Triple Negative Breast Cancer: Why this is different?

If you have been told you have triple negative breast cancer, you might not understand what that means with regard to the treatment you will get and your prognosis.  Triple negative breast cancer is in a class by itself because the treatment is different.   

First let’s look at what the term “triple negative” means.  There are three tumor markers that all breast cancers are tested for.  Most breast cancer patients know what these markers are.  Tumors are tested for estrogen receptors and progesterone receptors and for overexpression of HER2 receptors.  The estrogen and progesterone receptors determine whether or not your cancer’s growth is hormone dependent and hence whether or not you will be treated with hormone blockers.  The HER2 status determines whether or not you will receive a year’s worth of a therapy called Herceptin or some other HER2 blocker.  Triple negative tumors do not have the hormone...

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Oncotype DX® Score: What Does It Mean?

oncotype dx score Sep 18, 2018

The genes from your breast cancer can tell us whether or not you will benefit from chemotherapy. That is essentially what breast cancer genetic assays like the Oncotype DX® test are all about.

 

The Chemotherapy Decision

 

For a lot of women, the question of whether or not they will need chemotherapy looms large after a diagnosis of breast cancer. Months of treatment, nausea, hair loss, fatigue…not something to wish for unless you really need it. But now examining genetic assays of the tumor can guide oncologists in selecting just those patients who are truly going to reduce their risk of recurrence with chemotherapy and excluding those in whom treatment with chemotherapy would be too much treatment.

 

If you have been diagnosed with early stage invasive breast cancer in the past decade or so, you are probably familiar with some of the genetic assays that are available, and in the US, the Oncotype DX® test is the most commonly used. The Oncotype DX®...

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HER2 Positive Breast Cancer: Do You Know Your Status?

her2 herceptin Sep 11, 2018

Have you been told you have HER2 positive breast cancer? Most breast cancer patients know three things about their cancer:  stage, ER/PR status, and HER2 status. You know these things because they are the factors that determine what treatment you get. The stage tells us how aggressive to be with treatment. The hormone receptor status (ER/PR) tells us whether or not you need hormone blockers. The HER2 status tells us whether or not you need a therapy that is targeted at the HER2 receptor which is usually Herceptin®, also known as trastuzumab. About 15% to 20% of all invasive breast cancers are HER2 positive. 

 

What is HER2?

 

Just what is HER2? HER2 is an oncogene, and oncogenes often make proteins that promote the development of cancer or make cancers more aggressive.  The HER2 oncogene makes the HER2 protein. This protein is a receptor that sits on the surface of normal breast cells. Signals that are sent through this receptor are important for normal...

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Three Things Meditation Can Do for Breast Cancer Survivors

Uncategorized Aug 21, 2018

You’ve no doubt heard that meditation can benefit your overall health, but did you know that there are some very specific benefits of meditation for breast cancer survivors?  This post covers research about three common problems that breast cancer survivors face and how meditation can help alleviate those problems.  The three problems that I am going to touch on are anxiety/depression, sleep disturbances, and hot flashes.

 

Let’s begin with how investigators commonly teach and utilize meditation in research studies.  One of the methods they use to teach meditation is called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction or MBSR.  This program was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at University of Massachusetts and has been widely used as a meditation training program across the US.  Using it provides a similar structure to the meditation instruction that participants get across studies.  But it is certainly not the only way to learn meditation.

 

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Is Stevia a Healthy Choice?

natural sweeteners stevia Aug 07, 2018

If you are one of those health-conscious consumers who has mindfully switched from pink or blue packets of sweetener to the more natural choice, stevia…we need to talk.

 

First, what is stevia anyhow?  Stevia is a sweetener made in a lab but starting with a plant.  The pink and blue stuff is also made in a lab but starting with…umm…not a plant.  So in this regard, stevia is “natural”. 

 

Stevia belongs to a group of products known as nonnutritive sweeteners. It is pretty new to this club so we don’t have a long track record of its use in the US.  In the US, pure stevia extracts (those made in the lab) are considered by the FDA as GRAS (which stands for generally recognized as safe).  There is some nitpickiness at the FDA differentiating whole leaf stevia extracts (which may have some serious effects on blood sugar, blood pressure, and the kidneys) and “high-purity steviol glycosides”, and it...

