University of Pennsylvania Health System

Focus on Cancer

Monday, December 30, 2013

What is Triple Negative Breast Cancer?

Triple-negative breast cancer is a type of invasive (infiltrating) ductal carcinoma (IDC) in which three of the most common receptors known to “fuel” breast cancer, estrogen, progesterone, and the HER-2/neu gene, are not present.

Invasive ductal carcinoma starts in a milk duct, breaks through the wall of the duct, and invades the tissue of the breast. Invasive ductal carcinoma is the most commonly diagnosed breast cancer, accounting for about eight 8 out of 10 of all cases of invasive breast cancers.

Invasive ductal carcinoma may feel like a hard, bumpy, irregularly shaped lump in the breast. The most common symptoms of IDC are a change in the look or feel of the breast or the nipple anda breast mass or a suspicious finding on a mammogram. Less common signs of IDC may include nipple discharge.

Triple-negative breast cancers are usually IDCs, whose cells lack certain receptors and tend to grow and spread more quickly than other types of breast cancer.

Treatment for Triple-Negative Breast Cancer

Like other breast cancers, women with triple-negative breast cancer will have surgery to remove the tumor and may require additional treatment such as chemotherapy.

Breast surgeons at Penn Medicine deal almost exclusively with breast cancer and disorders of the breast. They have popularized the concepts of breast conserving therapy and are pioneering the use of vaccines and immune-based therapies for the treatment of breast cancer. Penn is also a leader in the use of oncoplastic surgery, which uses techniques to remove the tumor and preserve or restore the breast's shape or appearance at the same time.

Breast-conserving surgery removes only the part of the breast affected by cancer and a surrounding margin of normal tissue. How much tissue is removed depends on the size and location of the tumor and other factors. Partial mastectomy, quadrantectomy, and lumpectomy are all types of breast-conserving surgery.

A mastectomy involves removing all of the breast tissue, sometimes along with other nearby tissues. In a simple or total mastectomy, the surgeon removes the entire breast, including the nipple, but does not remove underarm lymph nodes or muscle tissue from beneath the breast.

A radical mastectomy is an extensive operation where the surgeon removes the entire breast, axillary lymph nodes, and the pectoral (chest wall) muscles under the breast. This surgery was once very common, but a modified radical mastectomy has proven to be just as effective without the disfigurement and side effects of a radical mastectomy. Radical mastectomy may still be done for large tumors that are growing into the pectoral muscles under the breast.

Breast reconstruction may be an option at the time of a lumpectomy or mastectomy, or after surgery to treat breast cancer.

Since the tumor cells lack the necessary receptors, common treatments like hormone therapy and drugs that target estrogen, progesterone, and HER-2 are ineffective. However, using chemotherapy to treat triple negative breast cancer is an effective option.

Who is At Risk for Triple-Negative Breast Cancer?

Breast cancers with these characteristics tend to occur more often in younger women and in African-American women.

Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center is leading the way in breakthrough cancer treatment. If you or someone you know has been touched by cancer, the power to find the Cure is Within.

Hear our stories and find out more today.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Ensuring Quality Cancer Care


“We proudly note that the overall four-year survival for cancer patients is higher at Penn Medicine compared to the National Cancer Data Base (NCDB) survival rates. The greatest clinical care and groundbreaking therapies by our faculty and staff enhance not only survival, but also comfort patients, their families and friends.”

- Chi V. Dang, MD, PhD, Director, Abramson Cancer Center


At the Abramson Cancer Center, we are committed to providing the very best care to our patients. This commitment is reflected in the capabilities and dedication of our staff, the availability of the latest diagnostic and treatment approaches and technology including clinical trials, and in the health and survival of our patients.

Penn’s cancer programs are accredited by the Commission on Cancer (COC) of the American College of Surgeons (ACOS). This accreditation is a quality “seal of approval” signifying adherence to quality standards that ensure access to the full scope of cancer services

Providing comparative cancer survival information is one of the most important features of the COC. Information about cancer patients’ care at Penn is collected and entered into the NCDB of the COC. Survival rates are calculated and compared to all hospitals accredited by the COC. This national database represents more than 1,500 Commission-accredited cancer programs in the United States and Puerto Rico.

