Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Dangerous Nonsense

From Bloomberg News:
Screening for Breast Cancer May Spur Unnecessary Treatment

By Michelle Fay Cortez

Nov. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Mammograms may lead to unneeded treatments for breast cancer that might have regressed naturally, according to new research that revives a debate over frequent screening.

Doctors and public health officials have debated the risks and benefits of regular mammograms for years. While the common assumption is that finding small, easily treated tumors will prevent the development of larger, deadly cancers in the future, studies have yielded mixed results.

The report, published today in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that the rate of cancer among women who received biannual mammograms over six years in four Norwegian countries was 22 percent higher than those who didn’t. That may mean that tumors in those who weren’t tested regressed without being treated, researchers said.

“Our findings simply provide new insight on what is arguably the major harm associated with mammographic screening, namely, the detection and treatment of cancers that would otherwise regress,” said the researchers led by Per-Henrik Zahl at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health‘s epidemiology department in Oslo.

Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed tumor in U.S. women, excluding skin cancer, and is second only to lung cancer in the annual number of deaths. Robert A. Smith, director of cancer screening of the American Cancer Society said the conclusion that more than one in five invasive breast cancers may regress without incident if not detected by mammography “is nothing more than an overreaching leap in logic.”

The study was funded in part by the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

Natural Regression

Spontaneous regression has occurred with other tumors, including melanoma, kidney, cervical and colon cancers, the researchers said. While there have been only 32 such reports in breast cancer cases, that doesn’t mean it is rare, they said. The vast majority of breast cancers are treated immediately and aggressively, with few tumors following a natural course.

The cancer society said the authors’ conclusions were flawed. The excess number of cancers found is simply a reflection of the lead time gained with mammograms, alerting women to tumors years before they would normally be detected, Smith said.

There is little evidence that breast cancer can regress, Smith said. Given that many cancers are missed during mammograms, there is plenty of opportunity to compare current to past films, he said in a statement. While there are harms from screening, including false positives and unnecessary biopsies, “the benefits of regular screening far outweigh these limitations.”

Not Life-Threatening

There is growing evidence that a “considerable proportion” of breast cancers aren’t life-threatening, like many cases of prostate cancer, wrote Robert Kaplan, from the University of California at Los Angeles School of Public Health and Franz Porzsolt, from the University of Ulm in Germany, in an editorial that accompanied the study.

If the researchers’ hypothesis about natural regression is correct, 20 percent of women who got biannual mammograms were treated unnecessarily, Kaplan and Porzsolt said. The other possibility is that women who didn’t get the tests had undetected cancer and missed a shot at early treatment, they said.

The spontaneous regression hypothesis is hard to rule out, Kaplan and Porzsolt wrote.

“If the spontaneous remission hypothesis is credible, it should cause a major re-evaluation in the approach to breast cancer research and treatment,” they said. “We must also consider the ethical concerns associated with over-diagnosis and over-treatment.”

If women read this and feel they can skip their next mammo because they might get lucky and have their tumor regress, this article could be one of the most dangerous ever printed.

The line, "The rate of cancer among women who received biannual mammograms over six years in four Norwegian countries was 22 percent higher than those who didn’t. That may mean that tumors in those who weren’t tested regressed without being treated, researchers said."

No, that means that they caught their cancer early and were treated and are now alive and well.

Here are two examples from my own personal experience:

If I did not have a baseline mammogram at age 34 and followed up every year, my cancer would not have been found until I was 40, and that would have been too late. My tumor was a triple negative breast cancer that is very hard to treat successfuly. The only way to beat it is by finding it at its earliest stage, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Because my gynecologist insisted on early screening, I survived my highly aggressive cancer.

Five years later, when a new lump was found, my former breast surgeon said it was probably nothing and we shouldn't do any "unnecessary" surgery that would cause scarring and make future mammograms harder to read. We waited a year. I finally got the biopsy and had a 2.5 centimeter tumor with four positive lymph nodes. The mammogram picked up this tumor a year and a half earlier, when it was still tiny, had not become invasive, and had not spread to the lymph nodes.

I am lucky I had a great new surgeon, a top oncologist and the best treatment to fight this second, new cancer. But it wasn't easy. It was a very long year of surgeries, chemo and specialized radiation.

Contrary to what this article states, and ignoring ACS guidelines, women should get screened starting at age 35. African American women should get their baseline at age 30, because they are more likely to get basal, triple negative tumors that must be found early for best survival.

You can be proactive and fight cancer before you are ever diagnosed, or you can hope against hope you have the kind of tumor that magically disappears on its own. There is no middle of the road when dealing with cancer. Those who stay there wind up being run over by a Beast that does not fight fair. Ignore this article and this study and fight.

Monday, November 24, 2008

World's Biggest Jiffy Lube

Take a look at this headline:
"Astronauts Tinker with Urine to Water Machine"
It is part of this article: http://apnews.myway.com/article/20081123/D94KUSRO0.html

The big three automakers are going bankrupt. Citibank was just bailed out to the tune of 20 billion dollars. The credit markets are frozen. The US has taken control of major financial institutions, deflation looms, and the stock market has lost over 30 percent of its worth.

