By Logan Carver
Marjane Green might never have found the tumor in her left breast if she hadn't felt a pain in her right breast.
The Houston-area resident wasn't too concerned since she'd had a mammogram just two months earlier. And, she had been dealing with recurring cysts in her breasts for more than 30 years as a result of hormone therapy following a hysterectomy. But this pain was different than anything she'd felt before.
Marjane's right breast was infected, and during her treatment, her doctor decided to biopsy an abnormality in the left. That's when Marjane received her breast cancer diagnosis.
Marjane says the seemingly serendipitous sequence of events was part of a higher plan.
"I did not worry at all," Marjane says.
Her faith allowed her to face breast cancer without fear.
Receiving breast cancer treatment close to home
But the care she received at MD Anderson helped, too.
Marjane knew she needed to take an active role in her treatment from the moment she received her diagnosis. She wanted to have the best doctors and breast cancer treatment options, and she knew she didn't need to leave Houston to find them.
Results tagged “Breast cancer”
By Logan Carver
By Victor Hassid, M.D.
Fortunately, patients have choices when it comes to breast reconstruction. There is no cookie-cutter approach, and patients need to discuss their options in depth with their physician.
Here are five of the most common breast reconstruction myths I hear.
Myth: Breast reconstruction must take place immediately after a mastectomy.
Some women aren't certain they want breast reconstruction and wait months or even years before having surgery. Patients still undergoing breast cancer treatment may want to wait until after they have completed radiation, as radiation can limit your options for reconstruction and affect the final result. However, other women want to have breast reconstruction when they have their mastectomy.
There is no right time to undergo breast reconstruction. The timing of your reconstruction should be up to you and your physician.
By Toby Weber
As a senior administrative assistant in Gynecologic Oncology at MD Anderson, Constance Charles knows what cancer patients are going through. After all, she was one not so long ago.
The breast cancer survivor underwent a lumpectomy, right radical mastectomy and full breast reconstruction 10 years ago.
"I know things may look grim, like there's no hope and that you may be at the end of your rope. But keep the faith," she tells cancer patients. "You can really make it ... Look at me. Here I am."
Here's Constance advice for people just starting their cancer journeys:
By Estelle Racusin
As a breast cancer survivor, I see Mother's Day as a time of reflection and thankfulness.
When I married my husband, I told him I would love to have four children. Always the cautious one, my husband said, "Let's be happy if we're able to have two." He was 50 years old and I was 34, and he was right. We didn't know what life had in store for us. Today, I'm a mom to our 16-year-old son, Ben. Life didn't turn out the way I planned, but I couldn't be more grateful for the family I have now.
My breast cancer diagnosis and treatment
The summer before Ben's fourth birthday I began feeling lethargic, but I couldn't put my finger on what was wrong.
One fall morning I woke up and my left breast was painful and I felt a lump. On October 11, 2001, MD Anderson called and confirmed what we already suspected: a breast cancer diagnosis. I still have the piece of paper from that day where I had written "invasive lobular carcinoma."
The next few months were a whirlwind, moments I catch myself reflecting back on when I have a bad day. A few weeks after my breast cancer diagnosis, we discovered our new home was filled with mold, and we had to move into a hotel. Our lives were totally uprooted. We were being tested. I prayed daily to please let me live so that my son would grow up knowing who I was, how much I loved him and how much I fought for him.
My breast cancer treatment included nine rounds of chemotherapy followed by a double mastectomy and 30 radiation treatments, after which I proudly rang the bell at MD Anderson.
By Erika Archer Lewis
It's difficult to condense the emotional and physical tolls that a mastectomy brings. It's life-changing, but so worth it.
After I discovered that I carried a mutation for the BRCA1 gene, increasing my risks for both breast cancer and ovarian cancer, I decided to undergo a prophylactic double mastectomy. Most everyone I talked to before the surgery told me to give myself six weeks to heal. At five weeks, I thought they were all crazy, but you do turn a corner.
The healing process varied day to day. It's truly miraculous how much healing your body does. Mine surprised me. I won't claim to be back to 100% after my mastectomy, and some things will never be the same. But I'm embracing my new normal.
Here are five tips I learned from my mastectomy experience.
1. Prepare for your mastectomy recovery
Pre-arranging school drop-off, scheduling house-cleaning help, and even little things, like ordering school Valentine's Day cards a month early gave me time to heal.
By Erika Archer Lewis
Twenty years ago, while a college senior, I spent weekends commuting from Austin to Houston to care for my 42-year-old mother. She was battling an aggressive form of stage 4 breast cancer and was told her odds for survival were less than 20%. After witnessing first-hand her intense, four-year battle that included chemotherapy, radiation, bone marrow extraction, a mastectomy and breast reconstruction, I wondered for years if and when breast cancer might strike me.
A family history of breast cancer
When my young, healthy, active mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, there was no pattern of women with breast cancer in her family history. But shortly after she was diagnosed, her cousin was diagnosed with the same cancer, even in the same breast. Since that time, there have been four other women on my maternal grandmother's side of the family who have struggled with or lost their lives to breast cancer.