Recent outcomes data on our patients’ survival are presented below. The NCDB numbers reflect cases diagnosed between 2003 and 2006. Penn’s survival rates include cases diagnosed in 2009.

Survival is shown at diagnosis, and at one, two, three, and four years post-diagnosis. The data show that the four-year survival for most stages is higher at the Abramson Cancer Center (Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center) compared to NCDB survival rates.

Abramson Cancer Center Data for the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania

Abramson Cancer Center Data for Penn Presbyterian Medical Center





 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Can Alcohol Consumption Increase My Risk of Breast Cancer?

Recent studies have shown alcohol is a leading cause of preventable cancer.

In addition, The World Health Organization has labeled alcohol as the world's third largest risk factor for disease burden, saying it can cause neuropsychiatric disorders and other chronic diseases such as heart diseases, cirrhosis of the liver, and various cancers. It added that 30 percent of cancer deaths are caused by five behavioral and dietary factors, including high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco use, and alcohol use.

But how can drinking alcohol affect a woman’s risk for breast cancer?

According to the American Cancer Society:
The use of alcohol is clearly linked to an increased risk of developing breast cancer.

The risk increases with the amount of alcohol consumed. Compared with non-drinkers, women who consume 1 alcoholic drink a day have a very small increase in risk. Those who have 2 to 5 drinks daily have about 1½ times the risk of women who don’t drink alcohol.
Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center is leading the way in breakthrough cancer treatment. If you or someone you know has been touched by cancer, the power to find the Cure is Within.

Hear our stories and find out more today.

Friday, December 20, 2013

"There Are Always Options at Penn" - Ken Shaw, Head and Neck Cancer Survivor

Ken Shaw could no longer ignore the swollen gland on the side of his neck. At first, he just brushed it off as part of a cold or sore throat, but as weeks went by and it wasn't getting better, he decided to have it checked out by his family physician in Woodbury, NJ.

But he still wasn't worried. After all, Ken never smoked. He was 63, retired, and feeling good. However, when the biopsy came back positive for head and neck cancer, his doctor immediately sent him to head and neck surgeon Gregory Weinstein, MD, at Penn Medicine.

“I had stage 4 cancer, and needed a complicated surgery that involved a graft from my thigh in order to rebuild the back of my throat, but Dr. Weinstein removed the cancer that January, and I started radiation and chemotherapy after that,” remembers Ken. “I really had no time to react to the fact I had cancer because it all moved so fast.”

Ken’s team of cancer specialists at the Abramson Cancer Center had planned with him a road to recovery involving therapy and recovery. The journey was going as planned, but that September of 2009, a PET scan showed a spot on his left lung.

The cancer had spread.

Next Steps

This time, Ken met with a thoracic surgeon at Penn, John Kucharczuk, MD, who would remove the tumor from his left lung as well as third of the lung’s tissue. Ken began chemotherapy and was on the road to recovery again, until another tumor was found on his right lung and Dr. Kucharczuk removed that as well.

“Everyone at Penn worked together,” says Ken. “I had a team of 10 specialists all focused on me, all talking together, and maintaining communication with my primary care doctor in New Jersey. I didn’t need to think about anything but getting well.”

Getting well wasn’t easy for Ken, who fought through one more tumor surgery on his back. But he fought and regained some of the strength he once had.

Getting Back On Course

Ken even got back on the golf course, a game he loved and missed, and did some traveling with his wife.

“I used to belong to a local golf club, and I’d travel with my buddies to go play golf at different courses,” he says. “It felt great to be back on the course.”

Today, Ken is cancer-free, but is facing another diagnosis – multiple sclerosis – for which he is being treated at Penn Medicine.

Ken’s been through a lot, but he’s not giving up.

“I figure, you have to fight it, there isn’t anything else to do...I’m not going to sit back and just fade away,” he says. “You don’t have to give up. There are always options at Penn Medicine.”


Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center is leading the way in breakthrough cancer treatment. If you or someone you know has been touched by cancer, the power to find the Cure is Within. Hear our stories and find out more today.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Cancer-Fighting Recipe: Anytime Crunch

The orange zest found in this "Anytime Crunch" provides an instant mood lifter as well as flavor elevator for your yogurt, cottage cheese or even your bowl of corn flakes.

