Breast Cancer Research: Clinical Trials

SGK_NBCAM_2014_ResearchWhen it comes to cancer, clinical trials are one of the biggest reasons we’ve seen gains in breast cancer survival over the past 30 years. And improved survival hasn’t been the only benefit.

Quality of life for people living with cancer has also improved as trials have helped identify more targeted treatments that can help limit many of the side effects of cancer therapies.

Most of us have heard the term “clinical trials” but haven’t given it much thought. Like a lot of important things that fly under the radar, clinical trials have had a huge impact on society.

At their most basic, clinical trials are studies done in people that test the safety and effectiveness of ways to prevent, detect or treat disease. Participants may benefit from clinical trials themselves, or their participation may benefit others in the future. They are the first to receive new treatments under investigation and, in cancer clinical trials, are guaranteed to receive the best standard care possible. And, clinical trials offer a way for women with breast cancer to play an active role in their own health care and help others by adding to medical research.

For clinical trials of new cancer treatments, there are four main types of trials, though there can be some overlap between types depending on the study.

Phase 1 (phase I): Trials that test to see if a new treatment is safe to use

Phase 2 (phase II): Trials that test to see how well a new treatment works on a certain type of cancer

Phase 3 (phase III): Trials that test to see how well a new treatment works compared to the best standard treatment (standard of care)

Phase 4 (phase IV): Trials that test the continued effectiveness and safety of a treatment after it’s been approved for use

There are many sources you can use for finding clinical trials. Each is a little different and some allow searching for trials based on factors like age, gender, breast cancer history, treatment history and geographic area as well as study-type preferences.

For example, BreastCancerTrials.org in collaboration with Susan G. Komen®, offers a custom matching service that can help you find a clinical trial that fits your health needs. Though these sites can be helpful search tools, the best approach is to ask your health care provider or local medical center for help finding an appropriate clinical trial.

 Learn more: http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/ClinicalTrials.html

We’re celebrating National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Connect with and follow Komen St. Louis and use the hashtag #bcjourney to join in the conversation.

Breast Cancer Research: Progress Toward the Cures

SGK_NBCAM_2014_ResearchBecause of medical research leading to effective treatments and earlier diagnosis, the death rate for breast cancer is 34 percent lower than it was 25 years ago. Today, more than 3 million people in the U.S. are breast cancer survivors.

Susan G. Komen®’s investment in medical research over the past 30 years has contributed to many of the advances that now help women and men affected by breast cancer live longer and healthier lives.

Major changes have had an impact, including:

  • Increase in awareness, screening, and early detection
  • Less invasive surgery
  • Improvements in breast reconstruction
  • More effective chemotherapy
  • More effective hormonal therapy
  • Development and use of targeted therapy
  • Extended survival and better tolerated treatment for metastatic disease
  • Dramatic changes in quality of life for survivors
  • Widespread options for conservative surgery
  • Extensive use of sentinel node biopsy

Learn more about Komen’s research accomplishments: http://ww5.komen.org/WhatWeDo/WeFundResearch/ResearchAccomplishments/ResearchAccomplishments.html

We’re celebrating National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Connect with and follow Komen St. Louis and use the hashtag #bcjourney to join in the conversation.

Breast Cancer Research: Komen’s Impact

SGK_NBCAM_2014_ResearchResearch is one of our best weapons against breast cancer. Over the past 30 years, it’s fueled our knowledge of breast cancer and helped us understand that breast cancer is not just a single disease but many diseases, unique to each individual.

Susan G. Komen® funds more breast cancer research than any other nonprofit, while also delivering real-time help to those facing the disease. Since 1982, Komen has funded more than $800 million in research. Thanks to the generosity of donors and supporters, Komen is funding lifesaving research in all areas of breast cancer, from basic biology to prevention to treatment and to survivorship.

With continued support, this scientific research will address some of the most pressing issues in breast cancer today:

  • Identifying and improving methods of early detection
  • Ensuring more accurate diagnoses
  • Developing new approaches to prevention
  • Enabling personalized treatments based on breast cancer subtypes and the genetic make-up of a tumor

Komen also continues to support all levels of breast cancer researchers, scientific research and clinical trials, research partnerships and collaborations, scientific conferences and research education.

Read more about the impact of Komen-funded research: http://ww5.komen.org/WhatWeDo/WeFundResearch/WeFundResearch.html

We’re celebrating National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Connect with and follow Komen St. Louis and use the hashtag #bcjourney to join in the conversation.

