Archive for breast cancer

What You Need to Know About Breast Reconstruction

The Cancer Support Community surveyed 762 breast cancer survivors (who were eligible for breast reconstruction) and found that 43% of these women did not receive any info about breast reconstruction PRIOR to making surgical decisions (mastectomy or lumpectomy). Why is this a huge problem? Well, if you opt to reconstruct one or both boobs, the method you choose to reconstruct can be affected depending on how the initial surgery is done. Since you can’t go back and re-do your mastectomy, this is an extremely important conversation to have with your doctor BEFORE a mastectomy takes place.

 

Watch this fantastic video created by Understand.com to learn more about breast reconstruction options.  Then ask your doctor what options would be best for you.

FREE Running Program for Cancer Survivors in MD, DC, VA, NY & Chicago

Andy & Alan 2004 Bay Bridge 10K

Andy & Alan @ Rockville Rotary Twilighter 8K Runfest 1992

 

Pictured above is my husband Alan (on the right) with his childhood friend Andy.  Since this picture was taken, Andy has run more than 30 marathons, completed 13 triathlons and has become a certified running coach.  Despite all these accomplishments, Andy always made time to go for a run or walk with Alan, even after he was diagnosed with cancer.

 

It was no surprise to me that Andy connected with The Ulman Cancer Fund’s CANCER to 5K Training Program - a FREE 12-week training program designed to introduce or reintroduce cancer survivors to training for and completing a 5K road race.  Amazing, right?!

ABOUT The CANCER to 5K Training Program:

Research has now shown that exercise is especially important for cancer survivors both in and out of active treatment.  Regular exercise not only improves mood, boosts self-confidence and reduces fatigue, but there is loads of evidence suggesting that higher levels of physical activity can help keep the cancer from recurring.

 

The Cancer to 5K Training Program is a progressive run/walk program designed to get cancer survivors to the 5K finish-line happy, healthy and injury-free.  

*  Who can join?  Cancer to 5K is open to any cancer survivor regardless of age, location, treatment status or fitness level.  Survivors who have completed treatment as well as survivors who are currently undergoing treatment can participate.

*  Where is training held?  If you live in the following areas, certified running coaches and experienced volunteer runners (aka “Sherpas”) will help train you in a small group setting.  Each 12-week session is limited to 10 participants.  Click HERE for exact locations in:

      • Washington DC/Northern Virginia
      • Montgomery County Maryland
      • Howard County, Maryland
      • Baltimore, Maryland
      • New York, NY
      • Chicago, IL.

* What if you live elsewhere?  If you live outside the current group training areas, you can still participate with The CANCER to 5K “At Home” Training Program.  As a Cancer to 5K “At Home” participant, you will receive one-on-one coaching with a Cancer to 5K coach. Workouts will be sent to you via email, and you will have access to your coach via email and phone.

Registration for the fall training season is now OPEN!  
Group workouts will begin in August 2014.
“At-Home” participants can begin training anytime.

 

For more information, contact Program Manager Laura Scruggs via email at laura@ulmanfund.org  or via 410.964.0202 x108.  

Please note:  A medical waiver must be signed by the participant’s current primary care physician to ensure that training for a 5K won’t negatively impact treatment or recovery.

 

Financial Assistance from Walk In My Shoes Cancer Foundation

 

 

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer and are having a hard time making ends meet, check out the Walk In My Shoes Foundation.

Walk In My Shoes Foundation assists cancer patients with paying rent, mortgages, utility bills, medication, purchasing gas cards, buying groceries, etc.  To qualify for assistance, which is based on availability, the following guidelines have been set:

  • Only patients undergoing cancer treatment are eligible for assistance.
  • Only bills in patient’s name are eligible for payment.
  • Maximum assistance is $500.00 per patient per calendar year.
  • First come first serve basis.
  • No income guidelines.
  • Men, women, children are welcome to apply regardless of type of cancer.
  • Cash will not be disbursed.

To apply, please complete the form on the Walk In My Shoes Foundation CONTACT US page or email them directly at info@walkinmyshoesfoundation.com.  Someone should contact you within 48 hours.

Personalizing YOUR Cancer Treatment (part 4): Do you know your cancer biomarkers?

Personalized-Medicine

In the near future, instead of saying, “I have breast cancer,” a patient will say something like , “I have a HER2-positive carcinoma with a KRAS mutation.”  Cancer will be defined by it’s own unique molecular profile and biomarkers rather than the body part where it originated.