Granola is considered a calorie-dense food because it provides a significant amount of calories from fat, carbohydrates and protein in a small serving. This can be beneficial to someone trying to gain weight, but detrimental to someone trying to lose weight if they aren’t monitoring the portions. Making your own granola allows you to control where the calories come from.

Almonds and walnuts contribute a considerable amount of calories, most of which are coming from protein and healthy fats.

Walnuts are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which are known for their anti-inflammatory properties and almonds are a good source of fiber as well as vitamin E, iron and calcium.

Rolled oats contain both insoluble and soluble fiber contributing to this heart healthy and cancer-fighting treat.

Anytime Crunch


Ingredients
  • 1/3 c maple syrup
  • 1tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2tsp vanilla extract
    • ¾ tsp pumpkin pie spice
    • (or ¼ tsp each ground ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg)
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp grated orange zest
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • ¾ c raw almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4c raw walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4c shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350°.

Have a baking sheet covered with parchment paper ready.

In a small bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, oil, vanilla, spices, salt and orange zest.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, almonds, walnuts, coconut, and sesame seeds.

Pour liquid mixture over dry ingredients and stir until well coated. Spread mixture evenly across baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.

Remove and stir grains, then spread and flatten them again. Return to oven for another 8 to 10 minutes or until mixture is golden brown.

Cool completely on the baking sheet and then transfer them to an airtight container; store for up to one week.

Nutritional Information:
Makes 12 (1/4c) servings
Per serving: Calories: 224; Total Fat: 16 gm; Carbohydrates: 15g; Protein:5g; Fiber:
3 g.

Adapted from Rebecca Katz’s One Bite At A Time

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Meet Rachel Kachnycz: Brain Cancer Survivor, Positivity Advocate

Rachel Kachnycz is a 24-year-old-woman from Ambler who, at 23, was diagnosed with brain cancer (grade III anaplastic astrocytoma). In this blog, she tells us about where she has come from, and how she is living her life full of positivity. Rachel blogs regularly at Live for Something.

Hello, it’s nice to meet all of you. I am Rachel Kachnycz, a 24-year-old woman from Ambler, Pennsylvania.

I started out my life under interesting circumstances. Both of my parents brought a child to their marriage: my father brought my oldest sister, Alice, and my mother brought my other sister, Ardy. My mom was a teacher in Philadelphia, my dad a carpenter turned manufacturers’ representative. I was the singular child of their marriage. When I was just seven years old, my mother was diagnosed with both thyroid and lung cancer. She died in 1998 at the age of 39. Her death was untimely to say the least. As a child, I understood how momentous a loss I had endured, but I simply had to soldier on through life.

My sole thought was to keep my life together, like a Jenga game, and not let myself fall apart despite losing many of my pieces. In 2011, I became a Bryn Mawr alumna, with a degree in linguistics and languages, specifically Mandarin Chinese and Japanese. I spent a summer in Qingdao, China studying Chinese, and I am waiting for my opportunity to visit Japan.


After finishing school, I was lost. I lived in an apartment and had a part-time job as a stylist at a clothing boutique, but I did not know what my next step would be. I found out there was a bigger plan for me when, on September 30, 2012, I was diagnosed with brain cancer (grade III anaplastic astrocytoma).

Though this diagnosis came to me as a shock, I think that in life we get that for which we ask. I needed something to make me put my silly anxieties and my entire life into perspective. I needed to truly appreciate the opportunity that I have here on this earth. Now I can say that I do.

Fast-forward to now, after a craniotomy and months of radiation and chemotherapy at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, I am a cancer survivor with a duty to help people who are in similar straits. I have found that blogging throughout my cancer journey helped me to express myself, and I recommend recording your experiences as they occur.


It is all about the now. During treatment, I found out that I have a TP53 genetic mutation, passed on through my mother, which results in Li-Fraumeni syndrome, a disease that leaves me 25 times more likely to get soft tissue cancers, and more susceptible for my prior brain cancer to return. I have become an advocate for early screening and genetic testing. I am alive, and I have an obligation to myself to make the cancer experience less lonely for others.

