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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Recycling Medical Equipment

By Heather Millar

wheelchairs

A couple days ago, I went over to deliver food to our neighbor who has metastatic lung cancer. I love how much he still enjoys food and how feisty he remains. As I stood in his bedroom, cluttered with paintings and books and antiques, he pointed out the new hospital bed that his HMO had sent over.

“See that horrible thing?” he joked. “That’s my ‘check-out’ bed. Isn’t it awful? I tried to use it, but it’s terrible. We even brought up a camp bed mattress from the basement to see if we could make it more comfortable. But it’s STILL awful!”

As I walked back across the street, I thought about that bed. I am pretty sure that it will sit in the corner of his bedroom, unused, until the end. And then what? What will happen to the bed? Will it go back to the HMO? Will it end up in a landfill? Will it go down to the basement with the forlorn camp bed?

This is no trivial matter. I’ve written before about ways that health care providers are trying to recycle medical supplies, but what about all the equipment that ends up in our homes?

I remember when my father died of cancer nearly 2 decades ago, we suddenly had a boat load of medical equipment for which we no longer had a use: wheelchairs, walkers, shower benches, hospital tables. We gave some of it away, but honestly, we just wanted to get it out of the house so that my mother wouldn’t be upset by it. I’m sure we weren’t very organized about it.

Today, as my ill and demented mother lies in her bed receiving hospice care, we again have some medical orphans around the house. Some of them were really expensive: a $6,000 motorized wheelchair that she was only able to use for about a week, and a “Hoyer lift,” a giant piece of equipment that can be used to transfer an invalid patient from bed to wheelchair and back, which again, she’s no longer well enough to use.

I’m guessing that we have $10,000 to $20,000 worth of medical equipment around the house, and no idea what to do with it. Personally, I think we should have a big warehouse in each town, like a library, where patients can borrow home medical equipment and then return it when it’s no longer needed.

We haven’t gotten that organized as a society, but a bit of research reveals that patients now have many options for acquiring home medical equipment at a discount or for free, and also options for disposing of it.

  • For instance, one Wisconsin website lists all kinds of devices by zip code, for sale throughout the country.
  • Medical Equipment Forward, which calls itself a “Craigslist” for medical equipment, lists devices for sale by region or city.
  • Goodwill Industries and Easter Seals, the national charities, accept donations of used medical equipment, even beds, then refurbish them and sell them at big discounts. There doesn’t seem to be a national directory. But if you Google “used home medical equipment,” Goodwill or Easter Seals, and the name of your town or region, you will likely pull up the information you need.
  • In addition to Goodwill and Easter Seals, there seem to be hundreds of local non-profits dedicated to recycling and redistributing used medical equipment. Again, just Google your location and “used medical equipment” or “recycled medical equipment.” You can also find a partial, state-by-state listing here.

Have you found other resources for recycling and reusing medical equipment? Let us know here!

Posted by: Heather Millar at 2:19 pm

Friday, April 11, 2014

When Is It Time to Change Doctors?

By Richard C. Frank, MD

 doctor patient

 

It is a call that doctors receive from time to time – and it usually takes the doctor by surprise. It can cause a flood of emotions, including shock, hurt, anger, introspection, and denial. The dreaded call I am referring to is when a patient requests a change of doctor.  The change may be to another doctor in the same office or hospital, or to another facility altogether.

There are, of course, many valid reasons to change doctors. One article from U.S. News & World Report lists nine of them, some of which are below:

  • Your personalities don’t mesh.
  • The doctor doesn’t respect your time.
  • They keep you in the dark.
  • They are rude or don’t listen to you or answer your questions.
  • You question their decision making or competence.

By virtue of the nature of cancer, its often life-threatening implications, and the intense emotional toll it exacts, the relationship between cancer patient and oncologist is intense. The patient may look to their oncologist as their lifeline, and the doctor wants to do all she can to make the patient better. When the relationship works, both may get satisfaction from the mutual caring that occurs over time. When the relationship does not work well, there can be friction.

A patient of mine for the past 5 years recently requested a change of oncologist, and this threw me for a loop. I had seen her through her initial cancer treatment and then again, years later, when she developed an isolated brain metastasis. Both experiences were emotionally trying for her, but she remained physically well. Being the sole caregiver to her ill husband at home also challenged her. When the cancer in her brain started to increase in size 2 years later, she was devastated and unsure which way to turn. She came in to discuss the possibility of brain surgery with me, and we talked about the various options and how to choose the best one.  A few days later my office got the call: She wanted to change doctors.