Breast Cancer Survivorship: Post-Diagnosis

SGK_NBCAM_2014_SurvivorsBreast Reconstruction

Breast reconstruction can help restore the look and feel of the breast after a mastectomy. Performed by a plastic surgeon, breast reconstruction can be done at the same time as the mastectomy (“immediate”) or at a later date (“delayed”). Many women now get immediate breast reconstruction.

However, the timing depends on your situation and the treatment you will have after surgery. Not all women can have immediate reconstruction. It is important to discuss your options with your plastic surgeon, breast surgeon and oncologist (and your radiation oncologist if you are having radiation therapy).

There is no one best reconstruction method. There are pros and cons to each. For example, breast implants require less extensive surgery than procedures using your own body tissues, but the results may look and feel less natural. However, there are fairly few complications with any of the current techniques, especially when a woman is properly selected for a procedure.

Most breast reconstruction methods involve several steps. Both immediate and delayed reconstructions require a hospital stay for the first procedure. However, follow-up procedures may be done on an outpatient basis.

Screening/Rediagnosis

Breast cancer survivors have an increased risk of getting a new breast cancer compared to those who have never had breast cancer. That is why it is important to get the follow-up care your doctor recommends. With proper follow-up, your doctor can keep track of how you are doing. This includes checking for and treating side effects. Follow-up care can also help ensure any recurrence of breast cancer can be found early when treatment is most effective.

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network offers these guidelines for follow-up of breast cancer treatment:

  1. Have a mammogram every 12 months. (For women treated with lumpectomy, have a mammogram six months after radiation therapy ends, then every 12 months.)
  1. Have a physical exam every three to six months for the first three years, every six to 12 months for years four and five, then every 12 months.
  1. Have a pelvic exam every 12 months if taking tamoxifen and have not had the uterus removed (have not had a hysterectomy).

Follow-up Tests

Depending on the symptoms, blood tests (including tumor marker tests) and imaging tests (including bone scans, CT scans, PET scans and chest X-rays) may be used to check for metastases. Using these tests to check for early metastases in people with no symptoms of metastases does not increase survival. For people with no symptoms of metastases, blood and imaging tests (other than mammography) are not a standard part of follow-up care.

Learn more about medical care after breast cancer treatment: http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/MedicalCareAfterTreatment.html

We’re celebrating National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Connect with and follow Komen St. Louis and use the hashtag #bcjourney to join in the conversation.

 

Breast Cancer Survivorship: Intimacy

SGK_NBCAM_2014_SurvivorsBeing diagnosed with breast cancer can take a physical toll on your body, not to mention your intimate and sexual health. Breast cancer and treatment for breast cancer can sometimes make it difficult to be sexual and intimate with another person, and that is okay and natural.

Self-Image

A woman’s breasts symbolize so many things, including motherhood, sexuality and being a woman. For some women, breasts now represent cancer. Most women, and their partners, will need to take time to grieve the loss of (or changes in) their breast(s).

Joining a support group may help you cope with the changes in your body and self-image. Remind yourself that healing takes time and at some point, you will become more comfortable with your new normal.

Accepting yourself as you are is all part of the process.

How to Talk with Your Partner

While there is no such thing as a perfect time to talk, some times are better than others. Choose a moment when you are alone and relaxed. When you feel comfortable, give yourself and your partner permission to talk about your feelings, both good and bad. Above all else, be honest.

Your biggest fears. You may not feel pretty or worry that your partner finds you less attractive. You may be afraid your partner will reject or leave you due to your breast cancer.

Your partner’s fears. Your partner may be afraid of physically hurting you during sex. He/she may be confused or unsure of the best way to show support and affection and is waiting on you for cues on when to resume an intimate and/or sexual relationship.

Birth control. Treatments such as radiation or chemotherapy and tamoxifen can cause birth defects, so it is import to talk to your partner about birth control. After treatment, do not assume that you can no longer become pregnant.

Your “new” sex life. Breast cancer may change what you like to do and how you like to be touched during sex. You may not even want to have sex for a while, so it is important to talk to your partner about how you are feeling.

Other Things You Can Do

Get romantic. Bring romance back by planning a candlelight dinner, taking a bubble bath or other romantic gestures. Take the time to nurture your sexuality.

