A New Way to Detect Breast Cancer Risk

From our good friends at the Army of Women:

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Women who have had a benign breast biopsy are at higher risk of developing breast cancer than women who have not had a breast biopsy. However, there is currently no way to determine which women who have had a benign breast biopsy will actually go on to develop the disease. Is it possible that the amount of DNA damage seen in the cells in the normal breast tissue may be an indicator of future breast cancer risk? A research team at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center is trying to find out!

This study may sound familiar to you. That is because we first sent out Calls to Action last year to recruit 150 women who had a benign breast biopsy and then went on the develop breast cancer. With help from the Army of Women members, the researchers are on the way to their goal. But, they need more participants to reach their goal. Let’s get them to the finish line! To help increase enrollment, the researchers have changed their eligibility requirements and are now accepting women diagnosed with breast cancer at least ONE year after having a benign biopsy. If you were diagnosed with breast cancer at least one year after you had a benign biopsy, you live in the United States, and this sounds like a study you might be interested in, read on!
If this study isn’t the right fit for you, please think about your friends, family members and any other women you know who might be interested. As a member of the Army of Women you have an important opportunity to accelerate breast cancer research by forwarding this Call to Action and helping fill this study. Let’s show the researchers what we can do!

Please don’t feel as though you are not contributing to the Army of Women if you aren’t able to sign up for this study or if you haven’t yet been able to sign up for one at all. Forwarding our information to friends and family is just as important as participating in a study. Additionally, many more studies are on the way and, eventually, everyone will be able to participate!

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What’s the study about?

The research team is analyzing normal breast tissue from benign biopsies for evidence of DNA damage in the breast cells and then investigating whether the presence of this DNA damage can predict who will develop breast cancer later in life. This study will happen in two phases.

Currently, the researchers are looking for women who had a normal breast biopsy and went on to develop breast cancer. In a few months, they will be enrolling women who had a normal breast biopsy but did NOT go on to develop breast cancer. By recruiting both women who did develop breast cancer and women who did not, the research team will be able to look for markers in the breast cells that might be an indicator of breast cancer risk.

This Call to Action is for women who had a benign breast biopsy and then developed breast cancer.

What’s involved?

If you agree to participate in the Discovery of Early Markers of Breast Cancer study, you will be asked to fill out a questionnaire about your reproductive history, smoking history, and family health background. You will receive and then return the questionnaire by mail (at no cost to you). You will then need to ask your doctor or pathologist for two things: the pathology slides from your benign breast biopsy and a block of your paraffin embedded benign breast tissue. (You will be given a detailed instruction sheet to give to your doctor or pathologist to explain what is needed and why.) You will mail these items to the researchers, at no cost to you. If you prefer, you can give the research team permission to request the pathology slides and tissue block from your doctor.

The researchers may contact you at a later date to see if you would be willing to have a core biopsy so that they can obtain additional tissue for their study. The core biopsy would be performed on the opposite, unaffected breast. The research team will assist you in getting to a clinic where the core biopsy can be performed, and will provide you with information about how the tissue sample can be mailed to the researchers, at no cost to you.

Finally, the researchers may contact you at a later date to ask you to request a block of your paraffin embedded tumor tissue from your doctor or pathologist. (You will be given a detailed instruction sheet to give to your doctor or pathologist to explain what is needed and why). You will mail this item to the researchers, at no cost to you.

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The researchers need to enroll 150 women in this study.

Who is conducting the study?

Dr. Isabelle Bedrosian and Dr. Abenaa Brewster, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX


Anywhere in the US

Who can participate?

You can join the Discovery of Early Markers of Breast Cancer study if you match ALL of these MAIN categories:

-You were diagnosed with breast cancer (NOT including DCIS) at least 1 year after your benign biopsy
-You had a benign breast biopsy after January 2011

-You are a woman over the age of 18

-You were NOT pregnant or breastfeeding when you had the benign breast biopsy

-You were NOT using birth control pills or menopausal hormone therapy when you had the benign breast biopsy

-You have NOT tested positive for BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 (if known)

-You live in the United States

After you RSVP, the researcher will contact you to ask additional questions to be sure that this study is a right fit for you.

