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Making Sense of Cancer Headlines

FORCE's XRAYS program, funded by the CDC, is a reliable resource for young breast cancer survivors and high-risk women to navigate through breast cancer research related news and information.

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XRAYS: Making Sense of Cancer Headlines


About the XRAYS Program

FORCE developed our eXamining the Relevance of Articles for Young Survivors (XRAYS) program to empower young breast cancer survivors and high-risk women by providing tools for evaluating reports of new breast cancer-related research. Funded by the CDC, XRAYS will provide reviews and ratings of news media articles on breast cancer research to help young breast cancer survivors better understand research that is relevant to them. Learn more about the XRAYS program

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STUDY: Can MammaPrint guide treatment decisions?

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) recently updated its guidelines for MammaPrint, a genomic tumor test that guides treatment decisions for patients with early-stage invasive breast cancer. The update was based on results from the MINDACT study (11/16/17). 

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STUDY: Can chemotherapy before surgery fuel breast cancer metastasis?

Some breast cancer patients are given neoadjuvant (before surgery) chemotherapy. However, some recent studies have raised concerns that neoadjuvant treatment might actually trigger cancer spread in certain situations. In the current study, researchers used mouse models and human breast cancers to explore this possibility. (10/10/17)

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STUDY: Breast cancers can disappear without treatment: fact or fiction?

Previous studies and news headlines have reported that it is possible for breast cancers to regress or disappear on their own. Is this true? The authors of the current research study show that of 479 untreated breast cancers detected by screening mammography, none regressed or spontaneously disappeared on their own. (9/7/17)

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STUDY: Immunotherapy shows promise in triple-negative breast cancer

Patients diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) do not have many treatment options. Immunotherapy, a new type of cancer treatment, pushes the body’s natural defense or immune system to fight cancer. A new immunotherapy drug, atezolizumab (Tecentriq) may improve survival for patients with metastatic TNBC. (07/11/17)

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STUDY: FDA busts myths of preventing cancer by eating apricot kernels, herbs, and other ingredients

Maggie Fox (NBC News) writes about a new FDA report that warns of 14 "fraudulent” cancer products claiming to either cure or treat cancer (1). The companies that sell these products claim that many of them also prevent cancer, but are they safe or effective? (6/26/17)

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STUDY: Cost savings associated with a shorter course or omission of radiation treatment for early-stage breast cancer

Breast cancer treatment costs are high. Lumpectomy followed by radiation therapy is a common treatment for early-stage breast cancer; however, patients may receive different radiation regimens, which carry different costs. Authors of this research study wanted to estimate the potential health care cost savings if early-stage breast cancer patients received the least expensive radiation regimen for which they were safely eligible. (6/20/17)

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STUDY: Newly developed tumor test may identify more BRCA-like breast cancers

PARP inhibitors are a new type of cancer treatment developed for patients who have BRCA mutations. The FDA has approved three PARP inhibitors for treatment of ovarian cancer. These medications are also being studied for treating breast cancer in people with BRCA mutations. Researchers believe that these medications may also work well for breast cancer patients whose tumors have features similar to BRCA tumors; this current study describes a new screening tool that may help health care providers find those tumors. Related clinical trials involving PARP inhibitors are ongoing. (6/2/17)

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STUDY: Does scalp cooling help prevent hair loss after chemotherapy for breast cancer?

Hair loss is one of the most recognized and distressing side effects of some chemotherapies. Two new studies looked at the use of scalp cooling therapy to help reduce hair loss after chemotherapy for early-stage breast cancer. (5/15/17)

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STUDY: Nearly half of breast cancer patients experience a severe side effect after treatment

While clinical trials track treatment side effects, fewer studies look at the burden of side effects on women undergoing breast cancer treatment or compare the side effects of different treatments. This study looks at the severity of side effects experienced by women treated for early-stage breast cancer and the post-treatment burden they experience. (4/11/17)

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STUDY: Study: Hot chili pepper component slows growth and kills laboratory-grown breast cancer cells

Finding new treatments that target triple-negative breast cancer is an area of great interest. An early step in developing these treatments is learning more about the biology of tumor in the laboratory. This study looked at how capsaicin, the spicy component of chili peppers, might work with a protein found in many cancers, including triple-negative breast cancer, to stop cancer cell growth. This is the first step in a long process towards developing new treatments for triple-negative breast cancer. (2/14/17)

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STUDY: “Chemobrain” seen in breast cancer patients up to six months after treatment

Many people report memory or concentration problems, commonly known as “chemobrain,” during and after cancer treatment. New research shows that for some breast cancer patients these issues continue 6 months after treatment. Documentation of this well-known effect is a crucial first step in developing ways to limit and treat it. (02/02/17)

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STUDY: Does prior antidepressant use affect the treatment breast cancer patients receive?