To learn more about the dozens of biomarkers already being used to guide cancer treatment, check out the table below. Please note: there are thousands of known biomarkers without currently known effectiveness or relevance to cancer care. This table only represents the biomarkers that are currently known to be significant in informing cancer care today.*

Biomarker About Cancers that may benefit from testing Treatments associated with response or lack of response/resistance*
ALK anaplastic lymphoma kinase, an enzyme that can form a oncogenic fusion gene with EML4 lung (non-small cell), lymphoma (anaplastic large-cell), nervous system (familial neuroblastoma) crizotinib (Xalkori®), pemetrexed (Alimta®)
AR androgen receptor, part of the nuclear hormone receptor superfamily, active in cell signaling and therefore cell multiplication and growth prostate, breast, ovarian, bladder, lung (non-small cell) bicalutamide (Casodex®), flutamide (Eulexin®), goserelin (Zoladex®), leuprolide (Lupron®), abarelix (Plenaxis®), gonadorelin (Factrel®)
BRAF also know as v-raf murine sarcoma viral oncogene homolog B1, a proto-oncogene in the RAF/MIL family of molecules active in MAP/ERK cell signaling, promotes cell multiplication and growth colon, skin (melanoma), lung (adenocarcinoma), thyroid (papillary thyroid carcinoma), nervous system (pleomorphic xanthoastrocytomas with and without anaplasia) cetuximab (Erbitux®), panitumumab (Vectibix®), vemurafenib (Zelboraf®)
BRCA1 a so-called “breast cancer gene”, its expression in many cancers can indicate potential response to certain types of therapies lung, ovarian cisplatin (Platinol®)
c-Kit cytokine receptor also know as CD117, a proto-oncogene that interacts with cell growth factors, plays a roll in cell survival, multiplication and differentiation GIST (gastrointestinal stromal tumor), skin (melanoma), blood (acute myelogenous leukemia) imatinib (Gleevec®), sorafenib (Nexavar®), sunitinib (Sutent®)
c-MET also known as MET (mesenchymal epithelial transition factor) or HGFR (hepatocyte growth factor receptor), a proto-oncogene active in cell signaling, promotes cancer cell growth and multiplication lung (non-small cell), ovarian erlotinib (Tarceva®), gefitinib (Iressa®)
COX-2 cyclooxygenase-2, also known as protaglandin-endoperoxide synthase-2 (PTGS2), an enzyme important to creation of prostaglandins, which are messenger molecules that play a role in many cancers lung (non-small cell) celecoxib (Celebrex®)
EGFR epidermal growth factor receptor, also known as ErbB-1 or HER1, a receptor tyrosine kinase active in cell signaling, promotes cell growth and multiplication lung (non-small cell) cetuximab (Erbitux®), erlotinib (Tarceva®), gefitinib (Iressa®), panitumumab (Vectibix®)
EGFR secondary mutation (T790 M) a mutation of the EGFR gene associated with acquired resistance to certain treatments lung (non-small cell), colorectal, head and neck resistance to erlotinib (Tarceva®), gefitinib (Iressa®)
ER estrogen receptor, part of the nuclear hormone family of intracellular receptors, active in cell multiplication breast, ovarian, female genital tract cancer anastrazole (Arimidex®), exemestane (Aromasin®), letrozole (Femara®), tamoxifen (Nolvadex®), megestrol acetate (Megace®, Megace® ES), fulvestrant (Faslodex®), toremifene (Fareston®), medroxyprogesterone, (Provera®, Amen®, Curretab®, Cycrin®), goserelin (Zoladex®), leuprolide (Eligard®, Lupron®, Viadur®)
ERCC1 excision repair cross-complementation group 1, an enzyme active in DNA repair and therefore a sign of resistance to treatments that work by disrupting tumor DNA lung (non-small cell and small cell), gastric, ovarian, colorectal, bladder resistance to cisplatin (Platinol®), carboplatin (Paraplatin®), oxaliplatin (Eloxatin®)
HER2 human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, also known as HER2/neu or ErbB-2, a receptor tyrosine kinase active in cell signaling, promotes cell growth and multiplication breast, gastroesophageal, gastric, ovarian, colorectal lapatinib (Tykerb®), trastuzumab (Herceptin®), doxorubicin (Adriamycin®, Rubex®), liposomal doxorubicin (Caelyx®, Myocet®), epirubicin (Ellence®)