In late 2013, after a series of suspicious mammograms, ultrasounds, an MRI, and three biopsies, I wondered if I was doomed by the pattern within my family that had reared its ugly head decades before. With recent advances in technology and medicine, I learned there was a simple blood test for identifying genetic mutations for breast and ovarian cancer, BRCA 1 and 2. I felt an overwhelming need to know if I had what felt like a ticking time bomb inside my chest.
By Erika Vandiver
I was 20 weeks pregnant with my second child when my doctor told me, "You have breast cancer." I was only 28 years old -- 20 years younger than my mother when she received her breast cancer diagnosis.
The local medical team that performed my biopsy and lumpectomy had limited treatment options. My choices were bleak: terminate my pregnancy so I could try to live myself, or risk dying from cancer by allowing my child to live.
Coming to MD Anderson for breast cancer treatment while pregnant
Although this was my second child, it was my sixth pregnancy. Four previous pregnancies had ended in miscarriages. I was determined to find an alternative for my breast cancer treatment.
By Katrina Burton
MD Anderson is standing by a recommendation that women 40 years old and older receive annual mammograms, despite a recent study that raised controversy regarding breast cancer screening.
"We are not recommending that women change their screening practices," says Therese Bevers, M.D., medical director of MD Anderson's Cancer Prevention Center. "We stand by our guidelines that recommend women have annual mammograms beginning at age 40 and continue to be screened as long as they are in good health."
But a study by the Canadian National Breast Screening says annual mammography in women ages 40-59 does not reduce mortality from breast cancer and mammography screening should be revisited.
The results of the study, published in the BMJ Journal on Feb. 11, are in direct contrast to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation that women should begin annual mammograms starting at age 50, and of guidelines by MD Anderson, the American Cancer Society and others that call for annual breast cancer screening to begin at age 40.
"By having this testing I'm protecting my family," Terry says. "Now, we have the smoke alarm."
Terry is a mother of five -- three girls and two boys -- ranging in ages from 19 to 31, and a grandmother of five. Genetic testing for the BRCA gene could let those future generations know if they are at risk for breast and ovarian cancers.
She received the results in November 2013.
"Mutated gene 5385insc-BRCA 1," the report said. That meant her children could have the gene as well.
Facing new questions after genetic testing
Terry's daughters plan to undergo genetic testing soon. Her sons are considering testing to see if they carry the gene.
By Brandie Sellers
All cancer sucks. However, I must admit (not-so-secretly) that I envy people who complete cancer treatment. In my case, breast cancer treatment has been constant since my diagnosis and recurrence in 2011. I often return to MD Anderson for CT scans, bone scans, chest ultrasounds and other tests that come along with having a later stage breast cancer diagnosis. The scans are never completely clear, and there's always something to watch. Living without absolutes really messes with my head.Living from cancer treatment follow-up exam to follow-up exam
I'm always hesitant to make plans for more than six months ahead of time. That's how often I have my follow-up scans. With so much uncertainty, it's easy for me to get into the pattern of living my life in short bursts. I wonder, "Why plan something for next year? What if I'm in cancer treatment again?"
Danielle Harmon thought she was too young for cancer, but at age 31, she was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer following a routine well-woman exam.
The mother of a 1-year-old boy, Sam, was shocked.
"I just cried and cried. I thought, 'I'm going to die ... I'm
not going to see Sam grow up.'"
Danielle was concerned that her husband Jason would have to raise their son alone.
"Immediately when you arrive at MD Anderson you get the feeling that these people are serious ... they know what they're doing. They make you feel like you have a fighting chance to survive the disease," she reflects.
Danielle's breast cancer treatment included a mastectomy and breast reconstruction, as well as six rounds of chemotherapy. "It wasn't an easy experience, but we got through it. I got a clean bill of health, and we were continuing on with our lives," she says.
blessing from breast cancer
More devastating than the disease, though, was that that Danielle would not be able to have more children due to the need for long-term chemotherapy.
At 37 years old,
3 triple-negative breast cancer diagnosis is tough to swallow. If you're a
working mother of twin boys, one of them with special needs, a triple-negative
breast cancer diagnosis can be even more daunting.
So, for Bree Sandlin, coming to MD Anderson for her triple-negative breast cancer treatment was the only choice there ever was.
Bree's triple-negative breast cancer treatment
"When I first arrived at MD Anderson to meet with my oncologist, I had pages of notes and questions," Bree recalls. "My doctor took the time to go through each one and laid out the plan for me. She did an amazing job leaving me with a feeling of hope, optimism and encouragement for the future."
Bree's plan consisted of six months of chemotherapy, followed by a bilateral mastectomy, and ended with six weeks of radiation therapy. When doctors removed the tumor during surgery, they found no trace of cancer.