This patient and I had a wonderful relationship lasting many years. I had served her well medically. I was shocked and did not understand. So I called her and asked if she would talk about it. She said that she would come in for one final office visit to discuss it.  She did come in and explained that at our last office visit I seemed hurried and did not give her the time she needed, this during her time of greatest need. I had always been there for her but let her down this time. So she felt I was not interested in her case.

I apologized profusely. Regardless of whether or not my recollection of that visit was the same as hers, I felt badly that I let her down. All I could say was that in any relationship, there are bound to be times when two individuals do not see eye to eye. Assumptions are made; we want things to go a certain way. Sometimes things go as you’d hoped, and sometimes they don’t. If a relationship, on the whole, has been a good one, then a bad interaction once in a while may not merit breaking it off. This goes for relationships with our friends, loved ones, and health care providers. I said I would fully support her if she wished to have someone else take over her care.

This lovely woman, battling life and death, broke down, cried, and hugged me. She said that she loved me as a doctor and did not want to leave me. She was so glad I talked to her about it, and she accepted that I may have been having a bad day that time. I assured her that I would try to never let it happen again. She also pledged to tell me if it did.

Needless to say, the injured patient-physician relationship is not always reparable. Every physician has experienced the loss of patients who prefer someone else. In defense of doctors, no one can please everyone all the time. On the other hand, if you cannot express your feelings to your doctor, if you feel that she is insensitive, or if you do not trust or feel comfortable with them, then a change of physicians may be for the best.

Posted by: Richard C. Frank, MD at 1:42 pm

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Do You Think About It Every Day?

By Heather Millar

woman on dock

I know a fellow writer and breast cancer survivor who recently posted about her “cancer-versary,” her anniversary of diagnosis, on Facebook recently. One of the things she noted is that, three years post-diagnosis and two years post-treatment, she’s come to a point that she doesn’t think about cancer every day.

I was diagnosed the year before she was. I’m not there yet.

I do think about cancer every day. I don’t brood upon it. I’m not super depressed about it. I’m not paralyzed by fear. I think the science of cancer is fascinating. Obviously, as a reporter, I interview people about cancer all the time. I accept my cancer. What choice do I have? But I think about it. Every day. Without fail.

Sometimes it’s in the shower. The left breast that’s been reduced by lumpectomy is full of scar tissue and still kind of sore if you touch it the wrong way.

Sometimes it’s when I kiss my husband. We have a good marriage; we are soul mates. But there is no way around the fact that the drugs I take tamp down my romantic urges. A lot. He’s very patient, but still. So, I think about it.

Or it might be when I realize that a party dress that used to look great on me no longer fits. Is the extra weight the result of cancer or of the premature menopause caused by the drugs I take to prevent a recurrence? I don’t know. But it makes me think about it.

And sometimes, it’s when I look at my 13-year-old daughter and think about how she’s so beautiful and growing up so quickly. I don’t mean to be really melodramatic, but I am very aware that there are no guarantees in life, and especially not in cancer. So will I be there to see her get married? Will I get to spoil my grandkids and be the crazy old lady who wears purple and skis and rides motorcycles and bakes too many cakes? I hope so. But when I think about those future dreams, I always think about cancer. Always.

I don’t expect that there will ever be a day for the rest my life that I don’t think about cancer. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or bad thing. It just is. It is my new normal.

I wonder if people who suffer other harrowing life events—divorce, bankruptcy, the death of a child, other illnesses like heart attacks, car accidents—feel the same quiet presence of their personal disaster each day. I suspect that most of them do, whether they talk about it or not. What do you think?

Posted by: Heather Millar at 12:12 pm

Thursday, March 27, 2014

How to Navigate the Challenges in the Cancer Care System

By Heather Millar

waiting in a hospital

Cancer treatment is not always perfect. Although that is probably the last thing that a cancer patient wants to hear, it’s an unfortunate reality. The good news is that the flaws in the system are being acknowledged and discussed. Last fall, I wrote about an Institute on Medicine report that called cancer treatment in the United States a “system in crisis” and recommended improvements. Experts continue to debate what to do. Just this month, the National Coalition on Cancer Survivorship sponsored another meeting to discuss next steps.