KRAS proto-oncogene of the Kirsten murine sarcoma virus, active in cell signaling in the EGFR pathway, promotes cell growth and multiplication lung (non-small cell), colon, pancreatic cetuximab (Erbitux®), erlotinib (Tarceva®), gefitinib (Iressa®), panitumumab (Vectibix®)
MGMT O-6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase is a gene that encodes a DNA repair enzyme, loss of MGMT may play a role in cancer formation, MGMT can also interfere with treatments that work by disrupting tumor DNA breast, lung (non-small cell), esophageal, brain (glioblastoma multiforme, oligodendrogliomas), skin (melanoma), pituitary gland (carcinoma) lack of response to temozolomide (Temodar®)
MRP1 multidrug resistance-associated protein 1, an ATP-dependent transmembrane drug efflux pump associated with resistance to many drugs breast, lymphoma, head and neck lack of response to anthracyclines such as doxorubicin (Adrimycin®), vinca alkaloids, and methotrexate (Trexall®)
PGP p-glycoprotein, also known as P-gp, an ATP-dependent transmembrane drug efflux pump associated with acquired resistance to many drugs breast, ovarian, lymphoma, head and neck lack of response to anthracylines such as doxorubicin (Adriamycin®), epirubicin (Ellence®) and liposomal-doxorubicin (Doxil®), and other drugs such as paclitaxel (Taxol®), docetaxel (Taxotere®), vinblastine (Velban®), vincristine (Oncovin®), vinorelbine (Navelbine®)
PIK3CA a specific mutation within the PI3 (phosphoinositide 3) kinase pathway or a gene copy number variation, aberrations along the PI3K pathway are associated with many cancers colorectal, brain (glioblastoma), gastric, breast, lung, ovarian lapatinib (Tykerb®); resistance to cetuximab (Erbitux®), panitumumab (Vectibix); decreased response to trastuzumab (Herceptin®)
PR progesterone receptor, also called PGR, part of the nuclear hormone family of intracellular receptors, active in cell multiplication breast, ovarian, female genital tract cancer letrozole (Femara®), tamoxifen (Nolvadex®), fulvestrant (Faslodex®), toremifene (Fareston®), exemestane (Aromasin®), anastrozole (Arimidex®), goserelin (Zoladex®), gonadorelin (Factrel®), leuprolide (Eligard®, Lupron®, Viadur®), medroxyprogesterone (Provera®, Amen®, Curretab®, Cycrin®), megestrol acetate (Megace®, Megace® ES)
PTEN phosphatase and tensin homolog, a tumor suppressor active in EGFR, HER2 and AKT cell signaling pathways breast, colon, lung (non-small cell), brain (glioblastoma), head and neck low expression associated with lack of response to cetuximab (Erbitux®), gefitinib (Iressa®), trastuzumab (Herceptin®), panitumumab (Vectibix®), erlotinib (Tarceva®)
RRM1 ribonucleotide reductase subunit M1, an enzyme required for DNA synthesis from RNA and therefore can interfere with treatments that work by disrupting RNA activity lung (non-small cell), pancreatic high expression associated with lack of response to gemcitabine (Gemzar®), hydroxyurea (Hydrea®, Droxia®)
SPARC secreted protein acidic rich in cysteine, a protein active in tumor growth and spreading skin (melanoma), breast, gastric, pancreatic, head and neck albumin-bound paclitaxel/nab-paclitaxel (Abraxane®)
TLE3 a member of the transducin-like enhancer of split family of proteins, implicated in creation of tumors breast, ovarian taxane therapy such as paclitaxel (Taxol®), docetaxel (Taxotere ®)
TOPO2A topoisomerase IIA, an enzyme active in DNA synthesis and repair breast, colon, ovarian, lung (small cell) doxorubicin (Adriamycin®), epirubicin (Ellence®, Pharmorubucin®), liposomal doxorubicin (Caelyx®, Myocet®)
TS thymidylate synthetase, an enzyme active in DNA synthesis and repair, can be inhibited by certain compounds breast, colon, gastric, head and neck, liver, pancreatic, lung (non-small cell) lack of response to 5-fluorouracil (Adrucil®), cytarabine (Cytosar-U®), pemetrexed (Alimta®)
TUBB3 Class III -tubulin, protein found in microtubules which are important cell structures ovarian, lung (non-small cell) taxanes such as paclitaxel (Taxol®), docetaxel (Taxotere ®), vinca alkaloids such as vinorelbine (Navelbine®)

