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Breast Cancer is on the Rise in Women in their 40s

Regular mammograms to screen for breast cancer should start younger, at age 40, according to an influential U.S. Task Force. Women ages 40 to 74 should get screened every other year, the group said.

The Task Force now recommends that all women get screened every other year starting at age 40.

While the Task Force consistently recognized the value of mammography, the latest science makes it clear that we can save even more lives from breast cancer. Previously, they recommended that women in their 40s make an individual decision with their clinician on when they should start screening, taking into account their health history, preferences, and how they value the different potential benefits and harms.

The Task Force now recommends that all women start getting screened for breast cancer every other year starting at age 40. Basically, it’s a shift from recommending women start screening between the ages of 40 and 50 to recommending that all women start getting screened when they turn 40.

Black women are 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than White women and too often get aggressive cancers at young ages. Ensuring Black women start screening at 40 is an important first step, yet it is not enough to improve these inequities. It’s important that patients receive equitable and appropriate follow-up after screening and effective treatment of breast cancer. The Task Force is urgently calling for more evidence to better understand whether Black women could potentially be helped by different screening strategies.

Nearly half of all women have dense breasts, which increases their risk for breast cancer and means that mammograms may not work as well for them. Women are generally told that they have dense breasts after they’ve had a mammogram. It is important to note that all women, including those with dense breasts, should be screened starting at age 40. While the Task Force has called for more research, these women should talk to their clinicians about their options for follow-up testing so that they can get the care that’s right for them.

Breast Cancer Gene Test May Lead to Worse Care for Black Patients

Breast Cancer Gene Test May Lead to Worse Care for Black PatientsJan. 31, 2024 (HealthDay News) — A common genetic test to determine treatment options for breast cancer could be leading some Black patients to forego chemotherapy that might have helped them, a new study says.

The test appears to underestimate the benefit of chemotherapy in some Black women because it doesn’t take into account race-based differences in treatment response, the researchers explained.

Key Takeaways

  1. Black women with breast cancer may not be getting needed chemo because a common genetic test is misleading their doctors
  2. The test determines whether a woman should get chemo on top of hormone-blocking therapy
  3. Because Black women respond less well to hormone blockers, the test could be underestimating the importance of chemo in their treatment

Read the Full Article

Health Day News
January 31, 2024

What Are the 5 A’s of Chemotherapy?

The 5 A’s of chemotherapy are a commonly used framework to describe the potential side effects or adverse events associated with chemotherapy treatment. They are as follows:

  1. Alopecia: Alopecia refers to hair loss, which is a common side effect of many chemotherapy drugs. Hair loss can affect the scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes, and other body hair.
  2. Anemia: Chemotherapy can cause a decrease in red blood cells, leading to a condition called anemia. Anemia can result in fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, and other symptoms.
  3. Appetite changes: Chemotherapy can affect a person’s appetite and taste buds, leading to changes in food preferences, decreased appetite, or even loss of appetite. This can result in weight loss and nutritional deficiencies.
  4. Nausea and vomiting: Many chemotherapy drugs can cause nausea and vomiting as side effects. This can range from mild to severe and may require the use of anti-nausea medications to manage the symptoms.
  5. Altered blood counts: Chemotherapy drugs can affect the bone marrow, where blood cells are produced. This can lead to changes in blood cell counts, including a decrease in white blood cells (increasing the risk of infections), a decrease in platelets (increasing the risk of bleeding), or both.

It’s important to note that not all chemotherapy drugs cause the same side effects, and individuals may experience different combinations and severities of these side effects based on the specific drugs and treatment regimen they receive. The healthcare team will closely monitor patients undergoing chemotherapy and provide supportive care to manage these side effects as effectively as possible.

Make Chemo Bearable (MCB) exists to provide awareness, education, support and hope to individuals during their cancer journey, specifically targeting those from under resourced, underrepresented and underserved communities.

Benefits of Chemotherapy for Treating Breast Cancer

Chemotherapy is a systemic treatment that uses drugs to destroy cancer cells or slow down their growth. It is commonly used as a treatment option for breast cancer and offers several benefits in managing the disease. Here are some of the benefits of chemotherapy for treating breast cancer:

  1. Targeting cancer cells: Chemotherapy drugs work by targeting and killing rapidly dividing cells, including cancer cells. Breast cancer is known to have various subtypes, and chemotherapy can be effective in treating different types, such as hormone receptor-positive, HER2-positive, and triple-negative breast cancers.
  2. Shrinking tumors before surgery: In some cases, chemotherapy is administered before surgery (neoadjuvant chemotherapy) to shrink large tumors. This approach can help make the tumor easier to remove during surgery, increasing the chances of successful surgical outcomes.
  3. Reducing the risk of recurrence: Chemotherapy is particularly valuable in reducing the risk of cancer recurrence. Even after surgery, there may be undetectable cancer cells left behind. Chemotherapy helps to eradicate these cells, lowering the risk of cancer coming back in the future.
  4. Treating metastatic breast cancer: If breast cancer has spread beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes to other parts of the body (metastatic breast cancer), chemotherapy can help control the disease, alleviate symptoms, and improve quality of life. It may not be curative in this stage, but it can provide significant benefits in terms of disease management and prolonged survival.
  5. Combination with other treatments: Chemotherapy can be used in combination with other breast cancer treatments such as surgery, radiation therapy, and targeted therapies (e.g., HER2-targeted drugs like trastuzumab). These multi-modal approaches can improve treatment outcomes and increase the chances of long-term survival.
  6. Personalized treatment: Chemotherapy drugs and treatment regimens can be tailored to an individual’s specific breast cancer subtype, stage, and overall health. Oncologists consider various factors to determine the most effective chemotherapy options, including the specific drugs used, dosage, frequency, and duration of treatment. Personalized treatment helps optimize the benefits while minimizing side effects.
  7. Potential for cure: In early-stage breast cancer, chemotherapy can significantly improve the chances of cure, particularly when combined with surgery and/or radiation therapy. By eliminating cancer cells throughout the body, chemotherapy aims to eradicate the disease and prevent its recurrence.

It’s important to note that while chemotherapy offers significant benefits in breast cancer treatment, it can also cause side effects. These can vary depending on the drugs used and the individual’s tolerance, but advancements in supportive care have helped in managing and minimizing these side effects. The decision to undergo chemotherapy should be made after a thorough discussion between the patient and their healthcare team, weighing the potential benefits against the associated risks and side effects.

Make Chemo Bearable (MCB) exists to provide awareness, education, support and hope to individuals during their cancer journey, specifically targeting those from under resourced, underrepresented and underserved communities.