Some of the issues discussed have to do with how we pay for cancer care. Those issues might not be such a shock to cancer patients or to anyone else – we know that the financial burden of cancer is a problem. But there are other issues with cancer treatment that are perhaps less obvious and could have a direct effect on the quality of a patient’s treatment.

Here are three of the big challenges cancer patients and their oncologists face, and my suggestions for how we patients might deal with them:

1. The number of cancer patients and survivors is growing faster than the number of cancer doctors.

In the United States, the annual number of new cancer cases is expected to nearly double by 2030, and worldwide, the numbers will be similar. Yet in most places, we’re not doubling the number of cancer doctors we train. What does this mean for patients?

  • We shouldn’t be surprised if our doctors are rushed, or if they’re behind on their appointment schedules. We should understand that our doctors are practically buried under an avalanche of patients.

  • We should get right to the point in our appointments. We should bring a list of questions and concerns so that we don’t forget anything and we don’t waste time.

  • Once our oncology team has set up a treatment plan, we shouldn’t be surprised if a nurse practitioner manages our day-to-day issues like mouth sores and muscle pain. Save the doctor for big emergencies.

2. The science of cancer is moving so fast that it’s difficult to keep up.

Last week, I interviewed a doctor who said that not long ago, 50,000 academic papers on cancer were published each year. Now, it’s about 100,000. There used to be just a few dozen cancer drugs. Now, there are at least 500 in development. Not even the most brilliant genius can keep up with it all.

  • While it’s important to have faith in your oncologist, at the same time, remember that he/she can’t know everything.

  • Please be wary of any person or organization that promises an easy, or simple, or overlooked, cure for cancer. Cancer’s just too complicated. Anyone who really knows about cancer will admit that. It’s very, very unlikely that a vitamin (C, D or whatever), or avoiding a food (like protein) will cure your cancer.

3. As cancer science gets complex, so does cancer care.

Most cancer patients now rely on a huge medical team to get them through treatment. Experts are hotly debating how this complicated care should be coordinated, and in many places, it’s still a work in progress.

  • It’s comforting to assume that your doctors are infallible, but remember that they’re juggling hundreds or thousands of complicated cases like yours. Don’t assume that the right hand always knows what the left hand is doing. If you think something has been overlooked, don’t be afraid to speak up.

  • When you go to appointments, always bring a friend or relative with you to take notes. That way, you can review the notes later to make sure you understand what was said. If you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask.

  • Start a cancer binder. Put in sections for appointments, chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, medications, side effects, test results, questions and/or concerns. When a medical professional tells you a test result, ask for a copy. Bring the binder to all your appointments. Many medical centers are introducing electronic records that make a patient’s whole chart available with one click. But not everyone gets all their care in one place, and not every hospital has e-records. With a binder, you’ll always have a full medical history with you. Believe me, if a question comes up, you’ll be glad you have the binder.

Do you have more suggestions? Share them here!

Posted by: Heather Millar at 3:10 pm

Thursday, March 20, 2014

To Share or Not to Share?

By Heather Millar

woman on computer

Yesterday, I decided to catch up on various cancer patient news boards. I’ve come a long way in dealing with the fear that comes with cancer, but wow, reading the scary stories out there can really freak you out.

So, considering the freak-out power our horror stories have, should you share your horror stories? Or should you keep them to yourself?

I vote for sharing. No surprise there. I write a blog, right?

Even if you’re not a super-extrovert like me—and most people aren’t—remember that your stories have value. Someone may learn from your experience. Another may disagree with how you handled your situation. One person may be inspired. Or, someone may be upset by your story, but remind people that it’s just that: It’s your story, not their story, not a prediction, not advice.

One woman on the message board I was reading shared a breast reconstruction nightmare, and then posted a sensitive notice to this effect, and I paraphrase:

“Sorry if I freaked out anyone with my story. I know that some women on this list are just beginning their cancer journey. It’s important to remember that we all have our own path. We all have our different priorities. Just because something happened to me doesn’t mean it will happen to you.”

The biggest value in your cancer patient story, I think, is that it reminds others that they are not alone. Whether we’re just diagnosed, slogging through chemo, struggling with long-term side effects or coping with a recurrence or metastatic disease, we all need to remember that we’re part of a huge cancer patient community. Sharing our stories builds that community.

So share your story here!