* Biomarker status (overexpressed, underexpressed, positive or negative for specific mutations, etc.) determines whether that biomarker is associated with response, lack of response or resistance to each treatment. Treatment associations are from published, peer-reviewed medical literature. Citations available upon request. Only your doctor can decide which treatments are appropriate for you.

**Got questions about YOUR biomarkers, e-mail PatientNavigator@carisls.com.  A Patient Navigator who is well versed in molecular profiling and biomarkers will answer your questions.  (this is a FREE service provided by Caris Life Sciences.) 

*** Source:  MyCancer.com (an educational resource sponsored by Caris Life Sciences®) is a fantastic website for cancer patients and their caregivers that provides information about personalizing your cancer treatment using molecular profiling and cancer biomarkers.

If You’ve Been Touched By Breast Cancer & Are Planning A Wedding, Read On…

Image credit:  123RF Stock Photo

Image credit: 123RF Stock Photo

 

It’s that time of year again when The Wedding Pink presents one couple whose lives have been recently touched by breast cancer with a FREE dream wedding, valued between $30,000- $40,000.  OMG! So amazing!!

 

Founder Cheryl Ungar is a 23-year breast cancer survivor and a wedding photographer.  She has put together an extraordinary team of some of Colorado’s top wedding vendors — all of whom have generously agreed to donate their services and products to ensure The Wedding Pink is a spectacular event for one very special couple.

 

Here’s the dealio (as my daughter always says)…  If your life has been recently touched by breast cancer (fyi, the experience is not limited to the bride, but could be with the bride or groom’s extended family member) AND are engaged or soon-to-be-engaged, you could be the lucky winner of this fairy tale wedding.

 

This year’s Wedding Pink will will take place May 15, 2015 in Denver, Colorado.  Applications are open to ANY legal resident of the US regardless of what state they live in.  Submissions will be open from August 1 – August 10.  The winning couple will be selected in early September 2014.  There are no income qualifications.  Winners will be chosen by a panel of judges.  To learn more about the submission criteria, click HERE.

Wishing you all a lifetime of health, love & happiness together….

Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits with Cancer

 

Meet GUEST BLOGGER Ram Meyyappan. Ram is the senior editor and manager of the Social Security Disability Help website.  Social Security Disability Help contains information on how to apply for disability with over 400 conditions, helpful tips, FAQs along with an extensive disability glossary.

 

If you are a parent suffering from any type of cancer, the condition or the effects of the treatments you are undergoing may make it difficult to take care of your kids, let alone returning to work. In such cases, financial assistance may be available through one of the two Social Security Disability programs. There are two disability programs available to those who qualify under the SSA’s disability criteria. These include the SSI (Supplemental Security Income) program and the SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) program.

SSI

SSI is a needs-based program. In order to be eligible, you must be deemed disabled by the Social Security Administration and you must meet certain financial criteria. As of 2013, to qualify for SSI, you must not earn more than $710 as an individual or $1,060 as a couple. You must also not have assets that exceed $2,000 as an individual or $3,000 as a couple.

SSDI

Unlike SSI, SSDI is not a needs-based program. There are no financial criteria to meet. You must, however, have earned enough work credits through your previous work history. In order to have enough work credits to qualify for SSDI, you must have worked five of the past ten years. If you are not old enough to have worked five of the past ten years, you need to have worked half of the time you were able to do so.

Cancer and Meeting the Medical Requirements

The SSA uses a manual called “the blue book” to evaluate whether or not a condition qualifies for disability benefits. Cancer is covered in Section 13 of the SSA’s blue book under Malignant Neoplastic Diseases. Just being diagnosed with cancer alone does not mean that you will qualify for benefits unless it is a type of cancer that is listed in the compassionate allowances program. In most cases, the cancer has to be inoperable, have distant metastases (has spread), or be recurrent after surgical procedures or irradiation.

You will need to prove through your medical records and work history that your cancer prevents you from working at the job at which you were previously working or any other job for which you are qualified.

Qualifying Under the Compassionate Allowances Program

Certain types of cancer can qualify for Social Security Disability benefits in less than two weeks under the SSA’s Compassionate Allowances program. Under this program, individuals who are suffering from very severe conditions can bypass the standard disability claim process and be approved for benefits a lot faster. You will need a physician’s opinion stating that the cancer is not operable or an operative note stating that the cancer was not completely resected in order to qualify under this program. If an operative note is not available, a pathology report indicating positive margins can be used. When applying for benefits, make sure you include this medical documentation and make it clear how you qualify for benefits under the Compassionate Allowances guidelines.

There are numerous cancers that are listed in the compassionate allowance program. For a complete list of all compassionate allowances conditions, please visit: http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/compassionate-allowances.

How to Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits

You can apply for Social Security Disability benefits online or in person at your local Social Security office. Make sure that you have all of the medical evidence that you will need at the time of your application. While the SSA will have you fill out forms that allow them to request copies of your medical records, it is always best to submit medical records on your own as a part of your application to ensure that the SSA receives complete documentation that supports your disability claim.

