the HBO comedy “Veep” has won six consecutive Primetime Emmy Awards. 

    Second leading form of cancer 

    The news of the much-loved actress’ diagnosis comes just in time for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which runs through October. 

    Nearly 300,000 women will be diagnosed with Breast Cancer this year, and 40,000 will die. Breast cancer kills one woman every 13 minutes, according to the American Cancer Society.

    Amid such sobering statistics, preventative measures and education about breast cancer are critical. While some risk factors -- such as a hereditary predisposition for breast cancer -- can’t be changed, several lifestyle changes can mitigate breast cancer risk and increase early intervention. 

    Preventative actions

    Here are a few steps to take to lower your risk of developing breast cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic. 

    • Curb alcohol consumption. Since even small amounts of alcohol increase breast cancer risk, the Mayo Clinic recommends limiting yourself to less than one drink per day.
    • Don't smoke. A growing body of research suggests a link between smoking and breast cancer risk, particularly in premenopausal women. 
    • Control your weight. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of breast cancer, especially if obesity occurs later in life.
    • Be physically active. Healthy adults should aim to get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity weekly, plus strength training at least twice a week. 
    • Breast-feed. The longer a woman breastfeeds, the greater the protective effect against breast cancer. 
    Actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus recently revealed to fans on Twitter that she is battling breast cancer. In a tweet captioned, “Just when you thought,” the Emm...

    Early-stage breast cancer patients may get too much treatment

    Cancer researchers say medical guidelines aren't being followed

    Besides the physical and emotional toll a disease like cancer takes, there is also the financial toll. For example, some drugs used to treat cancer are extremely expensive. For patients, there is definitely a financial aspect to managing their disease.

    Now, researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center are producing evidence that many women with early-stage breast cancer are getting treatment that may be a waste of money.

    Specifically, they say patients often receive advanced imaging and other tests that provide little, if any medical benefit. In fact, they say these procedures could have harmful effects, and it's likely they will make the treatment more expensive.

    Guidelines not being followed

    Study leader Dr. Gary Lyman, a breast cancer oncologist, says current guidelines recommend against routine surveillance testing for patients in the early stage of breast cancer, but they're frequently performed anyway.

    Lyman says the guidelines were drawn up to help patients and doctors make the best decisions, based on the best medical evidence. The guidelines specifically recommend against the routine use of advanced imaging scans and costly blood tests to track tumor markers.

    That's because there have been several studies that have shown the patient gets no benefit, and there's a strong likelihood of false-positive results that can lead to unnecessary procedures, such as radiation treatment.

    Message not getting through

    But the Hutchinson researchers say the message isn't getting through. Their review of records in more than 2,000 early-stage breast cancer cases found that 37% percent received tumor-marker tests during the post-treatment surveillance period. On average, there were 2.8 tests per patient.

    While there are obvious health concerns, Lyman said these patients faced costs higher than the patients who didn't get the extra tests and procedures.

    "We believe one of the best ways we can help patients reduce their financial burden is for us to reinforce the message with oncologists that these tests have been shown to provide no benefit for this particular group of patients,” said Lyman.

    Lyman and the research team will present the findings early next month at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago.

    The cost of treating breast cancer varies by the stage, with the lowest costs during early stages. An analysis of treatment costs by the National Institutes of Health placed average costs, in the first 24 months after diagnosis, at $72,000 for early-stage breast cancer.

    Besides the physical and emotional toll a disease like cancer takes, there is also the financial toll. For example, some drugs used to treat cancer are ext...

    How low doses of aspirin can help protect against breast cancer

    Researchers find that women who took the drug sparingly were 16% less likely to develop the disease

    For consumers who have a fever or simply suffer from general aches and pains, aspirin can be a life-saver for reducing symptoms. But a new study from City of Hope Medical Center shows that the drug may actually help save the lives of of some consumers.

    Dr. Leslie Bernstein, professor and director of the Division of Biomarkers of Early Detection and Prevention at City of Hope, and her colleagues have found that as little as 81 mg of aspirin can reduce the risk of breast cancer in women.

    "The study found an interesting protective association between low-dose aspirin and breast cancer," said lead author Dr. Christina A. Clarke.

    Dosage matters

    The study analyzed questionnaire responses from over 57,000 women who took part in the California’s Teacher’s Study in 2005. Participants were asked to answer questions about any family history with cancer or other medical conditions and record their own use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like aspirin.

    They found that by 2013, 1,457 of the respondents had developed invasive breast cancer, but those who used low-dose aspirin at least three times per week were shown to have a 16% lower overall risk of the disease. Interestingly, the findings showed that taking other pain medications, or even larger doses of aspirin, did not meet with the same results.

    “We did not by and large find associations with the other pain medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen. We also did not find associations with regular aspirin since this type of medication is taken sporadically for headaches or other pain, and not daily for prevention of cardiovascular disease," said Clarke.

    Reduced risk

    So, what is it about low doses of aspirin that helped protect these women from breast cancer? Bernstein explains that the drug can act as a weak aromatase inhibitor that helps reduce the amount of estrogen in the blood.

    "We thought that if aspirin can inhibit aromatase, it ought to reduce the likelihood that breast cancer would develop and it could also be an effective way to improve breast cancer patients' prognosis once they no longer take the more potent aromatase inhibitors. . . Aspirin also reduces inflammation, which may be another mechanism by which aspirin taken regularly can lower risk of breast cancer developing or recurring," she said.

    “Now that we have some data separating low-dose from higher-dose aspirin, more detailed research can be undertaken to understand the full value of low-dose aspirin for breast cancer prevention," added Clarke.

    The full study has been published in Breast Cancer Research.

