XRAYS - Making Sense of Cancer Headlines

FORCE’s eXamining the Relevance of Articles for Young Survivors (XRAYS) program is a reliable resource for breast cancer research-related news and information. XRAYS reviews new breast cancer research, provides plain-language summaries, and rates how the media covered the topic. XRAYS is funded by the CDC.

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Survivorship

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ARTICLE: Running marathons with metastatic breast cancer? Yes!

Runner’s World Magazine featured Sarah Smith, a metastatic breast cancer patient who runs marathons and ultra-marathons. By telling her story, Sarah wants to encourage people to stay active, despite the challenges that life may bring. (10/13/19)

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STUDY: Is it safe for BRCA mutation carriers to become pregnant following breast cancer?

New research shows that pregnancy after breast cancer is safe for women with BRCA mutations and their babies. (9/4/19)

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STUDY: Supportive care can improve quality of life for people with metastatic breast cancer

Metastatic breast cancer patients have unique needs for treatment and care. Connecting patients to appropriate support services and palliative care is an area of need in health care. A recent study reported improvement in metastatic breast cancer patient quality of life and wellness with an intervention program called the Supportive, Education and Advocacy (MBC-SEA) program. (8/21/19)

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STUDY: FDA asks Allergan to recall certain textured breast implants

On July 25, 2019, the Food and Drug Administration requested that breast implant manufacturer Allergan recall its BIOCELL textured implants and expanders due to an association with a rare type of lymphoma called Breast Implant Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma or BIA-ALCL. The FDA does not recommend removing implants for people who do not have disease symptoms. This XRAYS review updates information about this FDA recall. (7/29/19)

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STUDY: LGBTQ patients recommend improvements for their cancer care

Little is known about the cancer care experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) patients. This study looks at recommendations from the LGBTQ community for improving their cancer care. (6/20/19)

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STUDY: A low-fat diet may decrease postmenopausal breast cancer deaths

Research reported at the 2019 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology establishes a link between dietary fat intake and its impact on postmenopausal women’s risk of dying from breast cancer. (6/13/19)

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GUIDELINE: Breast surgeons recommend genetic testing for all breast cancer patients

Summary: 

The American Society of Breast Surgeons published statement on genetic testing for hereditary breast cancer on February 10, 2019. It includes recommendations about who should be tested. Among these is the recommendation that all breast cancer patients get genetic testing, as well as women who do not have breast cancer but fit the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines. (3/25/19)

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STUDY: Prevalence of BRCA founder mutations in Bahamian women

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The Bahamas has the highest known frequency of BRCA mutations among people diagnosed with breast cancer. This study reviewed whether population-based BRCA testing (testing everyone regardless of family or personal history of cancer) would be an effective approach for finding mutation carriers in the Bahamas. (3/4/19)

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STUDY: Breast cancer implant study suggests links with illness but has serious flaws

Summary

An article in the Annals of Surgery, researchers conclude that their work supports an association between silicone breast implants and a range of conditions. This journal article was accompanied by two editorials in which experts voiced their disagreement with the way the analysis was performed and the conclusions of the authors. (2/21/19)

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ARTICLE: The cost of cancer care and impact of financial hardship on treatment

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Several recent studies on the cost of cancer care show the negative effects on cancer patients. In this XRAYS we review a recent article by Kaiser Health News and associated studies about the financial impact of breast cancer treatment and cost of precision medicine. (2/8/19)

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STUDY: Gardening improves health outcomes for breast cancer patients

Research has shown that adopting a healthier lifestyle may improve overall health and outcomes for cancer survivors. This study looked at a 1-year home-based gardening intervention to increase activity and wellbeing among breast cancer survivors. (08/31/18)

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ARTICLE: Juliet's story: No reconstruction is a post-mastectomy option

In a March 2018 article from breastcancercare.org, Juliet conveys her personal experience with a breast cancer diagnosis and her decision to not have her breasts reconstructed after her mastectomy. She details the emotional complexity of her thought process and the empowerment she felt in her decisions. (5/24/18)

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STUDY: Childbearing after breast cancer among young survivors

Women who are diagnosed with breast cancer as an adolescent or young adult often have not yet begun or finished childbearing. Researchers studied the impact of breast cancer and related treatment on birth rates and birth outcomes in young survivors. Overall, adverse birth outcomes were not increased for young survivors compared to women without cancer.  However, women with ER-negative breast cancers had a modestly higher frequency of preterm and low weight births. The authors highlight the need for fertility counseling and potential fertility preserving methods prior to treatment. (5/10/18)

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GUIDELINE: American Heart Association examines the challenges of cardiovascular disease and breast cancer

