December 27, 2011 § Leave a comment
Breast cancer accounts for nearly one-third of all cancers diagnosed in American women. Second in incidence only to skin cancers, the disease claims approximately 40,000 lives a year. According to the National Cancer Institute, approximately 2.6 million women in the United States had a history of breast cancer in 2008, with more than half diagnosed less than a decade earlier. Most, however, were cancer free. The incidence of breast cancer and death rate increases with age, with 97 percent of deaths occurring in those 40 years of age or older.
Symptoms of breast cancer include a new mass or lump. Although typically hard, irregular, and painless, these cancerous growths also can cause tenderness and pain. The disease may create skin irritation, dimpling, or swelling. In addition, nipples may retract; become red, scaly, or thick; or discharge a liquid other than breast milk. If the cancer has spread to lymph nodes, a woman (and in rare cases, a man) might feel swelling or a lump under the arm or near the collar bone before one becomes detectable in breast tissue.
While breast cancer remains rare in men, doctors still diagnose more than 1,000 such cases annually in the U.S. Men should report any changes in their breasts or lymph nodes to a physician. Because men tend to “tough it out” when it comes to pain or discomfort, male breast cancer often spreads throughout the body before it is finally diagnosed, leading to less likelihood of recovery. Symptoms, similar to those experienced by women, include a lump, nipple inversion, and bleeding from the nipple.
About the author: Maintaining a busy practice in Palo Alto, California, for 20 years, where he focused on hematology, oncology, and internal medicine, Robert D. Stebbins, M.D., specialized in treating leukemia and breast cancer.
December 27, 2011 § Leave a comment
Established in 1848, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) endeavors to advance science globally through education, leadership, advocacy, and professional association. The organization’s U.S. headquarters, the William T. Golden Center for Science and Engineering, opened in 1997 and holds Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. AAAS also maintains an office in Cambridge, England.
AAAS science and policy programs include the Center of Science, Policy, and Society Programs; the Center for Science, Technology, and Security Policy; and Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion. Other initiatives range from the Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights, and Law Program to science and technology policy fellowships and research competitiveness. Altogether, AAAS supports eight centers dedicated to the above purposes and also addressing sustainability, diplomacy, public engagement, engineering and curriculum.
To encourage underrepresented groups to become involved in the sciences, AAAS created Alliances for Graduate Education in the Professoriate. ENTRY POINT! provides internships for aspiring engineers and scientists with disabilities, and Kinetic City offers fun online experiences for students in kindergarten through grade 12. Numerous other programs aid graduate students pursuing careers in the sciences, engineers and scientists seeking summer reporting positions, students in the Middle East/ North Africa region, and others.
In addition to assisting budding and established scientists, AAAS produces a journal, Science, as well as other publications; hosts scientific conferences; and works with schools, teachers, and librarians to foster education in both science and technology.
About the author: A longtime physician, educator, and researcher, Dr. Robert D. Stebbins maintained a private practice in internal medicine in Palo Alto, California, for 20 years; taught at prestigious medical schools including the Stanford University School of Medicine; and conducted research while reporting to the Stanford Pediatrics Research Department’s National Institutes of Health Research Coordinator.
December 20, 2011 § Leave a comment
As a former internal medicine practitioner, with specialties in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer and leukemia, I am heartened to witness an increase in online cancer resources. The Boston-based Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, an affiliate of Harvard Medical Center, has recently launched the blog Insight, focused on accessible cancer-related information that benefits patients and their families.
The blog features the latest treatment options and research discoveries, as well as positive stories and practical tips for living with cancer. Insight notably seeks to go beyond coverage available in traditional media outlets, providing on-the-spot reports from major medial conferences where scientific breakthroughs are announced to the public.
Launched in December 2011, Insight already has a number of articles of interest to cancer practitioners as well as patients. One post features a YouTube video of a Dana-Farber Cancer Institute breast cancer specialist discussing studies of interest at the 2011 CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. This event brings together some 8,000 breast cancer specialists from around the world each year.
The reporting physician noted significant medical discoveries presented at this year’s symposium, including the addition of pertuzumab to the standard HER2-positive breast cancer chemotherapy protocol. Results from a long-awaited CLEOPATRA (Clinical Evaluation of Pertuzumab and Trastuzumab) study demonstrated that this treatment regimen increases patients’ average progression-free survival by approximately six months, significantly improving outcomes.
Another drug treatment of intense interest in the medical community involves the mTOR signaling pathway, which is involved in cell growth and differentiation. New findings suggest that mTOR inhibition is directly linked to reductions in tumor cell growth, metabolism, and division. In a newly released clinical study, ER-positive breast cancer patients who had already had numerous estrogen treatments were found to benefit from continuing anti-estrogen drugs plus the mTOR inhibitor everolimus (Afinitor, Zortress).
The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Insight blog has a number of other interesting articles, including “What are the Best Vitamins for Cancer Patients?” and the “Coping with the Holidays when You Have Cancer.” I recommend this resource, accessible at Blog.Dana-Farber.org/Insight, to cancer patients and their families.
About the Author: Robert Dean Stebbins, MD, treated patients at his private Palo Alto practice for two decades, also holding responsibilities as Founding President and Chairman of the Board with the Private Physicians Group at Stanford, Inc., for a number of years.