Posted by: Heather Millar at 1:28 pm

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sometimes All You Can Do Is Laugh

By Heather Millar

women laughing

Last weekend, my daughter had a sleepover with 12 friends to celebrate her 13th birthday. As my husband and I took refuge before a fire in the living room, we could hear girly chatter from the dining room where the girls were chowing down on pizza. All of a sudden, one loud comment from one of the girls grabbed our attention: “And THEN, my Mom was walking around with a fake boob on her head. It was SO embarrassing.” The girls all giggled.

The comment came from the daughter of a dear friend who is a breast cancer survivor. She’s been disease-free for more than 10 years. That, frankly, is nothing short of a miracle. Her cancer was very aggressive, and nearly stage 4. At the time, her doctors gave her only a small chance of surviving. And yet, here she is, working and thriving a decade later. In fact, she and her partner came over later that very evening to enjoy the fire and to help us survive the sleepover.

I told her about her daughter’s comment, and she laughed. After all the horror of cancer treatment, she had opted not to do breast reconstruction. She uses a prosthesis on the side where she had her mastectomy. But, she explained, insurance only pays for one prosthetic breast, and only once every two years. They’re fiendishly expensive, so she makes do with one fake boob.

Unfortunately, the boob goes missing quite a bit, she said, as we broke into giggles. Sometimes, it gets lost in the laundry. Sometimes, it falls under the bed. Sometimes, she’s racing to get out of the house and she forgets to put it in her bra. On those days, she says, socks and tissues have to fill in.

And yes, she said, sometimes she goofs around and wears the fake boob on her head. By this time, we were heaving with laughter.

You might think it’s ghoulish to laugh about something like this. Cutting off women’s breasts is a serious, serious thing. But sometimes, I think, it’s healthy to laugh in the face of tragedy. If we didn’t laugh about her fake boob, we’d cry about her suffering, about the suffering of every person who gets cancer and has to have body parts lopped off.

Sometimes, you’ve got to cry, but laughing is so much more fun. Sometimes, all you can do is laugh.

Posted by: Heather Millar at 11:36 am

Thursday, March 6, 2014

What to Do with Unused Prescription Medication?

By Heather Millar

pill bottle

I reorganized my bathroom drawer today. The main reason I did it was to postpone making a couple unpleasant phone calls. But way in the back of the drawer, I found a time capsule of my cancer treatment, now three years in the past–a clutch of half-empty bottles: steroids that helped me through chemo, pills for nerve pain, pills for muscle pain, pills for digestive distress.

What to do with these cancer leftovers? Ideally, I’d like some other patient to make use of them. At the very least, I’d like to dispose of them in a way that’s responsible. Flushing old drugs down the toilet or tossing them in the trash is NOT a good idea, the drugs eventually seep into the water supply as outlined in this WebMD feature. No one’s sure how dangerous these trace amounts of prescription medicines may be—the research has yet to be done—but most public utility districts have programs for safe prescription drug disposal.

But I didn’t want to throw out my old drugs, I wanted them to help someone else. I live in San Francisco, perhaps the epicenter of the “reduce, reuse, recycle” revolution. Recycling seemed so much cooler than just being safe.

But recycling drugs, it turns out, is much easier said than done. If you Google, “drug recycling” and the name of your state, the first results will probably be for drug disposal, not drug recycling. Apparently, it is a bit easier to donate drugs in some countries overseas.

Of course, I’m not the first person to have these thoughts. At least 38 states and the territory of Guam have passed laws seeking to establish prescription drug recycling, repositories or redistribution. You can find a state-by-state list of what’s been enacted, here, at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) website. At least five states—Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Nebraska, and Wisconsin—have approved programs designed to collect and redistribute cancer-related prescription drugs.

There have been a few notable successes. Beginning in 2007, for instance, an Iowa non-profit has collected $5.8 million worth of medicines and distributed them to 26,800 needy patients. Several states have had success redistributing medicines within a single institution, such as a long-term care facility.

In most places, though, the worthy idea of redistributing drugs runs into significant hurdles. Many states have passed laws, but the programs haven’t yet been established. The questions are many: Who’s going to pay for this? Drug companies? The taxpayers? The insurers? What kinds of drugs will be accepted? How can we make sure the donated drugs are safe? Who will have the ability to donate?