Current breast cancer treatments can negatively affect cardiovascular health.  Recently, the American Heart Association released its first scientific statement on cardiovascular disease and breast cancer.  This statement includes a comprehensive overview of the prevalence of both diseases, shared risk factors, cardiotoxic effects of therapy and the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease in breast cancer patients. (5/2/18)

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STUDY: FDA updates report on risk of lymphoma from breast implants

In March 2017, the Food and Drug Administration reported that patients with breast implants may be at increased risk for a rare type of lymphoma. This was covered in a previous XRAYS review. The FDA has continued to collect data since the first reported association in 2011. Recently, the agency released an update on the number of reported cases of breast implant-associated lymphoma and lifetime risk estimates for women with textured breast implants. (04/02/18)

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STUDY: Survival and mutation status in breast cancer patients under age 40

Studies have found conflicting rates of survival for BRCA mutation carriers who develop breast cancer, reporting better, worse and similar outcomes compared to patients with sporadic breast cancer. New results of the large Prospective Outcomes in Sporadic versus Hereditary (POSH) breast cancer study found no difference in survival rates between the two groups. The study also concluded that among young triple-negative breast cancer patients during the first 2 years after diagnosis, BRCA mutation carriers had an initial survival advantage compared to women without a BRCA mutation. (02/15/18)

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ARTICLE: The buzz around MonaLisa Touch

THIS INFORMATION HAS BEEN UPDATED. The FDA issued an alert in July, 2018 noting that laser or radiofrequency or laser devices that have received FDA clearance are ONLY cleared for treating abnormal or pre-cancerous cervical or vaginal tissue and genital warts and have NOT been approved for vaginal rejuvenation. There are currently clinical trials enrolling women to study whether laser and radiofrequency devices can improve vaginal atrophy and other menopausal symptoms. 

For many young breast cancer survivors and high-risk women, the side effects from early menopause after treatment and surgery can negatively impact their personal lives. This XRAYS looks at one of the many recent media articles on a laser procedure called MonaLisa Touch. The article, "Is Laser Treatment for Vaginal Atrophy Safe?"  was published online in 2017 by FOX News and written by Dr. Manny Alvarez. XRAYS will discuss what this laser procedure actually is and how it may impact a young breast cancer patient’s life after treatment. (1/19/18)

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STUDY: Pregnancy around the time of a breast cancer diagnosis does not negatively affect survival

The number of women who become pregnant around the time of, or after a breast cancer diagnosis is increasing. However, it is unclear whether pregnancy around the time of a breast cancer diagnosis impacts survival. This recently published study demonstrates that the timing of pregnancy does not negatively affect breast cancer survival rates. (5/24/17)

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STUDY: FDA report claims women with breast implants may be at risk for rare cancer

Recent headlines highlighted an FDA report stating that patients with breast implants may be at increased risk for a rare type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. What is the scientific evidence behind this claim? (4/21/17)

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STUDY: Friends and family may help breast cancer survival

Does having a large social network help breast cancer survivors have better outcomes? Research from the current study found that socially isolated breast cancer survivors had an increased risk of recurrence and breast cancer-specific mortality. (3/16/17)

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STUDY: New research suggests exercise is safe for breast cancer patients at risk for lymphedema

Patients and health care providers are often concerned about how exercise affects lymphedema (swelling in the arm or hand) in breast cancer survivors or other women who have had lymph node biopsy at the time of mastectomy. Research on this topic has been mixed. A new study suggests that exercise after breast cancer treatment does not lead to lymphedema or worsen existing lymphedema. However, because this study was small, more work needs to be done to understand the relationship between exercise and lymphedema in cancer survivors. (2/22/17)

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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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ARTICLE: Male transgender breast cancer patient shares his experience in NYT piece

Denise Grady’s New York Times piece presents the struggles faced by Eli Oberman, a male transgender patient who was diagnosed with breast cancer, including the difficulty of being the only male patient in gynecologist waiting rooms that are full of women. (12/21/16)

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ARTICLE: CBS News brings attention to the issues facing young metastatic breast cancer patients

Beth Caldwell is a former civil rights lawyer, a mother of two, and a wife who was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer when she 37. Mary Brophy Marcus covered Beth’s story in her piece, “The hardest part” of breast cancer under 40, for CBS News. (11/8/16)

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STUDY: Removing ovaries before age 50 may increase the risk of chronic conditions for some women

Removal of ovaries and fallopian tubes prevents ovarian cancer, but it may come with other health risks. Experts recommend removal of ovaries and fallopian tubes in women at high risk for ovarian cancer due to inherited mutations in BRCA or other genes linked to ovarian cancer risk. For these high-risk women the benefit of ovarian cancer prevention outweighs the risk of long-term complications. Based on a recent study, some researchers feel that for women who are not at increased risk for cancer, the risk for some chronic conditions is too high to consider removal of both ovaries. (11/1/16)

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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: Can acupressure be used to treat cancer-related fatigue?

