Patient Care


Breast cancer infographic: How to reduce breast cancer risk

October 1, 2014 | by

 

Breast cancer infographic
Breast cancer facts:

  • About one in eight women in the U.S. will develop invasive breast cancer during her lifetime.
  • Breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, behind skin cancer.
  • An estimated 232,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in U.S. women this year.
  • Two of three breast cancers are found in women 55 or older.
  • Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in women, exceeded only by lung cancer.
  • An estimated 2.8 million breast cancer survivors live in the U.S.
  • Breast cancer survivorship has tripled over the past 60 years.

Risk factors for breast cancer:

  • Gender: A woman is 200 times more likely than a man to develop breast cancer.
  • Age: Risk of developing breast cancer increases as you get older, and half of all breast cancers are diagnosed in women older than 60.
  • Genetics: About 5 to 10 percent of breast cancer cases are thought to be hereditary, meaning that they result directly from gene defects inherited from a parent.
  • Family history: Risk is higher among women whose close blood relatives have this disease. Less than 15 percent of women with breast cancer have a family member with the disease.
  • Weight: Being overweight or obese increases breast cancer risk.
  • Race: Overall, white women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than African-American women, but African-American women are more likely to die of this cancer.

Health tips:

  • Breast density: Having dense breasts makes your chance of developing breast cancer four times higher.
  • Know your family history
  • Nutrition: Eat five or more servings of fruit and vegetables daily, limiting processed and red meats. Choose whole grains.
  • Screening: Remember to get annual mammograms and clinical breast exams beginning at 40.
  • Watch weight: Women who gained 21 to 30 pounds since age 18 were 40 percent more likely to develop breast cancer than those who hadn’t gained more than five pounds.
  • Physical activity: Women who walk briskly for 1.25 to 2.5 hours a week had 18 percent lower risk than women who are inactive.
  • Alcohol: Limit alcohol consumption to no more than one drink a day. Any more than that increases risk by 1.5 times compared to someone who doesn’t drink.

Symptoms:

  • Swelling in all or part of the breast
  • Skin irritation or dimpling
  • Breast or nipple pain
  • Nipple retraction (turning inward)
  • Redness, scaliness or thickening of nipple or breast skin
  • Nipple discharge

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Feel free to reproduce our breast cancer infographic for breast cancer health and education purposes. Download the PDF.

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Learn more about breast cancer treatment and research at City of Hope.

Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion by visiting our website or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). City of Hope staff will explain what’s required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.


For October, here are 31 facts (one a day) about breast cancer

September 30, 2014 | by

Beyond the pink ribbons, special product fundraisers, and the pastel sea of color that marks October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month offers a reason to celebrate and to reflect.

hands in for breast cancer

Breast Cancer Awareness Month celebrates the 2.8 million survivors of breast cancer, and emphasizes the need to continue research to cure the disease.

More than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors live in the U.S. They are survivors of the second most-common cancer in women, behind skin cancer, and survival rates continue to climb due to better treatments and increased screening that finds cancers when they are most treatable.

Another reason credited for the increased survival rates: Awareness. With women more knowledgeable about warning signs, the importance of self-exams, treatment options and second opinions, they are better prepared than ever before to confront a breast cancer diagnosis – something an estimated one in eight women will do in her lifetime.

But breast cancer remains a leading cause of cancer death in women, second only to lung cancer. So, in the spirit of heightening awareness – and screening, we offer one fact about breast cancer for every day in October: » Continue Reading


Meet our doctors: Jasmine Zain on cutaneous T cell lymphoma

September 27, 2014 | by

Cutaneous T cell lymphomas are types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that arise when infection-fighting white blood cells in the lymphatic system – called lymphocytes – become malignant and affect the skin. The result is rashes and, sometimes, tumors, which can be mistaken for other dermatological conditions. In a small number of people, the disease may progress to the lymph nodes or internal organs, causing serious complications.

Jasmine.Zain.160x190

Jasmine Zain leads a team of specialists who have extensive expertise in handling the most complicated cutaneous T cell lymphoma cases.

Here Jasmine Zain, M.D., associate clinical professor and director of City of Hope’s T Cell Lymphoma Program, discusses how in recent years, greater research efforts, advanced treatment options and more collaboration among physicians have contributed to better care and outcomes for patients, and helped many to return to a normal life.

What is cutaneous T cell lymphoma (CTCL) and what are the symptoms?

CTCL is a rare form of lymphoma that arises primarily in the skin. It is not to be confused with the more common forms of skin cancer that include melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Lymphomas are cancers of the lymphoid system and usually arise in lymph nodes. However, with skin being the largest lymphoid organ in the body and our first line of defense against the outside environment, occasionally it becomes the site of lymphoma formation. » Continue Reading


Rise in skirt size linked to rise in breast cancer risk. Here’s why

September 26, 2014 | by

Weighing your breast cancer risk? One study suggests a measure to consider is skirt size.