In the NCSL report on this issue, the authors provided these general guidelines:

  • Many states require that prescription bottles be unopened, or that the drugs be packaged by dose, usually in sealed blister packs.
  • Old drugs, past their expiration date, are never accepted.
  • In many states, only a professionally designated person, such as a doctor or a pharmacist, may donate drugs.
  • Compensation for donated drugs is usually prohibited.
  • Check with your local pharmacy or with your doctor to see what might work in your state or your situation.
  • If you just want to dispose of your drugs safely, check with your local disposal company for the correct procedure.

Given all this, I guess my only option is to dispose of my drugs safely. Alas, all the bottles have been opened. All the pills have past their expiration date. My local trash company lists about a dozen pharmacies that will take my old drugs and get rid of them safely. It doesn’t feel as good as recycling would have, but it’s better than nothing.

Have you been able to recycle unused medications for yourself or a family member? Let us know your experience here.

Posted by: Heather Millar at 9:45 am

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Clinical Trials: Not Just a Last Resort

By Heather Millar

research

I’ve written before about how important I think it is for patients to get involved in research. We won’t get better treatments for cancer without information. Where do medical researchers get information? From patients. Yet currently, only 3 percent to 4 percent of cancer patients participate in clinical trials, the major way that new treatments get refined, approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and then covered by insurance companies.

Partly, this low rate of patient participation may be traced to the fact that not everyone has easy access to a big hospital. Approximately 80 percent of cancer patients get treated in a community setting—a clinic or a community hospital—not a sprawling, academic research hospital. But I also think it’s because many patients think that looking for clinical trials means that everything that can be tried has been tried. Too many of us still think that participating in a clinical trial is really a “Hail Mary” pass toward the end of the game.

While this is sometimes true, it is far from always true. When I was in active treatment, I participated in six different clinical trials: about “chemo brain,” new scanning techniques for possible metastasis, a surgical trial, a trial that helped me to keep my hair during chemo, a trial trying to quantify side effects of cancer treatment, and a trial about group gynecology information sessions for breast cancer patients. I didn’t participate in research because I thought there was no hope, but because I think research is the main way cancer patients of the future are going to access hope.

I’ve been doing a lot of research lately about cutting edge cancer treatments. A lot of these advances are probably going to be based on “genomics,” the study of an entire genetic code, rather than of genes one at a time. I was gobsmacked when I was newly diagnosed and learned that cancer has its own crazy DNA genetic code, different and separate from my own DNA. Cancer really does become a foreign invader.

Literally thousands of researchers around the world are working to figure out cancer genomes, and new treatments based on this knowledge. What they need to do this is data, lots and lots of data. Where are they going to get this data? From patients! From you. From me.

Advances in technology now mean that you don’t have to be a patient at a big university hospital like I was to participate in this research. I wrote recently about Cancer Commons, a website that seeks to bring together the everyday experience of doctors and patients in a way that might be scientifically useful. This is just the tip of the iceberg though.

For instance, A new-ish company called CollabRX is seeking to find and analyze information on new genomic therapies, trials and diagnostics. The company has medical experts who will vet this information and then help to connect patients with treatments and trials that might be appropriate.   They’re just getting started, so right now it only offers its Web-based application to patients with melanoma, colorectal cancer and lung cancer. But there will be more soon, I’m sure.

You can also find clinical trials at the National Cancer Institute website, the American Cancer Society Clinical Trials Matching Service, and the American Association for Cancer Research. Individual research centers and organizations targeted at specific kinds of cancer also often offer trial matching services.

Check it out. A trial may not only help you, it may help all cancer patients. Let us know your experience here.

Posted by: Heather Millar at 10:00 am

Friday, February 21, 2014

Smoking after Cancer: Does It Even Matter?

By Richard C. Frank, MD

cigarette

I recently met a new patient, referred to me because of a recent diagnosis of lung cancer. He was just over 70 years old and had been in very good physical condition despite having been a smoker for 50 years. He was intelligent and articulate and admitted he knew the habit was going to “catch up” to him but he decided to continue anyway.  We discussed all aspects of his cancer including its causes, stage, treatment options and prognosis. Then he asked a question that many people in his situation ask: “Do I need to stop smoking? What’s the difference anyway?”

The answer is a big YES and there are many reasons why.