Yet, we still have the money to launch the space shuttle to infinity and beyond to change the oil on the International Space Station.

For a point of reference, the launch alone costs $750,000,000.00. Now add to that the nifty and can't do without Urine-to-Water machine, don't forget the lost tool bag that cost almost a million, and it adds up to over a billion dollars.

Do we really need to turn urine into drinking water? Maybe in the future, say after they learn how to turn the ocean into potable water, but now? When we can't print money fast enough to bail out anyone who asks?

This all trickles down to health care. The NIH will have a budget freeze, which means less money for research. Less money for research means any gains made will be put on hold. This affects each of us. Cancer, diabetes, heart disease, all fall through the cracks.

But heck, who needs a better, targeted chemotherapy? Who needs an agent superior to insulin? Who needs a way to stop cardiac arrest? When we can proudly sit back and say, heck, we can turn that urine into a nice, cold drink of water.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

THE NO SURRENDER WEEKLY PLANNER



It's here!

The No Surrender Breast Cancer Foundation Weekly Planner for 2009 is now available to order just in time for the holidays!

This beautiful book is the perfect size for your purse. It was compiled by the members of No Surrender with stunning photographs, inspirational quotations, and plenty of room to write in your appointments!

This makes the perfect gift for any woman on your holiday list, not just the cancer survivor.
And what's more, 100% of the proceeds go to the No Surrender Breast Cancer Foundation.

Each Calendar is $20.00. Add $1.50 for Shipping and Handling. We can also gift wrap it and send it out for you for an additional $1. Just tell us what you want on the card- or send us your own card to include.

To place your order, send your information to nosurrenderbreastcancerhelp@gmail.com
This should include your name, address, phone or email, and how many calendars you would like.

This is our first Fundraising effort for our New Foundation... we are very excited!!

A peak inside....

Sunday, November 9, 2008

HOPE FOR PRESERVING FERTILITY AFTER CHEMOTHERAPY

Among the many ravages of chemotherapy comes the potential loss of being able to have a child. Young women are free of their disease, but must live with the fact that they will never conceive a baby. This is emotionally devastating and one of the hardest things to accept when living beyond breast cancer.

Out of London, comes hope.


From
November 9, 2008

Revealed: first ovary transplant baby

A sterile woman is to give birth to the world’s first baby conceived after a full ovary transplant.

The 38-year-old was rendered infertile when her ovaries failed at the age of 15, causing her to suffer an early menopause. After receiving an ovary transplanted from her twin sister, the woman, who lives in London, is expected to give birth this week.

The pioneering surgery will give hope not only to more than 100,000 British women who suffer an early menopause, but also to those undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy for cancer. They could now freeze an ovary before beginning the treatment.

The success also raises the possibility of women freezing ovarian tissue to postpone motherhood for social reasons, such as delaying marriage or not wishing to interrupt their careers.

Unlike IVF, the conventional infertility treatment, an ovary transplant not only allows a woman to conceive “naturally” but also restores hormone levels in women who have suffered an early menopause. The hormones produced in the ovaries – oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone – affect the female body in many ways, including prompting monthly periods and protecting the bones from osteoporosis.

After the ovary transplant, the previously sterile woman had periods for the first time in 22 years. In addition to the joy of becoming pregnant, the osteoporosis she had previously suffered showed signs of improvement as a result of restored hormone levels. The woman’s twin, who already has two children, was prepared to sacrifice one of her ovaries to give her sister the chance of becoming a mother. The baby will, genetically, be the twin sister’s child.

The transplant was carried out in America early last year by Dr Sherman Silber, the microsurgery pioneer of the Infertility Center of St Louis in Missouri.

Silber removed the ovary, which is the size of a walnut, from the donor twin using keyhole surgery. He implanted the ovary into the recipient and had to connect tiny blood vessels, one only a third of a millimetre in diameter, to establish blood flow to the organ.

Three months after the transplant the woman began to ovulate normally and her hormone levels were equal to those of her healthy twin after five months. The woman discovered she was pregnant about a year after the transplant.

Silber, who will discuss the pregnancy at a meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine tomorrow, described the reconnection of the arteries and veins in the transplant as “extremely delicate”.

“Reconnecting these blood vessels deep inside the pelvis can be a tactical challenge. The ovarian artery is less than a third of a millimetre in diameter, in fact so small [that] many gynaecologists have never seen it,” he said.

The transplant from an identical twin made it unlikely that the organ would be rejected. Transplants can be extended to close relatives but immuno-suppressive drugs are needed to prevent rejection of the organ.

Gynaecologists have already carried out transplants of strips of ovarian tissue, which have resulted in at least three births. This is the first known pregnancy from a whole ovary transplant, although a series of the transplants has been carried out by Silber. Transplants of these pieces of ovarian tissue last for about three years. Silber believes that a whole ovary could last for up to a decade.