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11quotes_Cancerwise.pngWhen you're dealing with cancer, it can be hard to stay focused and cope day after day. But for many patients and caregivers, having a mantra can help. And sometimes the best mantra - the one that really speaks to you -- comes from someone else who's walked in your shoes.
This past year, dozens of our patients and caregivers shared great mantras and words of wisdom on our Cancerwise blog and in video interviews.

Here are 11 of their most inspiring quotes.

Facing chemo in costume

Adele Hartland_Corrected Cancerwise.pngAdele Hartland says that if anyone can handle breast cancer, it's her.

"Who else has 20 wigs in her garage and lives 10 minutes from MD Anderson?" she says jokingly as she passes out candy canes to fellow patients in Mays Clinic.

No one seems to know that Adele is also there for treatment. Admittedly, with her bright smile, red velvet skirt and knee-length boots, it is hard to tell. For today, she's Miss Claus, one of the many playful characters she's dressed up as for her chemotherapy treatments at MD Anderson.

Brand_Mammogram_229_Cancerwise.jpgDuring cancer treatment, you may be focused on just one thing: beating cancer. But after treatment, it can be hard to remember to get your screenings for other cancers.

MD Anderson recommends that women 40 or older have annual mammograms. And that applies to cancer survivors, too, says Therese Bevers, M.D., Medical Director of MD Anderson's Cancer Prevention Center. And, in fact, they may need screenings more often.

If you're a cancer survivor, here are three things you should know about breast cancer screening.

Nancy's-Photo_Cancerwise.jpgBy Nancy Lombard

In October 2014, I went to see a doctor for my annual breast screening. That year, for the very first time, I opted for a 3-D mammogram. The doctors found a tumor -- one a standard mammogram would have missed. 

A couple of days later, after a biopsy and ultrasound, I got a definitive diagnosis. I had stage I ductal carcinoma. My husband Frank and I were shocked and scared. No one in my family had ever had breast cancer.

When we got home, Frank called his friend, Greg Chronowski, M.D., who's an oncologist at MD Anderson in Katy, close to where we live. We got an appointment the next day.

My lumpectomy at MD Anderson in Katy
After reviewing my scans, Dr. Chronowski said my cancer was "boring" compared to others. But cancer is cancer when it happens to you. I was overwhelmed by the appointments to discuss my medical history and my surgical options. This is why I encourage patients to bring someone with them to each of their appointments.  It's helpful to have a loved one there who can take notes as you soak everything in.

20150821_CheckPresentation_Herron_0095_master_Cancerwise.jpgBy Rosemary Herron

I was first diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in my left breast in 2001, and battled through six months of chemotherapy, a lumpectomy and six weeks of radiation. After that, I went through five years of hormone therapy.  I was cancer-free for almost 12 years.

But in 2012, I was again diagnosed with breast cancer in the same breast. This time, I had a bilateral mastectomy and radiation after treatment. I wanted to look like myself and have my clothes fit following my mastectomy, so I had partial breast reconstruction at the time of my surgery. This greatly helped my emotional health.

Alison_Cancerwise-2.jpgBy Alison Collier

Lately, I've seen a lot of people use the word 'journey' to describe dealing with cancer. A journey is a process, a path. It involves learning along the way. Although facing triple-negative inflammatory breast cancer seemed like a journey while processing my diagnosis, this word really doesn't reflect the harsh reality of living or dying with cancer.

I've also heard a lot of people use the phrase 'battling cancer.' Yet, 'battle' suggests a finite process. And though they're significant, battles are often small drops in something much greater.

What, then, should we call this experience? Is there even a word that fully sums up fighting against your own body for your life? 

I vote that we call it war.

Therese_Bevers_193_retouched.jpgThe American Cancer Society issued new guidelines this week for breast cancer screening. The new guidelines state:

  • Women with average breast cancer risk should start having annual mammograms at age 45 and can start having them at age 40. 
  • Women should continue having annual mammograms until they are 54. 
  • After that, women can start having mammograms every other year, or may continue annual mammograms as long as they're healthy and expected to live another 10 years.

Previously, the American Cancer Society recommended that women have mammograms and clinical breast exams every year starting at age 40.

Changes in screening guidelines can often be confusing, so we talked with Therese Bartholomew Bevers, M.D., medical director of our Cancer Prevention Center. Here's what she wants women to know about the new screening guidelines.  

Elaine-and-mom_Cancerwise.jpgBy Elaine Turner

As the daughter of a long-term breast cancer survivor, cancer has shaped the life I lead both personally and as the president and creative director of Elaine Turner, my luxury lifestyle brand.

My mom is now 74 years old and has survived a recurrence of breast cancer after going 23 years cancer-free. She is currently being treated at MD Anderson and is not only surviving but thriving.

Here are three ways my mom's diagnosis has changed me.

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.

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