Results tagged “Breast cancer”

Mariana Torrado on BRCA genetic counseling and testing

By Mariana Torrado

Genetic testing came up during my first visit to MD Anderson. Why? Because I was only 30 when I received my breast cancer diagnosis, and several of my cousins were diagnosed with cancer in their 30s. In fact, my oncologist, Vicente Valero, M.D., also is my cousin's doctor. He recognized that breast cancer runs in our family.

Looking back, I'm thankful Dr. Valero suggested I see a genetic counselor and get genetic testing. But at the time, I didn't even know what a genetic counselor was.

I had so many questions: What is a BRCA mutation? Did this cause my cancer? Would I pass it along to my children? Would a BRCA mutation make me more likely to develop other cancers?

My first meeting with the genetic counselor
The first meeting with my genetic counselor was overwhelming. She asked about my ancestry, personal medical history and all of my family's cancer history, starting from my grandparents all the way down to my cousins. 

Loretta Preston quit smoking

By Loretta Preston

I started smoking when I was 13 or 14 years old, and after 40 years I never thought I would be someone who quit. Even after the first time I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I still didn't stop smoking. I was overwhelmed and felt my life was coming to an end. I couldn't deal with that and trying to quit.

When I was later diagnosed with thyroid cancer, I realized I had to make a change. I wanted to be the one in control of the rest of my life, not cancer. I knew cancer could be the beginning of a new life for me. I also knew I had to quit smoking to really start living. I knew that I would never be able to heal as well if I didn't clean out my body and get rid of the cigarettes. However, I also knew that I needed help.

Success in MD Anderson's Tobacco Treatment Program
When I told my doctor about my decision, she referred me to MD Anderson's Tobacco Treatment Program, which provides tobacco cessation counseling and support to patients and employees.

If I had not gone into the program, I would still be smoking today. I'd previously tried to quit four or five times on my own with the gum and the patches, but nothing helped. When I tried the program for the first time, I quit smoking.

The program's counselors were even there for me a few years later when I stumbled and started smoking again. I went right back into the program and was able to quit a second time.

working and parenting through chemo

Rashe Bowie hadn't been working at her current company very long when she and her colleagues played Two Truths and a Lie during an offsite meeting. When it was her turn, she shared her son's name, that she'd been in pageants growing up and that she was undergoing chemotherapy.

The lie, they guessed, was the chemo part. But the lie was her son's name.

"I'm undergoing chemo for breast cancer, and this is a wig I'm wearing," she revealed.

"They were in total disbelief," recalls Rashe, who was 37 years old at the time of her diagnosis.

The company's CEO told Rashe to take time off if she needed to.

But she has yet to accept that offer. A single mom to a high school senior, Rashe never missed a day of work while undergoing 12 rounds of chemotherapy and 30 rounds of radiation.

My male breast cancer story

RonniePace_malebreastcancerBy Ronnie Pace

There are approximately 2,200 men in the United States who are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, and I am one of them.

Until my diagnosis, I did not know men were susceptible to breast cancer. Because the number of women with breast cancer is far higher than the number of men, there is little mention of male breast cancer in the media.

My male breast cancer diagnosis

My tumor was discovered by accident. I got a CT scan for a cough, but the CT scan indicated a tumor located in my right breast.

With a 99% probability that the tumor was benign, I did not see cause for alarm. In fact, I did not tell my wife for several weeks because I didn't want to cause her unnecessary worry. It was not until I was scheduled for a core biopsy that I told her. In retrospect, I made a bad choice.

The biopsy results were conclusive: I had a small, malignant tumor in my right breast. 

Mariana Torrado BRCA1

By Mariana Torrado

No one expects to hear she has breast cancer two months after turning 30. I didn't.

I danced flamenco, exercised frequently, was neither overweight nor a smoker -- and I was only 30! How could this happen to me?

My unexpected breast cancer diagnosis
After feeling a second of pain -- a small pinch -- in my left breast, I noticed a large bump. I was in shock, scared. I reached out to my OB-GYN right away.

A mammogram, an ultrasound and a biopsy later, I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer.

I was in shock. I had two cousins (sisters) with breast cancer in their 30s, an aunt with breast cancer, a cousin who died from brain cancer, and two cousins and an uncle with melanoma. But I'd never expected to have cancer, not now.

claudiaschloeter.jpgBy Dawn Dorsey

As a personal trainer, Houston native Claudia Schloeter has spent 18 years helping others get in shape. She has always worked out six days a week and lives a healthy lifestyle, so she was shocked when she was diagnosed with breast cancer last year.

An unexpected diagnosis
Claudia, now 42, started having regular mammograms at 35 because she has benign fibrocystic breast disease. While MD Anderson recommends that most women don't begin having annual mammograms until 40, Claudia often found lumps during breast self-exams. After her mammograms, doctors used ultrasound and needle biopsies to be sure suspicious areas weren't cancer.