Breast cancer survivors commonly report experiencing considerable fatigue, which can lead to sleep problems and poor quality of life. Yet, there are no good therapies for these patients. This research study looks at whether self-administered acupressure can help breast cancer survivors with their fatigue. (8/9/16)

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STUDY: Is there a link between exercise and memory impairment for breast cancer survivors?

Exercise has been established to have many health benefits, but can it also help memory impairment for breast cancer survivors? New research finds that breast cancer survivors who exercised more had less fatigue and distress (anxiety, depression, stress, and/or concern about recurrence) and scored better on memory tests. (8/2/16)

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STUDY: Genetic testing for cancer risk: How many genes to sequence?

The past four years has seen a revolution in genetic testing for increased cancer risk. As the cost of genetic testing falls, patients can choose to have a single gene or a dozen or more sequenced. But many questions remain: Which genes should you search? How many should be sequenced? What tests are appropriate for which patients? A recent study that looked at sequencing 180 different genes found that increasing the number of genes sequenced beyond those known to elevate breast and ovarian cancer risk increases the number of uncertain results and does little to change clinical management. (06/14/16)

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STUDY: Do BRCA mutations affect fertility?

Age affects fertility. As women age, their ovaries release eggs that are not as healthy as those released in younger women, and in general, fewer eggs each menstrual cycle, making it harder for older women to become pregnant. Are BRCA mutation carriers less fertile? Previous research suggested that BRCA mutations might affect women's fertility. A recent study found that BRCA1 mutation carriers may have slightly lower fertility than women without the same mutation, but more research is needed before this finding is useful for medical decision-making. (5/24/16)

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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 health is still unknown. A 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: Factors that affect the ability to work in people with metastatic cancer

Some patients who live with metastatic cancer either want or need to continue working while coping with symptoms of their disease and treatment. A recent study that looked at over 600 people with metastatic breast, prostate, colon, or lung cancer found that about one-third of them continue working full or part time. People most likely to continue working were those undergoing hormonal treatment and those with less severe symptoms or side effects from treatment. (4/12/16)

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GUIDELINE: Vaginal estrogen may be used in women who have been treated for ER-positive breast cancer

After breast cancer treatment, some women experience vaginal dryness, urinary tract problems and other survivorship issues. Vaginal estrogen creams, rings and tablets effectively address these symptoms in menopausal women; however, there is concern that vaginal estrogen may not be safe for women with a history of estrogen-dependent (ER+) breast cancer. A recent opinion from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Committee on Gynecologic Practice states that, based on available data, vaginal estrogen should be safe to use for women if nonhormonal approaches do not alleviate their symptoms. (3/29/16)

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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: Smoking before or after a breast cancer diagnosis associated with poorer breast cancer survival

Cigarette smoking is an important public health issue that causes more than 480,000 deaths annually. Smoking increases the risk of many diseases, from heart disease to stroke. This research indicates that smoking before and or after a diagnosis of breast cancer affects survival, and also shows that it is never too late to quit smoking. (02/23/16)

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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. (01/26/2015)

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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. (01/19/2016)

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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. (12/08/2015)

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STUDY: Do antioxidants encourage the spread of cancer cells?

Scientists do not yet know why some cancers spread to other parts of the body (a process called metastasis). A study in mice suggested that high doses of some antioxidants (chemicals that can protect cells from damage) might actually make it easier for cancer cells to spread. (12/01/2015)

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

A website called thetruthaboutcancer.com, created a 9-part docu-series titled “The Truth About Cancer: A Global Quest” (TACGQ). The video states that Angelina Jolie’s decision to remove her breasts was one made out of fear; one commentator states that her decision was “barbaric." This video  contains a lot of dangerous misinformation about BRCA mutations and inherited cancer. FORCE XRAYS provides the following point-by-point analysis on "The Truth About Cancer." (11/10/2015)

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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. (10/12/15)

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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 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. (9/8/15)

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STUDY: Weight gain associated with breast cancer survivorship

Weight gain in breast cancer survivors can affect survival and quality-of-life. This study found that breast cancer survivors are more likely to gain weight than women of the same age who are at high risk, but have never been diagnosed with cancer. The study looked at which groups of survivors were more likely to gain weight. (8/24/15)

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