    For consumers who have a fever or simply suffer from general aches and pains, aspirin can be a life-saver for reducing symptoms. But a new study from City...

    Scientists tout high-tech and low-tech ways to detect cancer

    Progress reported in dianosing the disease through blood tests

    Much of the progress towards treating cancer in recent years has come in early detection. Being able to diagnose cancer in the early stages of the disease usually improves the odds of beating it.

    So, the news from the University of California is creating excitement among oncologists. Researchers there say they have created a blood test called CancerLocator that not only tells doctors that a patient has cancer, but tells them where the cancer is in the body.

    The test works by identifying DNA from cancer that is circulating in the blood stream.

    "Non-invasive diagnosis of cancer is important, as it allows the early diagnosis of cancer, and the earlier the cancer is caught, the higher chance a patient has of beating the disease,” Jasmine Zhou, co-lead author from UCLA, told the London Telegraph.

    Zhou concedes the technology is only beginning to be understood and has a long way to go before it can be usefully deployed.

    Other research

    Other scientists are also working on this technique. As we reported in 2015, researchers at the Mayo Clinic announced progress on a blood test that could diagnose cancer. As in the UCLA study, the technology centers around identifying cancer DNA in blood samples.

    “What’s exciting about our discovery is that it allows us to stop thinking about screening organs and start thinking about screening people,” Mayo Clinic's Dr. John Kisiel said at the time. “As far as we are aware, this is the first series of experiments that has ever shown this concept.”

    At the other end of the technology spectrum, the French news agency AFP reports researchers have trained dogs to detect breast cancer by sniffing bandages that touched a breast.

    Remarkably, the researchers report the dogs have been 100% accurate. AFP quotes Isabelle Fromantin, who leads the project, as saying the system could be useful in developing countries where there is limited access to mammograms.

    Fromantin said breast cancer cells have a unique smell that German shepherds, with their keen sense of smell, can be trained to detect.

    Much of the progress towards treating cancer in recent years has come in early detection. Being able to diagnose cancer in the early stages of the disease...

    Screening developed for women with dense breast tissue

    Rapid Breast MRI developer says the protocol could detect breast cancer six years earlier

    A doctor in Flint, Mich., says he has developed a special screening process to detect breast cancer in women with dense breast tissue.

    He says his "Rapid Breast MRI" protocol could detect breast cancer up to six years earlier than a mammogram and could possibly save thousands of lives.

    "Your breasts will be seen as dense if you have a lot of fibrous or glandular tissue and not much fat in the breasts," the American Cancer Society says on its website.

    As it turns out, breast density is very common and not abnormal. However, it can present some challenges to screening using a mammogram.

    Not clear what women should do

    According to the Mayo Clinic, some states have laws requiring doctors to inform women when a mammogram shows they have dense breast tissue. "But just what women should do in response isn't clear," the Mayo Clinic says.

    Dr. David A. Strahle, chairman of Regional Medical Imaging (RMI), believes Rapid Breast MRI could be the answer.

    An MRI is a highly effective way to see what is going on inside the body. The only problem is, it's very expensive. For that reason, only about 2% of women -- those considered at high risk for breast cancer -- get MRI screenings.

    Strahle says his protocol cuts the time required for a breast scan by 70%, to just seven minutes. That, he says, will drastically reduce the cost.

    Half the cost of regular MRI

    While insurance companies do not yet cover Rapid Breast MRI, Strahle says the exam costs $395 out-of-pocket, compared to $700 or more for a full diagnostic MRI. Strahle says the scan only needs to be performed every two years, as opposed to more frequent mammograms.

    "This is a major breakthrough," Strahle said. "I can see a day when we can prevent this disease from killing women."

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports breast cancer is the most common form of cancer affecting women in the U.S. Nearly 41,000 U.S. women died from breast cancer in 2013, the most recent year for which numbers are available.

    According to the CDC, women age 50 to 74 should be screened for breast cancer every two years. Women under 50 should discuss with their doctor when to begin screening.

    A doctor in Flint, Mich., says he has developed a special screening process to detect breast cancer in women with dense breast tissue.He says his "Rapi...

    AI software could make early breast cancer detection easier

    Researchers say the software could eliminate false positives and unnecessary biopsies

    Breast cancer screenings are an important preventative health measure. However, up to 50% of the time these tests can produce a false positive.

    Now, scientists at the Houston Methodist Research Institute have developed artificial intelligence (A.I.) software that can predict women's breast cancer risk faster and more reliably than other tests.

    The software boasts 99% accuracy, meaning the risk of false-positive results (and the unnecessary anxiety that follows) would be significantly lowered.

    30 times human speed

    The cancer-detecting AI, which scientists have not yet named, works by reviewing patient charts and converting them into diagnostic information.

    In addition to its impressive rate of accuracy, the software also produces quick results. Manual physician evaluations can take up to 60 hours. The AI, on the other hand, runs at 30 times human speed.

    Beyond shortening the time it takes to effectively predict cancer risk, the AI could help reduce the number of unnecessary biopsies, said lead researcher Dr. Stephen T. Wong of the Department of Systems Medicine and Bioengineering, per Breast Cancer News.

    "This software intelligently reviews millions of records in a short amount of time, enabling us to determine breast cancer risk more efficiently using a patient's mammogram," Wong said in release.

    The AI software successfully and efficiently evaluated the more than 500 in just a few hours, which saved doctors over 500 hours. It also helped researchers rate patients’ probability of being at risk for breast cancer.

    "Accurate review of this many charts would be practically impossible without AI," said Wong.

    Breast cancer screenings are an important preventative health measure. However, up to 50% of the time these tests can produce a false positive. Now, sc...