A British study suggests that for each increase in skirt size every 10 years after age 25, the five-year risk of developing breast cancer postmenopause increases from one in 61 to one in 51 – a 77 percent increase in risk.

women trying on skirt

New British study suggest increasing skirt size is an indicator of increase breast cancer risk.

The new study, published online in BMJ Open, was based on information from 93,000 women in a British database for cancer screening between 2005 and 2010. All were 50 years old or older, and their average skirt size was a 10. Three out of four women reported gaining sizes. The average size for these women at age 25 was 8, and when they entered the study, the average size was 10.

The study was conducted by researchers at the Gynecological Cancer Research Center at University College London.

Even when considering other risk factors – such as hormone replacement and family history – increased skirt size emerged as the strongest predictor. The skirt size served as a measure of abdominal weight gain. While scientists haven’t pinned down the exact mechanism linking abdominal fat to breast cancer risk, it is known that obesity increases the amount of estrogen in the body. Many breast cancers rely on this hormone to grow. » Continue Reading


Breast cancer survivor Becky Stokes: Shaving head is empowering, brave

September 25, 2014 | by

Runners prize medals for 5Ks and marathons. Becky Stokes has a medal she cherishes from a very different kind of race: the marathon of treatments necessary to beat her aggressive triple-negative breast cancer.

Becky Stokes

Becky Stokes celebrates the completion of her chemotherapy and radiation treatments for breast cancer. Now she has advice for other newly diagnosed women: Shave your head early.

Just a week ago, she completed her last radiation treatment, and danced in the hospital with the staff. (You can see for yourself on this video taken by her son.) As is a City of Hope tradition, at the conclusion of her therapy she received a medal and a certificate, tokens she cherishes.

This week, People Magazine‘s cover page will feature former Good Morning America host Joan Lunden, recently diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, smiling proudly, her head shaved, as she vows to beat her cancer. Lunden opted to shave her head rather than waiting for it to fall out, describing that wait as “excruciating.”

Becky said she agrees with that advice, and shared her thoughts on the provocative cover. She wrote: » Continue Reading


Advice from Rob: What NOT to do when you’re depressed, with cancer

September 24, 2014 | by
cancer survivor Rob Darakjian

Rob Darakjian, a former leukemia patient, shares tips on how to overcome anxiety and depression while being treated for cancer.

Rob Darakjian was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at just 19 years old. He began chemotherapy and was in and out of the hospital for four months. After his fourth round of treatment, he received a bone marrow transplantation from an anonymous donor. Today, he’s cancer free.

Darakjian’s story has a happy ending, but getting there was a tremendous struggle. He suffered from severe depression and anxiety, which prevented him from enjoying any type of activity or experiencing any type of pleasure. Cancer made him feel hopeless, and he found it hard to get out of bed, often spending his days and nights in his room, crying.

His experience isn’t unusual. One in four people with cancer suffer from clinical depression, but for adolescents and young adults with cancer, the isolation can feel especially overwhelming. 

With support from his family and medical professionals, Darakjian was able to overcome his battle with depression and anxiety. He’s now a college student at the University of San Francisco studying philosophy and political science. Here, in the first of a series, he shares his secrets on surviving anxiety and depression while fighting cancer.

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What cancer patients should NOT to do when they’re depressed:

» Continue Reading


Cancer insights: Active surveillance is not avoiding the issue

September 22, 2014 | by

Jonathan Yamzon, M.D., assistant clinical professor of surgery in the Division of Urology and Urologic Oncology, explains his approach to what’s known as “active surveillance” of men with prostate cancer. Patients need to be educated about their treatment options, he writes.

Active surveillance eligibility

Prostate cancer expert Jonathan Yamzon

Men with prostate cancer need to understand their options, says Jonathan Yamzon, a prostate cancer expert at City of Hope. Immediate treatment isn’t always warranted.

Active surveillance is an option offered to patients with “low-risk” prostate cancer. It entails forgoing any immediate treatment, and instead monitoring a patient’s cancer to ensure it shows no signs of worsening. If there are any signs of disease progression, the option for curative treatment can still be offered. Active surveillance attempts to avoid unnecessary treatments for patients with prostate cancers that may not become clinically significant or impactful to a man’s life.