But after a mammogram last year, a needle biopsy showed she had stage 2 breast cancer.

"I was very scared when I found out I had cancer, especially the first few days," Claudia says. "I have a little boy, and I wanted to see him grow up."

carolinebrown56.jpgBy Caroline Brown

In 2012, my husband and I moved back to Texas from New York City. We were excited to be back in our home state and ready to start a family. Breast cancer, infertility and finding a surrogate were not part of our plans.

My breast cancer diagnosis
I remember like it was yesterday. One night in the shower, I stumbled upon a lump on my left breast. I knew it was not supposed to be there.

I called the doctor the next morning. After a mammogram, ultrasound and a biopsy, I learned that I had stage two ductal carcinoma, a type of breast cancer. I was stunned. I was young -- 30 years old -- with no family history of breast cancer. I had recently had my annual exam and thought I was healthy.

Learning about infertility during cancer treatment
I already knew of MD Anderson's reputation. Since it was in my new hometown of Houston, I made an appointment there right away.

430_ueno.jpgWhen doctors diagnose breast cancer, they look for three types of receptors -- estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) -- expressed in the breast cancer. These are what cause most breast cancers to grow. They're also what our doctors typically target when treating breast cancer.

But some breast cancer patients lack these receptors. When this happens, the breast cancer is called triple-negative. And, without any receptors, it can be more challenging to treat. This is why triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is one of the cancers we're focusing on as part of our Moon Shots Program to dramatically reduce cancer deaths.

We recently spoke with Naoto T. Ueno, M.D., Ph.D., section chief of Translational Breast Cancer Research in Breast Medical Oncology, to better understand TNBC. Here's what he had to say.

Are some people more likely to develop TNBC?
TNBC affects women and men of all races and ages. Compared to other types of breast cancer, we tend to see this disease more in premenopausal women than older women. We're still trying to understand why these groups are more likely to develop TNBC.

Triple-negative patients are more likely to have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation compared to non-TNBC patients. But you can still develop TNBC even if you don't have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. We're still trying to understand the link between TNBC and BRCA.

Therese_Bevers415.jpgBy Brittany Cordeiro

Recent news headlines suggest women with dense breast tissue need specialty care and exams to detect breast cancer.

But Therese Bevers, M.D., medical director of MD Anderson's Lyda Hill Cancer Prevention Center, says the news is ahead of the science.

"We understand that dense breast tissue is associated with an increased risk for breast cancer, but we don't fully understand that risk," Bevers says. "We need more research on how to manage women with dense breast tissue before we can say whether extra screening exams make a difference."  

Below, Bevers answers some common questions about dense breasts and screenings. 

What does it mean to have dense breasts?
Breast density describes the proportion of the different tissues that make up a woman's breast. Women with dense breasts have more glandular tissue (breast and connective tissue) than fat.

Also, breast density can only be determined by a mammogram. It's not a measure of feel, such as size or firmness.

constance414.jpgBy Ryan Stephens

As if the cancer journey isn't tough enough, imagine being a single parent to a 15-year-old daughter.

That was the case for Constance Charles when her doctor confirmed the cluster of lumps she'd felt around her right breast was breast cancer - stage 2 noninvasive intraductal carcinoma. She had no history of cancer in her family, so the diagnosis was a complete surprise.

Constance was afraid to tell her daughter, Briahna, because she didn't want to think about her having to face the world alone. It had always just the two of them together in Texas. Their closest family members lived in Kansas.

When she finally worked up the courage and broke the news, Briahna asked, "Are you going to die, Mom?"

More than 12 years later, Constance is proud to call herself a cancer survivor and an MD Anderson employee. Constance always tells single parents - or anyone facing cancer - that faith, family and friends are what helped her and Briahna get to this point.

Advice for single parents facing cancer

Here's Constance's advice for single parents facing cancer:

stacy47.jpgStacy Sugg had just taken some time away from her job as a teacher to spend more time with her children and her husband. But just a few months later -- on her 16th wedding anniversary -- she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"It was not exactly the gift I was expecting," Stacy says.

To calm her fears, Stacy scheduled an appointment at MD Anderson in the Nellie B. Connally Breast Center's Multi Team Clinic in Houston, not far from her Conroe home.

Coming to MD Anderson for breast cancer treatment and a mastectomy

During her first appointment, Stacy and her husband met with all her doctors, including her surgeon, her oncologist and her radiation oncologist. They made a plan for her breast cancer treatment.

"As someone who's just been diagnosed with cancer, all you want is to know what you need to do next," she says. "We left with smiles on our faces. We had a plan, and we knew that our doctors were all on the same page. It was a very comforting feeling."