The key is that I do not let the odds stop me. I truly believe that our attitudes define our realities. If I gave into the survival rates, I would be asking for illness to return. Instead, I focus on the things that make me happy and make me want to live a long life.

I volunteer with multiple programs: a pet adoption agency, the Li-Fraumeni Syndrome Association, and through Penn as a Proton Treatment Alumna, mentoring those going through treatment. I also tutor English as a second language, and help out with tutoring at the local elementary schools.

What I plan to do through my blog series is to show you that no matter what, the good in life outweighs the bad. Our minds, bodies, and spirits are one, and we must hone in on the positive. By being grateful for the beautiful moments in each day, we are truly living.

Rachel continues to write about her experiences on her personal blog Live for Something
To hear more patients stories from the Abramson Cancer Center, visit TheCureisWithin.com today.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Helping Someone Who Has Lost a Spouse to Cancer

Jessica Bemis Young Widow
Jessica Bemis is a full-time, working mom of two who lost her husband to testicular cancer in November 2011. Since then, Jessica has been sharing her story on her blog, Hope for Young Widows and working to bring awareness and hope to women and men who have lost their spouses to cancer. In this blog, she discusses ways in which friends and family can help after someone loses a spouse to cancer.

Read Jessica's blog, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter


Do you need some ideas on how to help a friend going through the grief process after losing their spouse? I have put together a list of things that helped me while going through the mourning process.

 

Meal Schedule

After Jim died on November 20, 2011, I had so many friends and family members reach out to me and ask, “What can we do, how can we help?” My response, “I don’t know yet.” The day he died, two of my friends took the lead and organized a meal schedule for me and my sons that went well into late February 2012. It was so wonderful knowing that hot meals were going to be delivered for us. People made us feel so special with the time and effort they put into the meals, especially for the boys since they can be picky eaters.

Holidays

Since Jim died right before the holiday season began, and everything seemed so overwhelming…I didn’t know where to begin to ask for help. I knew I would need help with decking the halls. Fortunately, I had already done most of the shopping so I could focus on the wrapping and decorating. Two of my cousins came to the house and decorated the Christmas tree (it looked beautiful). I was so gracious to them for just coming over, taking the lead and doing it, because I probably wouldn’t have asked them to do so. My mom came to the house and helped me wrap all the gifts for the children, family, and friends. Another huge mission accomplished, but not by me asking - by her diving in and saying, “Let’s work together and get this done while the boys are in school.”

Babysitting

It is always good to have a great babysitter to call on when you have to get things done or just need a break. Fortunately, I had a list of about seven babysitters I could have called on for help after Jim died. Some were mother’s helpers and others I could hire to watch the boys so I could go out and run errands. Awesome babysitters ready and willing to help us out surrounded us.

Pet Care

The other awesome act of kindness that we received was pet care for our dog, Madison. A group of people hired a dog walker for about three months, and that was in addition to all of the friends, co-workers, family (and other dogs) in the neighborhood that were ready and willing to play and walk Madison almost any time of the day. It allowed me to focus on the house chores, the children, errands and so on. It was wonderful to know Madison was getting the exercise she needed and the attention she loves as well.

The Little Things

People so graciously took time out of their day to help us with so many tasks, but what stands out the most are the unexpected hugs, phone calls, text messages, emails, and cards from friends and family. They dropped off beautiful flowers, care packages filled with toys and games for the children, movies, and chocolate. Friends and family offered words of encouragement, love and support…that is what being a friend and having a family is all about…from this widow's perspective, you just want to feel like you are not alone. The grief process can be very isolating because peers aren’t experiencing the same thing. I’m thankful for family and friends taking the lead and recognizing the need for a meal schedule, dog walker, babysitter, help with shopping, decorating and wrapping for the holidays. But, most importantly always sharing a smile, a hug, and a laugh with me.

Depending on the individual, after a person loses a spouse, they may feel uncomfortable asking for help. They may not want to make you feel uncomfortable. To them, it may feel like they are burdening you with their needs, and so they don’t ask for help. Reach out and just let them know you are there for them.  It will be so appreciated and truly brighten their day.