Previous research found an association between depression and survival in breast cancer patients, but the reasons for this association are unclear. Researchers in this study found that women who had been previously prescribed antidepressants were less likely to receive breast cancer treatment that followed national guidelines than those who had not. Although the difference was small, it underscores the need for patients to discuss any history of depression with their health care providers. (1/24/17)

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ARTICLE: After mastectomy: reconstruct or not?

Today, more women know they can have breast reconstruction after removing their breasts for cancer treatment or risk reduction. But what about choosing not to undergo reconstruction? Roni Caryn Rabin writes about the experiences of women who decide against reconstruction in her New York Times piece “‘Going Flat’ After Breast Cancer.” (12/14/16)

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ARTICLE: Headlines claim drug combination destroys tumor in 11 days—is this too good to be true?

A recent IFLScience headline proclaimed "Remarkable Breast Cancer Trial Destroys Tumors in Just 11 Days." This sounds amazing but it leaves out key facts. First, the finding applies only to HER2-positive breast cancer, not all breast cancers. More importantly, the results are from a conference presentation and have not yet appeared in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. What does that mean for breast cancer patients? (12/6/16)

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STUDY: Cancer treatment costs can vary widely

Healthcare providers cannot give their breast cancer patients information on chemotherapy treatment costs because not enough is known about the exact costs. New research finds that costs vary not only between different cancer treatments, but also between similar treatments, such as all treatments that target HER2+ breast cancer. (11/22/16)

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ARTICLE: Huffington Post article brings attention to metastatic breast cancer

Barbara Jacoby's Huffington Post piece, "How do breast cancer and metastatic breast cancer differ?" emphasizes the need for more treatment options for patients with advanced breast cancer.

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STUDY: New guidelines for DCIS breast-conserving surgery

Breast-conserving therapy (which includes lumpectomy and radiation treatment) increases survival rates for patients who have DCIS. But what amount of extra tissue outside the tumor should be removed to minimize breast cancer recurrence? (10/4/16)

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ARTICLE: A cancer patient’s tumor is genetically profiled—how does that info help her treatment?

Jessica Wapner's Scientific American article explores the difficulties of making the vast amount of information acquired from tumor gene tests useful to patients and physicians. (9/20/16).

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STUDY: Tumor gene test may determine which breast cancer patients can forgo chemotherapy

Because women may experience negative side effects after chemotherapy, researchers wanted a way to determine which breast cancer patients can avoid chemotherapy without affecting their survival. This study suggests that a test that looks at 70 genes in breast tumors may be able to identify breast cancer patients who can do without chemotherapy for their disease. (9/13/16)

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STUDY: How beneficial is online communication after a new diagnosis of breast cancer?

Newly diagnosed breast cancer patients often use online communication to find more information about their diagnoses and treatment options. But does online communication benefit these patients' decision-making process? (8/30/16)

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STUDY: Extending aromatase inhibitor duration to 10 years lowers recurrence for ER/PR+ breast cancer patients

Hormonal therapy reduces the risk of recurrence for women with early-stage breast cancer that is ER-and/or PR-positive. Standard therapy lasts 5 years. A new study looks at whether extending one type of hormonal therapy, known as aromatase inhibitor therapy, to 10 years lowers recurrence rates even more for these women. (7/26/16)

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STUDY: Early research uncovers potential targets for triple-negative breast cancer

ER+ and HER2+ breast cancers are often treated with targeted therapy, but no such treatment is available for triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). Early laboratory research suggests that vitamin D and androgen receptors might be potential targets for new treatment for TNBC. However, many more studies are needed before these targets can be tested against human breast cancer (7/5/16).