Delia Stroud46jpg.jpgBy Delia Stroud

After finding lumps in my right breast and lymph node area in January 2014, I was diagnosed with stage three triple-negative breast cancer. This was a tremendous shock because I'd had a clear mammogram only six months earlier.

To fight my very aggressive, very high-risk cancer, I immediately began five months of intense chemotherapy, followed by two surgeries and six weeks of radiation. Currently, there is no targeted therapy for triple-negative breast cancer, which made my diagnosis especially daunting.

MD Anderson's no-lose option for triple-negative breast cancer treatment
It was supremely comforting to be at MD Anderson. Triple-negative breast cancer is rare and difficult to treat, but MD Anderson is focusing on improving treatment through their Moon Shots Program, an effort to reduce cancer deaths.

Because I was blessed to be treated at MD Anderson, I felt confident I could rely completely on the expertise of my incomparable dream team of doctors -- Sharon Giordano, M.D.Beth Mittendorf, M.D., Ph.D., Eric Strom, M.D.,  and Melissa Crosby, M.D. My outstanding medical team fully rewarded my trust. By tweaking the approach of a cooperative group study presented shortly before my diagnosis, they provided me a true win-win option.

A standard triple-negative chemo regimen is 12 weeks of taxol, followed by four doses of adriamycin and cytoxan. In the new study, doctors gave patients an additional chemo drug called carboplatin. The study showed that this treatment was successful for 54 percent of women who took carboplatin, compared to only 40 percent of those who didn't take carboplatin. Yet, because carboplatin is highly toxic, some women could not tolerate it and had to stop their chemotherapy early.

range327.jpgBy Ashleigh Range

In June 2014, I was awaiting the birth of my second son, David, while juggling a demanding job and raising an 18-month-old, Noah, with my husband, Brad. We had just moved into a home in the suburbs to accommodate our growing family. We were living a fairytale -- the American dream.

Our American dream became a nightmare when, at 34 weeks pregnant, I noticed changes in one of my breasts. After a few doctors told me that my symptoms were typical for a woman during pregnancy, I went online. MD Anderson's website indicated that my symptoms aligned with those associated with inflammatory breast cancer (IBC). An ultrasound and biopsy confirmed my worst fears. I did indeed have IBC. To make matters worse, my breast cancer was triple-negative, making it more challenging to treat.

Due to limited knowledge and treatment options for my disease, as well as the aggressive nature of triple-negative IBC, my prognosis is poor. However, I still have hope. In December 2014, after six months of chemotherapy, I learned my cancer had progressed, not shrunk.

bree226.jpgBy Bree Sandlin

In the summer of 2012, I was diagnosed with stage three triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). I was 37 years old and had 5-year-old twin boys, one with severe cerebral palsy. Having a child with special needs, my husband and I were no strangers to hospitals and doctors. Despite those experiences, nothing could have prepared us for the words "you have cancer."  

The next year of my life was one of the most difficult, and as I was soon to learn, one of the most inspiring. For my TNBC treatment, I underwent six months of chemotherapy, a bilateral mastectomy, an oophorectomy and two months of radiation therapy.  

On February 13, 2013, my husband and I heard the three most amazing letters ever recited:  
"pCR." Pathologic Complete Response. The cancer was gone, and I was officially in remission!  

We cried, hugged our oncologist, hugged our kids, and embraced each other. We decided at that moment that this was a day worth remembering. The end of my TNBC would mark my cancerversary date. Our own personal pre-Valentine's Day celebration of love and joy.

Celebrating my first TNBC cancerversary by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro
When TNBC cancerversary number one arrived in 2014, we decided to go big. My husband and I joined a team of 16 cancer survivors and like-minded cancer-haters to climb the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, Mount Kilimanjaro. Kili reaches 19,341 feet and rises high above the surrounding plains of Tanzania, Africa. The experience was life-changing.  

kielaszek.jpgBy Barbara Kielaszek

My cancer story began over 40 years ago when my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Sadly, my grandmother waited too long to see a doctor. Even though she had a double mastectomy and showed her courageous spirit during her cancer journey, the cancer had spread and my grandmother died within a few years. 

About the same time my grandmother received her breast cancer diagnosis, my mom found a lump that turned out to be breast cancer. She underwent a mastectomy of her left breast. Ten years later, Mom found a lump in her right breast followed by another mastectomy. It's been 30 years since Mom's second mastectomy -- and she's been cancer-free ever since then.
When I received my own breast cancer diagnosis at the age of 55 I had two examples of tremendous heart, spirit and courage to follow. For me, that made all the difference.

My breast cancer diagnosis
I started getting annual mammograms after my mom received her second diagnosis. Each year, I almost expected to hear the words, "You have cancer."