Monday, December 16, 2013

I Was Given Four Months To Live…More Than Three Years Ago

Jules B. Rauch, III, was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma in 2004. Since then, his cancer has come and gone – but always came back with a vengeance. In 2010, he was told he had four months to live, but a clinical trial at the Abramson Cancer Center gave him hope to find his cure within.

My health challenges began in 2004 at the age of 67. I was being treated for prostate cancer in Florida, and the nurse recommended I have the small, deep red spot on my forehead checked out.

I did, and the diagnosis was stage 4 melanoma.

I had the spot removed just before Christmas of that year. Four years later, two small lumps appeared in front of my left ear. A biopsy and full body CT/PET scan confirmed the melanoma had returned and that year on November 11, 2008, I had a left parotidectomy and 26 lymph nodes were removed in the process. Thirty-three radiation treatments later, and I was back on the road to recovery.

Unfortunately, in July 2009, another scan showed the cancer had returned – this time, it had spread to the left parotid area and a re-excision was required. Also, it had spread to my right shoulder - and this was radiated (no surgery). Nine months later, the cancer had moved again into my back, which was also radiated.

Despite all of my medical treatments and issues, I never stopped fishing, golfing and exercising my Labrador Retriever. Of course, my medical treatments were serious, but I never wanted them to interfere with my lifestyle. My wife, Beverly, and I maintained our schedule of spending 4 to 5 months in Cape May, and the rest of the year in Florida.

I wasn’t going to give in.

But when a scan in June 2010 showed metastatic melanoma – and it spread to my right shoulder, more in my backbone and both lungs, I was given four months to live. My only option was to quickly get into a clinical trial with a drug called Ipilimumab. We were in Cape May, and I was referred to the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

Days later, I found myself in the office of Lynn Schuchter, MD, chief of the division of hematology/oncology. I told her, “I’m not ready to die,” and hoped to be included in her trial. I was accepted, and began the course of treatment – four infusions, one hour each for four weeks.

That October, only a few months later, another CT/PET scan revealed all the cancer was gone.

It was like being reborn. I had another opportunity on life.

No Cancer Has Returned

Since then, in these past three years, all of screenings are negative and show no cancer has returned. None. Dr. Schuchter tells me I’m her “poster boy” for clinical trials and at 76 years old, I could not be more proud to have her as my doctor.

The gratitude, appreciation and outstanding medical and emotional care I’ve received at the Abramson Cancer Center from Dr. Schuchter, and her team cannot be put into words. Their professionalism and generosity has given me and many others the opportunity of life.

Of course, nothing could have been possible without the support of my wife and caregiver, Beverly, and our supporting friends and family. Together with the Abramson Cancer Center, their faith and prayers helped me in my positive fight against cancer.

Watch Jules tell his story and learn more
about the exciting things happening at the Abramson Cancer Center.
Visit theCureIsWithin.com today.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Cancer-Fighting Recipe: Coconut Curried Greens with Caramelized Onions

Kale, collards or any other of the variety of greens can be used in this recipe. The reason greens are considered a super food is that they are high in phytonutrients, antioxidants, have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. Remember though, there is no ONE super food. They all must be part of a balanced healthy diet.

Curry can contain a dozen or more different spices but a prominent one is turmeric – which gives it the yellow colow. Tumeric has curcumin in it which also has been studied for its cancer fighting properties in skin, breast, prostate and colon cancer.

Coconut Curried Greens with Caramelized Onions

Ingredients:
1 onion – sliced thin
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 bunch collard greens or kale
1 can of chick peas (or beans of your choice)
1 5 to 8 oz. can of coconut milk
1 Tbs. curry (or more to taste)

Directions:

Slice onions thin. Add oil to a pan and heat over medium heat. Once oil is hot, add collards. Begin sautéing onions stirring frequently. If the pan starts smoking, turn heat down. Continue to sauté until browning begins then turn down the heat to allow them to brown more (this is the caramelizing process and can take 10 to 20 minutes).

While the onions are cooking (don’t forget to stir them), rinse greens in a sink half filled with water. Remove the stems. Pat dry and layer the greens in a stack. Roll them like a cigar and then slice thin. Add greens to onions and sauté for 2 minutes.

