Treatment holidays, where therapy is temporarily stopped, are something that those living with advanced breast cancer sometimes have to contemplate. Perhaps there is an important occasion coming up – a wedding or other family celebration, or an overseas trip – where the side effects of the treatment would interfere with enjoyment of the occasion. In discussing this with their oncologist, it’s important to take into account the current evidence – for or against – taking treatment holidays.
Here's BCAC’s report of a talk on this topic at the recent ABC7 international advanced breast cancer conference:
Not all patients are ready to discuss their prognosis soon after a diagnosis of advanced breast cancer (ABC) – and that is their choice – but the earlier this is discussed the more influence patients can have on their treatment plan and end of life options. Oncologists are not necessarily starting the conversations early enough but it is important that they do, taking into account their patients’ values and preferences. So, how do oncologists provide prognostic information to their patients, and how useful and accurate is the information when given?
Claire has been living with HER2-positive advanced breast cancer since 2016; since her cancer progressed she has been processing the fears that inevitably accompany this. Claire’s story is one of overcoming her fears by facing them, and taking control.
Here's BCAC’s report of Claire’s talk at the recent ABC7 international advanced breast cancer conference:
Overcoming fear: Don’t lose the joy of living in the fear of dying
Claire Myerson, ABC Patient and Patient Advocate, Breast Cancer Now, UK
Very few studies have looked at the impact of diet or exercise in patients with advanced breast cancer (ABC). On a biological level, repeated exercise may limit tumour growth, and some dietary interventions, e.g., plant-based diets, can help improve fatigue. But more research is needed in all these areas. Until there is more evidence, there are things that patients can do to improve their quality of life with a diagnosis of advanced breast cancer. Avoid sitting still – and if you can, aim for 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise (that’s a half hour walk 5 days a week). Even seated exercises help. The usual recommendations relating to increasing plant-based foods and reducing red/processed meats and sugar apply.
October 13th is Metastatic Awareness Day in the United States, thanks to Shirley Mertz, a metastatic breast cancer survivor from the United States.
October is breast cancer awareness month, so Shirley and two other patients approached their Senator, whose mother had passed away from breast cancer, and ask him to promote their cause in the Senate; they then approached the House of Representatives with the same request. This resulted in a motion being passed through the US government to specifically commemorate ABC on October 13th. [Since then, President Joe Biden designated October 17 to October 23 Men’s Breast Cancer Awareness Week]
Many patients with advanced breast cancer develop lymphoedema either after surgery or as a result of cancer itself. It is swelling on the arm, back or chest on the side of the breast surgery, and can occur at any time after diagnosis, even years later. There are four phases of lymphoedema, ranging from almost completely asymptomatic to debilitating, where it can cause severe pain and reduce a person’s inability to work or perform normal activities. The good news is that oncologic physical therapy can reduce or prevent lymphoedema in the first place. Even in patients with severe lymphoedema, it can be controlled, with complete elimination of pain and complete recovery of movement and strength.
Many patients with advanced breast cancer use herbs and supplements, as well as other treatments like relaxation and massage, to relieve symptoms. However, many patients are taking herbs or supplements that may be harmful or interact with their cancer medications. Most cancer drugs and most foods, herbs and supplements are broken down by the same liver enzyme pathways; a particular example is grapefruit, which therefore interacts with trastuzumab and paclitaxel (among many others). Two supplements that don’t appear to interact with any medications are melatonin and omega-3. Patients should always tell their doctors what supplements and herbs they are taking (and don’t forget to mention grapefruit!). However, it’s a ‘two-way street’, as doctors also need to remain open-minded or their…
BCAC’s Marion Barnett recently attended ABC7 online, an international conference on advanced breast cancer. Here is her report on a talk about integrative medicine given by German breast cancer researcher Rachel Würstlein. Integrative medicine is the combination of medical treatments for cancer and complementary therapies to cope with symptoms and side effects.
Want to get into the Christmas spirit, but tired of giving and receiving stuff that no-one really needs? The Good Registry takes the stress out of gift giving, and gives you an opportunity to help BCAC, by offering gift cards that can be redeemed as donations to a select group of charities, including us. Get your Christmas gift-giving all sorted now by clicking here.
Here’s an easy way to get Christmas gifts organised well in advance and to help BCAC at the same time. By clicking here you can buy gift certificates for those friends and family who already have everything they need, but would get a great feeling knowing they are helping women with breast cancer. The Good Registry is a great volunteer organisation set up by some Wellington women who are passionate about doing good. They issue gift certificates which can be redeemed by donating to one of their charity partners – like BCAC! By donating to BCAC this Christmas, your friends and family can help us to keep supporting, informing and representing kiwi women with breast cancer.