A new outlook on life
Now 38, Bree calls herself a survivor, having been in remission with no sign of triple-negative breast cancer since April 2013.
The holidays can be difficult when you or a loved one is undergoing cancer treatment. But while your usual traditions may be interrupted, the holiday spirit can still be found.
We asked several survivors how they coped with cancer during the holidays and what advice they had for patients undergoing treatment during the holidays.
Here's what they had to say.
on what makes you happiest about the holidays
"Life has changed, and every holiday provides me with a deeper appreciation for being given another year. Cancer hasn't changed the way I celebrate holidays, but it makes being around family and friends much more special.
Throughout the year, our cancer patients and cancer survivors shared insight, advice and stories from their cancer journeys, giving us inspiration and hope.
Here are some of our best stories from patients and survivors in 2013.
Getting married after cancer: Guilt is part of the diagnosis
Before proposing to his girlfriend, Justin Ozuna couldn't stop thinking about how the proposal would align with his cancer diagnosis and his uncertain future. Find out how the couple accepted their new reality.
Bodybuilding: How a breast cancer survivor regained confidence
After a breast cancer diagnosis, double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, Sonia Byrd decided to retake control of her body and life. So, she signed up for a bodybuilding fitness contest. Read her story.
By Brandie Sellers
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2011. Several holidays came and went while I was in treatment. Each holiday I woke up and thought, "I'm still here. No matter what happens today, I still get to be here."
I felt pretty rotten for some of the holidays -- the Fourth of July, in particular. But during each and every one of them, my eyes opened and I got to see my children.
Surviving breast cancer changed how my family and I celebrate the holidays, but we know it's for the better.
Holidays are different after breast cancer treatment
Holidays are different for us now. We don't have as much money as we had when I was diagnosed with cancer. Our house is simple, our meals are simple, and my expectations of the holidays are few, as are my children's expectations.
We have trouble with Christmas lists around here. Gifts given out of love are always welcome, but nobody here is making a long list of wants. All we want is to be together and giggle. And maybe to have some time to read some books and dance around the kitchen. Oh, and my kids do always want snow on Christmas, which, although not common in Dallas, actually happened last year.
By Carol A. Turni
That third week in August 2011 is one I will never forget. That's when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
I was 44 years old with no family history of cancer. It seemed like I was on a bad news train. Not only did I have breast cancer, but it was caused by a BRCA 2 genetic mutation, which extended my breast cancer treatment course drastically. I was married with two young girls, 5 and 7 years old at the time. My world changed so drastically that I am not sure you can put it into words.
My family and friends were all very supportive. However, one piece was missing: my older brother, whom I had not spoken to in more than seven years.
An unexpected call from my brother
The details of our disagreement had long faded, but there was no communication and a painful feeling of loss. Shortly after my breast cancer diagnosis, though, the phone rang.
by Jody Schoger
I was doing what I do every day: advocating for breast cancer survivors through various social and traditional media outlets. I advocate, write, review grants, educate, read research studies and, yes, even joke about it when conditions are right.
Until this year. Last Christmas, there were some physical changes I couldn't ignore. I blamed a sudden weight loss on stress. It simply did not register that cancer was about to re-enter my life after a 15-year remission.
But it did. I was diagnosed with metastatic lobular breast cancer on my annual visit to MD Anderson's Survivorship Clinic in April.
Coping with metastatic breast cancer recurrence
Cancer is wily. Invasive lobular breast cancer is especially so. It doesn't always cause lumps and can be difficult to image. The cancer skipped my remaining breast for better territory, landing in the opposite lymph nodes under my arm, then traveling up into my neck before traveling into my abdomen.
By Karen Mae Perdon
My mom was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, just four years after she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
This year her breast cancer returned. When I heard the news, I kept thinking, why her? Why is this happening again to the person least deserving of this? I thought we had said goodbye to cancer, but I guess God had other plans.
Yet, despite being a bit shocked, I was surprisingly calm about the news. I knew that my job as a nurse here at MD Anderson was not just to help my patients, but also to help my family.
An inspiring first experience with MD Anderson
I haven't always been a nurse at MD Anderson. In fact, it was my sister's breast cancer diagnosis that led me to MD Anderson, first as a caregiver and now as a nurse.
by Michael Keating, M.D.
This ambitious and innovative program seeks to significantly reduce the mortality rates for several cancers -- including melanoma, triple-negative breast, high-grade serous ovarian, chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), acute myeloid leukemia (AML), myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), lung and prostate -- and ultimately find cures for these and other cancers.
Over the last year, the Moon Shots Program provided a tremendous boost to cancer research. My colleagues at MD Anderson and I have spent the last 12 months collaborating to make significant advancements for our patients as well as those patients not yet diagnosed.
Meaningful progress made in the
The Moon Shots Program became a reality after MD Anderson's president Ronald DePinho, M.D., issued a formidable challenge to our doctors and researchers: to develop a comprehensive action plan to significantly increase survival rates of cancer patients in the near-term and accelerate cures in the long-term.
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