Rinse the beans in a strainer. In a separate bowl, add curry powder to coconut milk and whisk together. Pour over the greens/onion mixture, add the rinsed beans and turn down heat to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes or until greens are tender.

Other greens such as kale or spinach may be substituted with an adjustment in the cooking time as needed.

This can be served over rice or noodles of your choice.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Digital Breast Tomosynthesis: More Accurate Images for Women with Dense Breasts

Breasts are made up of fatty tissue, fibrous tissue, and glandular tissue. Someone is said to have dense breast tissue (as seen on a mammogram) when they have more glandular and fibrous tissue and less fatty tissue.


A number of factors can affect breast density, such as age, menopausal status, the use of drugs (such as menopausal hormone therapy), pregnancy, and genetics.

According to a new report in the journal, Radiology, because women with dense breasts have a slightly greater risk of breast cancer than women with less dense breasts, new laws and recommendations in many states now require physicians to inform a patient if they have dense breasts.

In fact, the newly recognized The Breast Density Notification Act, sponsored requires mammography facilities in Pennsylvania to notify women of their breast density. Pennsylvania Governor Corbett signed the legislation into law in recognition of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Although the relationship between dense breast tissue and breast cancer is small, it’s one that can only be seen through a medical imaging – such as a mammogram.

Also, dense breast tissue can make mammograms less accurate. Because dense breast tissue shows up as white on a mammogram, it can be more difficult to spot cancer, which looks the same.

Digital Breast Tomosynthesis: More Accurate Images for Women with Dense Breasts

A revolutionary way to perform mammograms combining traditional mammography with 3D technology, called digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT), allows for more accurate pictures of the breasts and is helpful in women with dense breasts.

“DBT is more accurate – even more accurate than digital mammograms – because it uses traditional X-ray technology to capture images of the breast, while moving along a small arc around the breast to record images at different depths and angles,” says Emily Conant, MD, director of women’s imaging at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. “In preliminary research, it has been shown to reduce the number of false-positives and some false-negatives making mammography more accurate.”

Like a traditional mammogram, the breast is compressed for about four to five seconds while a series of low-dose X-rays are taken to capture high-resolution images of the breast. These images are then digitally “stacked” to construct a total 3D image of the breast. This 3D image allows radiologists to scroll through, and “peel apart” the layers of the breast to view the breast tissue at different depths and angles. Radiologists can also magnify images to reveal minute details.

“DBT allows Penn radiologists to manipulate and see parts of the breast that we couldn’t before,” says Dr. Conant. “Therefore, we can reduce some unnecessary imaging and stress for some women.”

Breast images through DBT also allow radiologists to make new recommendations for follow-up screening and tests.

“DBT lets us to see the through some of the density of a breast,” says Dr. Conant. “For all women, and especially those with dense breasts, we can personalize screening to improve our outcomes of breast cancer screening.”

Women who get their mammograms using the new DBT technology may find they are called less often for follow-up visits and more tests.

These new imaging advantages and advances in risk assessment are part of a collaborative effort between radiologists, medical oncologists, and surgeons to try to improve breast cancer detection for women.

Technology continues to evolve, but collaborative research across all disciplines at Penn Medicine means patients who come to Penn for their mammograms benefit from the latest medical breakthroughs.

The DBT technology is still new and Penn researchers are studying ways to decrease its radiation exposure without losing image integrity.

“DBT is just one more step to improving breast care on an individual, personalized basis,” says Dr. Conant. “Combining personal history, genetic testing and new breast images creates a better, overall picture for breast health.”

For more information about breast cancer diagnosis and treatment at Penn Medicine, or to schedule an appointment, please visit PennMedicine.org/cancer/breast-cancer or call 800.789.PENN (7366).

Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center is leading the way in breakthrough cancer treatment. If you or someone you know has been touched by cancer, the power to find the Cure is Within.

Hear our stories and find out more today.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

"I Feel Like I've Beat Cancer." - Carlette, Breast Cancer Survivor

Growing up, cancer was a common topic in Carlette Knox’s household.

One of five daughters, Carlette’s mother was a two-time breast cancer survivor who eventually lost her fight with pancreatic cancer in 2011. Her father died of colon cancer, and many members of her family fought cancer in some form.