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STUDY: Financial burden affects quality of life of cancer survivors

Cancer-related financial burden can keep survivors from getting the care that they need, yet how this burden affects mental and physical help is still unknown. A recent study found that almost one-third of cancer survivors report having financial burden; those most likely to be affected were under age 65, female, members of racial or ethnic minority groups, and people who lack access to adequate insurance. (5/17/16)

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STUDY: BRCA testing in young women with breast cancer

National guidelines recommend genetic testing for BRCA mutations in young women who are diagnosed with breast cancer. However, little is known about how women decide to get testing, or how they use genetic information to decide on treatment options. This study found that genetic testing is increasing among young breast cancer survivors, and it explores some of the factors that play into patients’ decision making about genetic testing. (3/22/16)

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STUDY: Potential genetic basis for breast cancer survivors who develop therapy-related leukemia

The population of breast cancer survivors in the United States is increasing. One rare but dangerous long-term effect of breast cancer treatment is an increased risk of leukemia, a type of bone marrow cancer. A recent study uncovered a potential genetic basis for this condition.

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STUDY: Does lumpectomy or mastectomy provide better survival for women with early stage breast cancer?

Previous research has hinted that women who have breast-conserving surgeries have the same, if not better, overall survival as women who have mastectomies. Researchers in this study wanted to see if that was true; they found that women who chose breast-conserving surgeries did have a higher overall survival. However, this study, presented at the 2015 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, had limitations that make it difficult to interpret the results or to extend them to all women with breast cancer.

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STUDY: Effects of cancer diagnosis and treatment during pregnancy on the health and development of the child

Very little work has studied how a woman's cancer diagnosis and treatment during pregnancy affects her child. This study of women who were diagnosed with cancer while pregnant looks at their children at ages 18 months and 3 years. The study found no difference in general, cognitive, and cardiac development when compared to children born to healthy mothers.

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STUDY: Do antioxidants encourage the spread of cancer cells?

Metastasis, the spread of cancer cells from a primary tumor to another site in the body, is a complex process. Researchers do not understand why a few cells metastasize while other cells do not. A study performed in mouse models suggests that high doses of some antioxidants may make it easier for cancer cells to metastasize.

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ARTICLE: What “The Truth About Cancer” got wrong about BRCA mutations and cancer

A recent web series and related articles contain dangerous misinformation about BRCA mutations and cancer. Everyone is born with two copies of both the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which play essential roles in preventing cancer. Individuals born with a change or mutation in one of these genes have a higher lifetime risk of breast, ovarian, and other cancers than those without a mutation. Some claim that cancer in people with BRCA mutations can be controlled by 'turning the gene on and off.' This is false and misleading. BRCA mutation carriers are at risk of cancer because they lack a working copy of one of the genes involved in preventing cancer development. Turning a mutated BRCA gene on or off has no effect because once a mutation develops, the gene no longer works.

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STUDY: Clinical trial looks at combining cancer vaccine and chemotherapy for metastatic breast cancer patients

A phase II clinical trial has looked at whether metastatic breast cancer patients improve after receiving a combination of chemotherapy and an experimental cancer vaccine. While the results of the trial show a trend towards longer time without their cancer progressing, a larger clinical trial needs to be done to confirm this finding.

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STUDY: Predicting which women have breast cancers that will respond to hormone therapy alone

Not all breast cancer is the same. Nor do all cancers react similarly to chemotherapy, but a specific test helps doctors and patients decide if an early cancer needs to be treated with chemotherapy. This week we review a recent paper that showed the Oncotype DX test reliably identifies women with ER+ early-stage breast cancer who can be treated with hormone therapy alone.

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STUDY: New research may lead to a blood test that detects breast cancer recurrence earlier

Recent headlines announced a blood test that can potentially predict which breast cancer survivors are at risk of recurrence. This particular blood test, one of many being developed, is sometimes called a “liquid biopsy.” This early research focuses on a technique that is promising, but not yet available to breast cancer survivors.

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STUDY: Are more men with breast cancer opting for prophylactic mastectomy?

Recent headlines describe the rise in prophylactic double mastectomy for men with breast cancer. This week, we look at the research to see how many men are choosing this option and what it means for men with breast cancer.

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STUDY: All DCIS is not the same: Young women and African American women at higher risk after DCIS diagnosis

Diagnoses of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), sometimes called stage 0 breast cancer, have increased in recent decades. Many people with DCIS wonder if they need aggressive treatment. A recent study looking at the survival of over 100,000 women found that breast cancer mortality after DCIS is low (3%), and identified groups of women who are at higher risk after DCIS.

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