That phone call finally came in June 2013. I had infiltrating ductal carcinoma. 

Dianna Ray130.jpgBy Dianna Ray

I had a very short breast cancer treatment journey -- a scant six weeks from diagnosis to cure, thanks to  early detection following a routine mammogram and the care I received at MD Anderson in the Nellie B. Connally Breast Center's Multi Team Clinic. I'm lucky to have been able to get all of my care in one place close to my home in Houston.

Early detection saved my life

I've been getting annual mammograms since my 30s because I have fibrocystic breasts, a common condition that causes benign lumps or pain in the breasts.  

About 10 years ago, my doctor found an area of microcalcifications (a small cluster of calcium) and ordered a biopsy. Thankfully, everything was fine.

So, when the same condition presented itself again on my most recent mammogram in August 2014, I wasn't too concerned. But five days after the biopsy, I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, a type of breast cancer.

jamiebernard121.jpgAs 2013 drew to a close, everything was normal for then 32-year-old Jamie Bernard. She was a healthy, active mom, running 5Ks and reveling in a 45-pound weight loss. The MD Anderson employee never thought that a few months later she'd be diagnosed breast cancer.

When Jamie went for her annual well woman exam in January 2013, her doctor asked if she'd been checking for changes in her breasts.

"I lied and said yes," she admits. But the guilt of being untruthful led her to start looking for changes that November. And on December 3, she discovered a lump in her left breast.
A few weeks passed before Jamie decided to make an appointment to have the lump checked.

She recalls telling herself, "I work for MD Anderson. If it's something and I didn't get it checked out, I'm to blame."

Jamie's breast cancer treatment
For Jamie, January 2014 was the start of a whirlwind year. Not long after her breast cancer diagnosis, a type test revealed her cancer was growing as a result of the estrogen produced by her body, making her chances of cancer recurrence higher. This meant Jamie had no choice but to undergo a mastectomy.  Her treatment plan also included 16 rounds of chemotherapy. Once her treatment was complete, she began a prescription for tamoxifen, a drug that is used to prevent breast cancer recurrence.

When Jamie received her cancer diagnosis, her thoughts immediately turned to her daughter, Caydin. There was no doubt Jamie would do whatever it took to be around to watch her grow up.

"I made a pact with God," she says. "If you keep waking me up, I will do whatever you need me to do."

GM12015.jpgBy Gail Morse

After I received my breast cancer diagnosis, I chose to keep it to myself and not tell a lot of people. This wasn't my original plan, but after sharing this news with some people that I wasn't close to, I decided this was for the best. Their comments were like condolences, as if I were dying tomorrow.

It was too much to bear at the time, and I shut down completely after that. I chose not to tell others that I had breast cancer. I even decided not to tell some family members. I didn't want to deal with the after effect. I didn't want to hear feelings from other people about my cancer. I didn't want to think that letting them know could be better for them. I was the one with cancer over here. 

Learning to share my journey with others
That non-disclosure period extended into halfway through my breast cancer treatment, until I met with a counselor through MD Anderson's Body Image Therapy Program. She suggested opening up to let others' goodwill and spirit help me through the journey.

I listened, and it did help. I had to learn how to manage my inner-response to others wanting to help and allow them to do so, but I did it on my terms.  

Carol Turni124.jpgBy Carol A. Turni

I never thought I'd hear the words: "You have breast cancer." But when I did, they turned out to be one of those moments that defined my life. At 44 years old and with two young daughters, my cancer diagnosis was a frightening and sobering call-to-action.  

Deciding to come to MD Anderson for breast cancer treatment

After my breast cancer diagnosis came the scurry of tests, surgeries, treatments and medicines at a hospital in the city where I live. But after a while, I realized things didn't seem right. My husband and I both decided it was time to seek breast cancer treatment elsewhere. 

That is how I found my way to MD Anderson, where I've received all of my care since then. I believe the corresponding change in my treatment course saved my life. I have consistently experienced the confidence and competency of my breast cancer care team. Their caring and the commitment to excellence is apparent. I am grateful.

My advice for traveling to MD Anderson
Traveling to MD Anderson isn't always easy, but it's worth it. Here are some tips that have made traveling for cancer treatment easier and more affordable for me:

lindanov5.jpgDespite the challenges she faced, Houstonian Linda VandeGarde made the decision to focus on the bright side this year.

In January, on her birthday, Linda had a mammogram that revealed invasive ductal carcinoma in her left breast. Then, less than a month later, her mother passed away.

That's when Linda made the choice to be positive, no matter what. Early in her breast cancer treatment, following the advice of a book on breast cancer, she began keeping a journal and resolved to write about two silver linings she found each day -- a promise she's managed to keep.

"There were some days that were dark," she says, "but then I'd find little things, like a sparrow I saw or the church bells ringing."

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