Yet when Carlette felt a lump in her breast in fall of 2009 at the young age of 34, she blew it off hoping it would go away on its own.

“At the time, my mother was going through treatment for pancreatic cancer, and I had a lot going on in my life,” she remembers. “Plus, I had already had a mammogram just a few months before, so I didn’t think it could be cancer.”

Six weeks later in December, when the lump hadn’t gone away, Carlette made an appointment for another mammogram that confirmed what she’d known deep down inside – she had breast cancer.

What Carlette didn’t know at the time, however, was that she was BRCA positive. Carlette carried a mutation on the breast cancer gene that made her predisposed to developing breast and ovarian cancer.

“My mother was diagnosed at the age of 35 and she experienced the devastating loss of her mother to this disease while growing up,” says Carlette who underwent BRCA mutation testing in 2010. “I also witnessed two of my aunts lose their battles with cancer. I knew firsthand the impact this disease had on the women in my family; the need to attack this diagnosis head on was evident.”

“I was introduced to the risk assessment program and with the help of a genetic counselor underwent testing to determine my cancer risks,” remembers Carlette. “When I learned I had a genetic mutation, I felt targeted. I don’t know why, I just took that diagnosis very personally – more so than my breast cancer diagnosis.”

However, that knowledge helped Carlette make the decision to have a bilateral mastectomy, complete removal and reconstruction of her breasts, as well as an oophorectomy, removal of her ovaries to reduce her risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Carlette also underwent chemotherapy to treat the breast cancer she had already developed.

“Learning about BRCA put into perspective my risk of breast cancer recurrence and ovarian cancer. My decision to remove the non-impacted breast tissue was supported by clinical trial data as well as my personal experience," she says.

"Seeing the effects of this disease throughout generations of women in my family was not a tradition I was willing to keep. While the procedure to have my ovaries removed itself was minimally invasive, the decision was not without much emotional turmoil on the inside. In my mind, this would change my landscape as a woman at such a young age. Ultimately, after researching the effects of ovarian cancer, I embraced this option as a blessing not a curse."

Today, Carlette is physically and emotionally better than she could have ever imagined.

“I don’t look or feel like any of what I went through. It may sound a bit crazy, but I’m grateful for the journey. My faith is stronger and as a result of this life changing experience I’ve been able to embark upon yet another journey.”

Carlette has become an advocate for women with breast cancer and the BRCA mutation at “Life Worth Living.”

“Life Worth Living is the realization of my passion to raise awareness, empower and support those impacted by cancer and to broadcast the message of hope aspiring them to live,” says Carlette.

“Today, I feel like I have beat cancer. I did everything I could do from a care standpoint, and I want to give as much as I can, because I keep seeing younger women impacted by a breast cancer diagnosis. I want help women find their voice and tap into the hope of overcoming their diagnoses and treatments.”


Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center is leading the way in breakthrough cancer treatment. If you or someone you know has been touched by cancer, the power to find the Cure is Within.
Hear our stories and find out more today.

Friday, December 6, 2013

New York Times article on Universal Screening for BRCA1/2 cites the Basser Research Center’s Jewish Outreach Campaign

Jewish Ashkenazi Outreach Program buttonJewish Ashkenazi Outreach Program buttonJewish Ashkenazi Outreach Program buttonJewish Ashkenazi Outreach Program Jewish Ashkenazi Outreach Program buttonBRCA mutations are much more common in individuals of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, making population screening worth consideration.

New York Times correspondent Roni Caryn Rabin reports on the issues associated with universal screening for BRCA mutations in Israel, noting the Basser Research Center for BRCA’s efforts to raise awareness of BRCA1/2 via a poster campaign in American synagogues.

The Basser Research Center for BRCA at Penn Focuses on BRCA1 and BRCA2

The Basser Research Center for BRCA supports research on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, harmful forms of which are linked to greatly increased risks of developing breast and ovarian cancer. The Center is named in honor of Mindy Gray’s sister, Faith Basser, who died of ovarian cancer at age 44.

The Basser Research Center for BRCA was established with a $25 million gift to the University of Pennsylvania from alumni Mindy and Jon Gray.