If You’ve Been Touched By Breast Cancer & Are Planning A Wedding, Read On…

Image credit:  123RF Stock Photo

Image credit: 123RF Stock Photo

 

It’s that time of year again when The Wedding Pink presents one couple whose lives have been recently touched by breast cancer with a FREE dream wedding, valued between $30,000- $40,000.  OMG! So amazing!!

 

Founder Cheryl Ungar is a 22-year breast cancer survivor and a wedding photographer.  She has put together an extraordinary team of some of Colorado’s top wedding vendors — all of whom have generously agreed to donate their services and products to ensure The Wedding Pink is a spectacular event for one very special couple.

 

Here’s the dealio (as my daughter always says)…  If your life has been recently touched by breast cancer (fyi, the experience is not limited to the bride, but could be with the bride or groom’s extended family) AND are engaged or soon-to-be-engaged, you could be the lucky winner of this fairy tale wedding.

 

This year’s Wedding Pink will will take place May 15, 2014 in Larkspur, Colorado.  Applications are open to ANY legal resident of the US regardless of what state they live in.  Submissions will be open from August 15 – August 25.  The winning couple will be selected in early September 2013.  There are no income qualifications.  Winners will be chosen by a panel of judges.  To learn more about the submission criteria, click HERE.

Wishing you all a lifetime of health, love & happiness together….

Getting the 411 on Breast Reconstruction

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The Cancer Support Community surveyed 762 breast cancer survivors (who were eligible for breast reconstruction) and found that 43% of these women did not receive any info about breast reconstruction PRIOR to making surgical decisions (mastectomy or lumpectomy).  Why is this a huge problem?  Well, if you opt to reconstruct one or both boobs, the method you choose to reconstruct can be affected depending on how the initial surgery is done.  Since you can’t go back and re-do your mastectomy, this is an extremely important conversation to have with your doctor BEFORE a mastectomy takes place.

 

Whether you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer or have a family history of breast cancer and/or the BRCA gene and are contemplating a mastectomy, check out BreastReconstruction.Org, the most comprehensive site on breast reconstruction that I’ve come across.

 

To provide a better understanding of the breast reconstruction process and the different options that exist, BreastReconstruction.Org has created a site that contains easy-to-understanddetailed information with illustrations and photographs on topics including: mastectomy; options for reconstruction; secondary procedures including nipple tattooing; pre and post operative care; as well as the latest news & information on reconstruction.  You can also read stories from other women who have walked in your shoes and learn from the decisions they have made.  It’s really a fantastic site.

 

BTW, my dear friend and kick-ass breast cancer survivor Diane Mapes (AKA @Double_Whammied) just wrote an incredible article on her breast reconstruction using the BRAVA/ fat transfer method.  To read about Diane’s experience, see her article “Reconstructing Hope.  Diane also blogs about breast cancer at www.doublewhammied.com.

 

 

 

 

FREE Kit to Help Manage Side Effects from Chemotherapy

A sample of an Adult Comfort Kit

A sample of an Adult Comfort Kit

We all need a little love once in a while… and if you’ve been diagnosed with cancer and are receiving chemotherapy, you deserve a little extra lovin’. That’s what Peppermint & Ginger Comfort Kits are all about…

 

Peppermint & Ginger Comfort Kits are FREE kits created to help provide comfort and help alleviate some of the more common side effects caused by chemotherapy.  An “Adult Kit” contains peppermint and ginger teas (which can help ease nausea), a soft bristle toothbrush, alcohol free mouth wash and toothpaste and lip balm (to help ease oral side effects experienced as a result of treatment), warm socks and a relaxation CD.  When possible, P&G adds in other goodies as well.  Their “Pediatric Kit” contains hot chocolate instead of teas and it’s contents will vary depending on the age of the patient.

 

If you know of a cancer patient receiving chemotherapy or if you yourself are a patient and would like one of these comforting kits, please click HERE to request one.

FREE Wigs for Cancer Patients Living in Des Moines, Iowa

 

If you live in Des Moines, Iowa and have lost your hair as a result of cancer treatments, check out Strands of Strength.  Strands of Strength provides FREE quality wigs to cancer patients- men, women or children- regardless of age or type of cancer – who live in Des Moines, Iowa and who could not otherwise afford a wig.

 

Here’s the dealio (as my daughter always says)…  

Strands of Strength works closely with medical professionals at Iowa HealthBlank Children’s Hospital and Mercy Hospital.   These hospitals will provide patients in need a voucher slip for a free wig.  

Patients can then choose any wig they like from any Strands of Strength-approved wig shop.  The voucher represents payment to the shop.  It’s as simple as that.

For more information, visit StrandsofStrength.com or contact Deb at deb@strandsofstrength.com or via phone at (515) 240-5843.