First, lets review some basic facts about tobacco use and cancer.  Tobacco is linked to over 10 different types of cancer, especially lung, head and neck, bladder, esophagus and pancreatic cancers. Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals and over 60 carcinogens. Years of smoking leads to DNA damage that results in cancer.  It is well known that discontinuing tobacco use leads to major reductions in the risk of cancer. But it is not widely known that discontinuing tobacco and smoking improves outcomes in those diagnosed with cancer.

Here are some facts to consider if you are a smoker and have been diagnosed with cancer:

  • In patients who underwent surgery to remove all evidence of lung cancer, smoking cessation improves 5-year survivals by over 35%.
  • Continued smoking after surgery results in a greater chance of developing another smoking related cancer.
  • In patients with advanced (stage IV) lung cancer, continued tobacco use results in decreased effectiveness of cancer treatments and more side effects from those treatments.
  • Continued smoking after a diagnosis of lung cancer is associated with a decrease in quality of life (overall sense of well-being) and decreased survival.

There are many methods to help current smokers stop smoking. Many hospitals offer cessation programs. If yours does not, then there is a national quit line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.  The first step, however, is a desire to stop and an understanding of why it is important to do so, even after a diagnosis of cancer.

Posted by: Richard C. Frank, MD at 11:10 am

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Making Sense of the Latest News on Mammograms

By Heather Millar

support

Last week, yet another study found that mammograms may not be the be-all, end-all weapon in the fight against breast cancer. In a long-running Canadian study of 90,000 women, researchers found that, over the course of 25 years, death rates from cancer were about the same for women who had regular mammograms, for those who have not.

If you’re a woman approaching 40, or past 40, you’re probably groaning at this point. All you want to know is: Should I get a mammogram? If so, how often?

But the more research is done, the more confusing the answer seems to get. In the last couple years, I’ve written about this a lot, here, here, and here. And fellow women, I feel your pain. It IS confusing and murky. (It’s also confusing for guys who are trying to decide whether to be screened for prostate cancer, or for smokers trying to decide whether to get early lung cancer scans.)

Here are some things you should consider when a new study comes out and leaves you scratching your head.

  • When new evidence comes to light, even critics of population-wide screening aren’t usually saying that cancer screens are useless garbage. They’re saying that screening doesn’t necessarily save everyone. That’s an important distinction.
  • Cancer screens have very real downsides for a significant number of people. Why? Because some people get “over-treated,” that is, they undergo surgery or chemo or radiation for a cancer that probably wasn’t going to progress, or that would have been perfectly treatable if it had been found later. For breast cancer, that number hovers around 25 percent. If you’re that one-in-four patient, finding your cancer early may not make that much difference because your cancer is probably going to respond to the treatments we have.
  • Cancer is not one disease. It is many, many diseases. Scientists have recently found four subtypes of breast cancer, and it appears that the subtypes have subtypes. Some of these subtypes progress slowly, and respond to treatment. Others act like vicious, psychopathic killers, and don’t respond to treatment. Finding one of these super aggressive cancers early isn’t going to make much of a difference.
  • Most breast cancer docs will tell you that we’ve made tremendous strides in finding and treating early stage cancers. But we still come up short when it comes to the aggressive, and the late stage cancers. Mammograms aren’t going to help with these cancers – better treatments will, and we just don’t have that many options yet.
  • Mammograms do have real benefits, and all agree that they do save some lives. These are the questions that confuse everyone: How many lives do mammograms actually save? How many cancers found by mammogram would have been curable if they had been found later, by a manual breast exam? In the study released last week, for instance, the researchers found that mammograms did increase survival times, but they did not change the number of women who eventually died from breast cancer. The thing is, these women who died may have had an aggressive kind of cancer that was going to kill them no matter what. But that doesn’t mean mammograms didn’t help many women who had treatable cancers.

Great, you say, but what does all this science mumbo-jumbo mean to me?

Here are my suggestions:

  • Talk to your doctor about what’s right for you in terms of timing and frequency of mammograms. At the very least, follow the US Preventive Task Force recommendations and get regular mammograms after you turn 50. But your doctor may recommend that you follow the American Cancer Society recommendations and get screened starting at age 40. Start getting clinical breast exams, as the ACS recommends, in your 20s and 30s.
  • If, God forbid, you get diagnosed with cancer, make sure to press your doctors to find out as much as they can about the type of breast cancer you have. Early diagnosis may help save your life, but detailed information about your tumor may help even more.

Do you think a mammogram saved your life? Let us know here.

Posted by: Heather Millar at 3:17 pm

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