Emphasizing outreach, prevention, early detection, treatment and survivorship, the Basser Research Center for BRCA will contribute to all stages of research and clinical care relevant to BRCA-related cancers.

Dr. Susan Domchek, Basser Research Center for BRCA weighs in on BRCA Screening in the New York Times

Susan M. Domchek, MD
The Basser Research Center for BRCA’s Dr. Susan Domchek weighs in on a BRCA question and answer session for the New York Times article on BRCA screening in Israel.

BRCA mutations are more common in individuals of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, and carriers have increased risks for a variety of cancers, mainly breast and ovarian.

The Basser Research Center for BRCA at Penn Focuses on BRCA1 and BRCA2

The Basser Research Center for BRCA supports research on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, harmful forms of which are linked to greatly increased risks of developing breast and ovarian cancer. The Center is named in honor of Mindy Gray’s sister, Faith Basser, who died of ovarian cancer at age 44.

The Basser Research Center for BRCA was established with a $25 million gift to the University of Pennsylvania from alumni Mindy and Jon Gray.

Emphasizing outreach, prevention, early detection, treatment and survivorship, the Basser Research Center for BRCA will contribute to all stages of research and clinical care relevant to BRCA-related cancers.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Cancer-Fighting Recipe: Roasted Pears with Goat Cheese

This can be a meal in itself with a good whole grain bread. The recipe is simple yet elegant. Pears are high in fiber and Vitamin C. There is some evidence also that they may help decrease phlegm production.

Walnuts are high in Omega 3 fatty acids and have some melatonin which may help with sleep.

Though this recipe has cheese, which is very high in saturated fat, it is modest in the amount at only a half an ounce per serving.

Honey might help to aid the growth of healthy gut bacteria. It is still a sugar though, so it should be used sparingly.

Roasted Pears with Goat Cheese

Ingredients
4 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. honey
4 red-skinned pears, washed, halved and cored
4 oz. goat cheese
1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
4 cups salad greens

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Coat a large baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together vinegar, oil and honey.
4. Brush pears with vinegar mixture, then set cut side down in baking dish.
5. Pour remaining mixture over pears.
6. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until tender.
7. On a separate plate, roll goat cheese into a log and then in the chopped walnuts. Cut each log into 8 slices.
8. Increase heat of the oven to broil. Turn pears over. Set slices of goat cheese in the hollow of pears and broil for 5 minutes.
9. Place pear on a plate, drizzle with remaining juice and surround with ½ cup of salad greens, if desired.


Serves 8
Nutrition Per Serving:
186 calories, 4 gm. Protein, 10 gm. Fat (3 gm. Sat. fat), 24 gm. Carbohydrate, 13 mg. chol, 77 gm. Sodium, 6 gm. Fiber

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Join the Abramson Cancer Center on Twitter

The Abramson Cancer Center is now on Twitter!

If you use Twitter, follow the Abramson Cancer Center for conversation, updates about events at the Abramson Cancer Center, and cancer news and prevention information.

Join us on Twitter here.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

What are Types of Breast Cancer Surgery?

Only you and your physician can decide what type of breast surgery is best to treat your cancer.

Breast-conserving surgery removes only the part of the breast affected by cancer and a surrounding margin of normal tissue. How much tissue is removed depends on the size and location of the tumor and other factors. Partial mastectomy, quadrantectomy, and lumpectomy are all types of breast-conserving surgery.

A mastectomy involves removing all of the breast tissue, sometimes along with other nearby tissues. In a simple or total mastectomy, the surgeon removes the entire breast, including the nipple, but does not remove underarm lymph nodes or muscle tissue from beneath the breast.

A radical mastectomy is an extensive operation where the surgeon removes the entire breast, axillary lymph nodes, and the pectoral (chest wall) muscles under the breast. This surgery was once very common, but a modified radical mastectomy has proven to be just as effective without the disfigurement and side effects of a radical mastectomy. Radical mastectomy may still be done for large tumors that are growing into the pectoral muscles under the breast.

Breast reconstruction may be an option at the time of a lumpectomy or mastectomy, or after surgery to treat breast cancer.

Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center is leading the way in breakthrough cancer treatment. If you or someone you know has been touched by cancer, the power to find the Cure is Within.

Hear our stories and find out more today.
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