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How to Pick a Healthy Yogurt (and Why You Should)

dairy yogurt Jul 31, 2018

Yogurt has become a staple in a lot of homes in the past several years.  Moms view it as a healthy snack for kids.  So much so that the food industry came up with a variety of kid and lunch box friendly packaging ideas.  And then there are the folks who eat yogurt to lose weight usually leaning toward the low-fat, fruit flavored varieties.  And then there are the health-conscious Whole Foods shoppers who lean toward the Greek yogurt varieties. 

 

Even if you don’t fit one of these categories, there are some things you should know about yogurt if you are trying to be healthy (and who out there doesn’t want to be a little healthier). 

 

Real yogurt is made when fresh milk is fermented by adding bacteria to it.  Don’t get grossed out.  Those bacteria are really good for us.  The bacteria eat up the sugar in milk (lactose) and convert it to lactic acid which gives yogurt that tangy flavor and thickens the...

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The Alkaline Diet for Cancer

alkaline diet Jul 24, 2018

“Breast cancer patients need to be on an alkaline diet”. 

 

I know you’ve heard it.

 

Unfortunately, an “alkaline diet” just doesn’t make any physiologic sense. The body just doesn’t work in a way that the proponents of this diet says it does.  There are two assertions about the rationale for the diet that just are not true.

 

The first misconception is that cancer cells thrive in an acidic environment.  Cancer cells exist in an acidic environment, but they don’t thrive there.  They don’t like it any more than a regular cell would.  The reason they exist in an acidic environment is that they create that environment.  This is because they grow so fast and uncontrollably.  Which means that they outgrow their blood and nutrient supply quickly.  Which also means that they have no way to clear the waste they produce through their metabolism (which is acidic).  So, cancer...

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To get healthy, don’t juice

juicing smoothies Jul 17, 2018

One of the things that a lot of people do when they try to get healthy is that they start drinking juices and smoothies. And this is not just people who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.  Most of the public thinks that juices and smoothies are healthy.  But are they really?

 

First, let’s talk about juices.  By juices I mean separating the juices of a fruit or vegetable from the fiber (or pulp) in that fruit or vegetable.  This applies to the 100% all natural juices that you can buy at the grocery store and the juices you can make at home with a juicing machine. Or even by just squeezing the juice out of an orange for example (as in fresh squeezed orange juice).  What you have in a glass of juice is a bunch of vitamins and minerals but also a load of sugar.  And that sugar has no pulp or fiber to slow down its absorption once it hits your stomach.  So, you are taking in a sugar bomb that is slightly more nutritious than a soda....

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Exercise and Breast Cancer Recurrence

In the last couple of blog posts we have focused on how important lifestyle changes like following a good diet and maintaining a normal weight can be in reducing your risk of breast cancer recurrence. 

 

It probably shouldn’t surprise you that doing a little exercise will also decrease your risk of recurrence.  But what may indeed surprise you is how little activity it takes and how big the impact is.

 

So here is the good news.  First of all, the activity that you choose doesn’t have to involve a gym.  Any sort of purposeful activity like gardening, house cleaning, or washing the car counts as activity.  You need to do something to be active every day.  And when you know that you don’t have to go out and run 5 miles or spend an hour on the elliptical machine in order to make a difference, then being active can seem manageable. 

 

Research shows that if a breast cancer survivor walks just 30 minutes a day for 6 days...

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Is Soy Ok for Breast Cancer Survivors?

There is so much confusing and conflicting nutrition information that breast cancer survivors face.  I’m sure you’ve heard it all.  It’s my mission to help you sort through all of this.  That is one of the reasons why I went through the extra training and research to become an Integrative Oncologist.  And today we are going to start by clearing up the confusion about the safety of soy in breast cancer survivors, especially those with hormone positive tumors.

Oncologists for many years recommended that ER/PR+ (or hormone positive) breast cancer patients avoid soy.  You see soy contains phytoestrogens, which are very weak, plant-based estrogens.  But the clinical research has not supported this recommendation.

 

And there is a physiologic reason why this might be the case.  There are multiple receptors for estrogen in the body.  Some of these receptors promote the growth of breast cancer and some of these receptors...

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