Such treatments have potential risks for side effects. Those considered low-risk have a prostate specific antigen (PSA) value of less than 10, a biopsy Gleason of six or less, and a rectal exam that reveals nothing beyond a small nodule confined to one side of the prostate. When one of my patients embarks on active surveillance, I repeat the PSA, rectal exam and biopsy to ensure that their tumor is in fact truly low-risk. The success of this strategy is predicated on recurring follow-ups and reassessment to detect worsening changes of the tumor grade, volume or stage. It is important to understand that if there are signs of cancer progression, we can still offer treatment with curative intent.

Currently, our ability to stratify who is low-risk is based on clinical parameters of the PSA, Gleason score and clinical stage, which is detected by a rectal exam. Newer biomarkers are being studied to improve risk stratification, including the use of novel markers in serum, urine, biopsy tissue and radiographic test like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

» Continue Reading


Prostate cancer drug therapy: ‘Don’t be afraid of it,’ expert says

September 18, 2014 | by

For most prostate cancer patients, surgery or radiation therapy is the initial and primary treatment against the disease. But some patients can benefit from chemotherapy and hormone therapy too, especially if there are signs of a relapse or if the cancer has spread beyond the prostate gland.

There are numerous drug treatments available to treat prostate cancer, even diseases that have relapsed or metastasized.

There are numerous drug treatments available to treat prostate cancer, even diseases that have relapsed or metastasized, says Cy Stein.

Here, Cy Stein, M.D., Ph.D., City of Hope’s Arthur & Rosalie Kaplan Chair in Medical Oncology, explains the role of drug therapy in treating prostate cancer, as well as recent and upcoming drug breakthroughs against the disease.

When is hormone therapy and/or chemotherapy an appropriate treatment for prostate cancer?

In many ways, when to start hormone and drug therapies for a prostate cancer patient is an art. That is because clinicians have to account for numerous factors, including the patient’s age and health, the cancer stage and biology and the disease response to other therapies. For example, hormone therapy may be considered if a patient relapses following surgery and radiation therapy. Meanwhile, chemotherapy may be prescribed for a cancer that has metastasized to other organs or one that does not respond to other treatments.

Additionally, hormone therapy and chemotherapy protocols for prostate cancer are constantly evolving with new research findings. For example, a recent major study showed that combining hormone therapy with chemotherapy early on is significantly more effective against prostate cancer than hormone therapy alone, thus changing clinical guidelines and standards of care.

In short, both hormone and drug therapies can become an integral part of prostate cancer treatment by preventing relapse, slowing its growth and even driving it back into remission. But these treatments also require meticulous planning by medical oncologists in collaboration with others in the patient’s care team and in alignment with the latest evidence.

What are some recent drug breakthroughs against prostate cancer? » Continue Reading


Choosing health insurance? A physician shares these 5 tips

September 15, 2014 | by

While health care reform has led to an increase in the number of people signing up for health insurance, many people remain uninsured or are not taking full advantage of the health benefits they now have. Still others are finding that, although their premiums are affordable, they aren’t able to see the doctors they want.

Health insurance form

Joseph Alvarnas says insurance should do more than fit a price point. Access to doctors and best care matter, especially for cancer patients.

Just because health care is more accessible than before, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s less confusing, says Joseph Alvarnas, M.D., director of Medical Quality and Quality, Risk and Regulatory Management at City of Hope.

“You have to realize we’re in un-navigated waters,” Alvarnas said. “We’re here to serve not only as health care providers, but educators. We need to empower people to be active participants in their care.”

» Continue Reading


5 things you should know about thyroid cancer

September 11, 2014 | by

Thyroid cancer has become one of the fastest-growing cancers in the United States for both men and women. The chance of being diagnosed with the cancer has nearly doubled since 1990.

Patient's thyroid being scanned.

An increased use of diagnostic imaging tools such as ultrasounds and CT scans has led to improved detection of thyroid cancer, making it one of the fastest growing cancers in the United States.

This year an estimated 63,000 people will be diagnosed with thyroid cancer in the United States and nearly 1,900 people will die from it. These numbers may sound alarming, but thyroid cancer is still relatively rare compared to other cancers. Even better, it’s highly treatable at all stages.

Here, Robert Kang, M.D., assistant clinical professor in City of Hope’s Division of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery, presents a fuller picture of thyroid cancer and explains what you should know about the disease.

1. Thyroid cancer is one of the most treatable cancers. 

“Thyroid cancer is treatable at all stages,” said Kang. “Five-year survival outcomes for well-differentiated thyroid cancers approach 100 percent for both Stages 1 and 2. Stage 3 papillary thyroid cancers have demonstrated a five-year survival rate of 93 percent.”

Medullary thyroid cancer has a worse prognosis, and anaplastic thyroid cancer is rare, but is considered Stage 4, reflecting the poor prognosis associated with it.”

» Continue Reading