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Get Your Boobs Squished Now!

I turned 40 last month, and amid the moments of extra close examinations in the mirror to see whether or not I had any new wrinkles, and an even closer examination of my hair – which prompted an almost-immediate trip to the store for Garnier Nutrisse Chocolate Caramel – my doctor ordered a mammogram.

I went to this appointment with extreme trepidation. I have big breasts. Actually, I have incredibly large breasts that look frightening when squished flat like a pancake in the mammogram machine. I was scared the mammogram would hurt. I had no idea those poor things could flatten out like that. It looked like pancake batter when you first put it on the pan and it starts spreading. I’m not sure I will ever look at them the same way again. But..

it did NOT hurt.
it was NOT embarrassing.
it gave me enormous peace of mind.

And…I’m going to do it again next year, whether or not my insurance will pay for it and whether or not the government recommends it. 

Getting Ready for Boobie Squishing

The process starts with check-in, a relatively painless experience in which you sign off on the procedure, provide your information, and check in for your appointment. I was lucky enough to be at the new Breast Care Center at Corning Hospital, a private area in the hospital with a separate interior waiting room for the women there for appointments.

You’re only required to undress on the top half of your body, and the techs ask that you don’t wear deodorant the day of your mammogram. (Don’t worry; if you do, they’ll have alcohol wipes available so that you can wipe it off).

You’ll likely be asked to store your personal items in a secure locker and change into a little open-in-the-front gown. Really little open-in-the-front gowns, actually. I had to do a bit of hunting to find one that adequately covered everything, and finally found one that would have fit me and a friend. It worked.

Getting a Mammogram – The Boob Squishing Process

When the tech takes you back for your mammogram, the first thing she’ll do is place little stickers with metal tips that look like bandaids across your nipples. This helps them identify the location of the nipple in the pictures.

The first scans of the breast are done with you standing facing the machine. The machine is a base with an adjustable top plate. When you place your breast on the table base (or in my case, heave it up there) the tech will adjust the breast and your body into position and then bring the top plate down (slowly and carefully – it’s not a waffle iron) on top of the breast to flatten it out enough to get a clear image. This process is repeated for both breasts. I was surprised that there was no pain. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but images of balloons popping come to mind.

The second image is taken of the side of your breast. The machine rotates to capture this view (you get to take your breast out while they adjust the machine!) The position is awkward; I had to reach around and hold on to the machine while the tech held my breast against the platform and squished the top down onto it. The only discomfort I had was a slight pressure on my clavicle from the edge of the machine from the position I was in to capture the image.

Once the pictures are complete, you may be asked to wait while they are reviewed to make sure no additional pictures are required. The whole process only took about 20 minutes. According to my tech – an ARRT Certified Mammographer – out of every 300 or so mammograms she performs each month, only one or two women ever experience even slight discomfort with the process.

Why You Should Get a Mammogram

Beyond the fact that there is genuine peace of mind that comes from being proactive about your health and your boobies deserve your love, this is the BEST preventative measure for discovering breast cancer early enough to detect it and treat it before it spreads into your lymph system and throughout your body. A mammogram can detect cancer cells in your breasts long before you can feel a lump. In fact, if you wait until you feel a lump, you’re likely facing a much more serious road to recovery than you would with early detection with a mammogram.

My great grandmother had a double mastectomy. My grandmother had breast cancer. My aunt and my mom had lumps removed that were benign, but my mother died from cancer. Being proactive about my health – especially as I crest the top of that hill I’ve been climbing – is important to me. I think it should be important to you too, and I hope you’ll become an active boobie squisher!

  • Perform self-exams every month from the time you begin menstruating. Yes, we should be talking to our pre-teen daughters about breast health. If they need a training bra, they need to know how to take care of their breasts.
  • Have a comprehensive breast exam with your OB-Gyn or family doctor at least every three years; more often if you are at high risk.
  • Starting at age 40, have an annual mammogram and continue performing monthly breast exams, even if you’re no longer sexually active, past menopause, or have had a hysterectomy.

40,000 women die from breast cancer every year. It is the 5th leading cause of death among women. Help change those statistics.