Go slow. Kissing and touching can provide pleasure and help with intimacy. Do not rush into something until you feel comfortable with it.

Get comfortable. Sex may be painful because of changes in your body, due to breast cancer treatment.

Try using water-based lubricants just before sex. To help with vaginal dryness, try an estrogen-free vaginal moisturizer. These products are available over the counter without a prescription. Since they do not contain estrogen, they’re safe for breast cancer survivors. If vaginal dryness is still a problem, contact your doctor.

Try something different. Change your sexual routine and try new things and have fun!

Get some advice. Consider seeking advice from a marriage counselor, sex therapist or joining a support group. You can go with your partner or by yourself.

Make sure to share this information with your partner. Getting the intimacy you need should not be your responsibility alone.

Learn more: http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/SexandSexuality.html

We’re celebrating National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Connect with and follow Komen St. Louis and use the hashtag #bcjourney to join in the conversation.

Webinar Wednesday | October 22: The Metastatic Cascade

WebinarWednesday_2014Join Susan G. Komen® and Susan G. Komen St. Louis as we celebrate National Breast Cancer Awareness Month with the fifth and final webinar in our series:

The Metastatic Cascade

Wednesday, October 22

11:30 am to 12:30 pm CT

Click here to register for this webinar.

Presented by Dr. Danny Welch | The University of Kansas Cancer Center

Hosted by the North Central Region of Susan G. Komen

Welch serves as the founding director of the Department of Cancer Biology and director for National Foundation for Cancer Research Center for Metastasis Research for the University of Kansas Medical Center, chair and professor of Cancer Biology at the University of Kansas School of Medicine and is a Kansas Bioscience Authority Eminent Scholar.

In addition, Welch is a Susan G. Komen International Scientific Advisory Board Member, and his laboratory at the University of Kansas Cancer Center currently receives funding from Susan G. Komen.

Click here to register for this webinar.

Breast Cancer Survivorship: Psychosocial Factors

SGK_NBCAM_2014_SurvivorsOne in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, and 40,000 women in the U.S. will die from the disease this year. In addition, more than 2,000 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year in the U.S.

It is no surprise that, when faced with this news, the person diagnosed may experience shock, fear, sadness, disbelief or other feelings of psychosocial distress. Many individuals are able to adjust to and manage the disease, survivorship and their “new normal.”

Some will experience times of persistent psychosocial distress and would benefit from interventions. Intervention is important because distress can interfere with a person’s ability to cope with cancer treatment and can extend along the continuum from common feelings of vulnerability fear, and sadness, to true depression, anxiety, panic and feeling isolated.

Coping with a Breast Cancer Diagnosis

  • Learn about breast cancer at your own pace. Get information about clinical trials, treatment options and side effects. Doctors can make suggestions, but decisions should be made together.
  • Seek professional help if you need help managing your issues with breast cancer and how to cope with your feelings.
  • Talk to your doctor honestly about your breast cancer journey.
  • Be patient. Coping with breast cancer requires time, acceptance, a fighting spirit and support.
  • Lean on your network of family and friends. They can help…

- Lend support from diagnosis through treatment and beyond

- With day-to-day tasks

- Gather information for you about breast cancer

Coping with Fear of Recurrence

It is normal to have thoughts and concerns about recurrence (being re-diagnosed with breast cancer). Fears of recurrence often peak right after treatment, but they can happen at any time. You can take control of your fears and learn effective triggers and coping strategies to keep these fears from consuming you. Some of the strategies include:

  • Get and stay informed. Learn about your cancer and risk of recurrence, continue your follow-up-care plan and take care of yourself.
  • Remove any blame. Never blame yourself for your cancer diagnosis. Cancer does not choose to punish people and it doesn’t discriminate. Cancer can happen to anyone.
  • Exercise. Talk to your doctor and begin an appropriate exercise program. It can improve your mood and make you feel healthy, confident and strong.
  • Relax. Find ways to relax like yoga, meditation, prayer, etc.
  • Acknowledge your feelings. Talk to family, friends or other survivors. Journal, craft or find creative ways to give voice to your emotions.
  • Focus on the positive. Find ways to stay hopeful and use your energy to stay as healthy as possible.
  • Control what you can. Empower yourself by taking an active role in your healthcare team.

Learn more: http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/QualityofLife.html

Learn more about breast cancer recurrence: http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/FearofRelapse.html