Breast Cancer: Reasons To Be Hopeful

Accela Marketing
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October 17, 2022
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minute read

Breakthrough Treatments

Currently, for most breast cancer patients the standard treatment for several generations of has been chemotherapy and/or radiation, with or without the additional surgical removal of the affected tissue. One of the first breakthroughs in breast cancer treatment was hormone treatment after the identification of the HER2 protein as a key factor in diagnosis. Since the mid-1990s, the HER2 protein was identified by pathologists in breast and other tumors. Eighty percent (80%) of breast cancers are classified as HER2-negative. This was used to predict treatment with drugs such as trastuzumab (Herceptin®). However, with better technology pathologists now have been able to pinpoint even lowers levels of HER2. This is a major breakthrough as HER2-targeted therapy has not been possible before in treating those with formally undetectable levels. In August of this year, a new drug called trastuzumab deruxtecan (T-DXd) designed specifically for breast cancer with lower levels of HER2 was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after a clinical trial led by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) breast medical oncologist Shanu Modi, who presented the findings at this year’s American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting.

Those who have been impacted by breast cancer know all too well that hope is everything. It is integral to the fuelling the will to fight on through the painful and debilitating treatments and the loss of hair, the loss of mammary glands, the loss of self that occurs and the strain on family and friends. For this year’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Marketing Mojo would like to focus on some reasons to be hopeful that the fight will not be in vein and there is light at the end of the tunnel for those given a diagnosis.

“The results of this trial are practice-changing and redefine how a large population of patients with metastatic disease will be treated. Although this trial focused on patients with breast cancer, we believe that these results could also have implications for the future treatment of people with other types of cancer that express HER2 at low levels.”- Dr. Shanu Modi

The results of the clinical trials for T-DXd (also known as Enhertu®) are extremely encouraging. In the majority of patients the cancer was in check nearly twice as long and increased their survival by about 35%. You can learn more about this breakthrough treatment on this podcast:

New Insights On Remission

Fear of the cancer returning is often crippling for patients. However, there is new reason to hope and release those fears. The Journal of the National Cancer Institute has some good news. Women who survive breast cancer for at least five years after treatment have an 89% chance that they will not have a recurrence of the cancer after 10 years and an 81% chance after 15 years. This is the result of an extensive investigation involving 2,838 women diagnosed with breast cancer from 1985 to 2001 who had surgery to remove the original tumor, some of whom had radiation and took cancer prevention medication.  Cancer returned after five years in only 7% of women treated for stage I breast cancer, 11% of women treated for stage II cancer and 13% of women treated for stage III cancer.

Increased Survival Rates Overall

According to the Susan G. Koman Foundation, early detection still offers the best chance for survival. Stage 4 breast cancer, also known as metastatic breast cancer is the stage where cancer cells have traveled through your lymphatic system to your lungs, bones, liver, brain, or other organs.

Susan G. Koman Foundation Survival Rates

However there have been more women surviving late-stage breast cancer than ever before due to advances in treatment and better understanding of the disease. According to Cancer Research UK, twenty-five percent (25%) of women diagnosed with late stage breast cancer which is typically deemed incurable but controllable with treatment, can survive their cancer for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed.

You Are Not Completely Powerless In This Fight

You still have some autonomy in your hands to make a brave stand against Breast Cancer before (prevention) and after (management) diagnosis. Preventative measures include:

  • Regular exercise. You do not necessarily have to become an extreme fitness fan. Find a physical activity you love and do it regularly.
  • Maintain a healthy weight by eating less calories than you burn, reducing sugar and saturated trans fats from your diet and increasing your fibre intake.
  • Going mostly vegetarian and vegan are good ideas. If you must eat animal protein, source clean, hormone-free kinds. There is research showing high in saturated fats increases estrogen in the blood stream which increase cancer risks.
  • Conversely, diets high in omega-3 fatty acids have the opposite effect. So eat at least 2-3 servings of fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel or take a cod-liver oil supplement.
  • Studies are showing a link between Vitamin D and lowered breast cancer risks. Check your Vitamin D levels and keep them up.
  • Drink less alcohol. Occasional glass of wine or beer is fine. But if you are having it every day or using harder liquor every day, you are increasing your risk.
  • Quit smoking cigarettes and vaping tobacco.
  • Do regular breast examinations. Here is a complete guide on how to do it.
  • Do annual check-ups (mammograms and blood tests) especially if you have breast and other cancers in your family.
  • Minimize exposure to pesticides and chemicals. Go as natural as possible including natural hair as relaxers, perms have estrogenic effects.
  • Reduce stress.

Management measures include:

  • Continue practicing all the preventative measures.
  • While undergoing treatment, you need to reduce your stress and take care of your emotional needs. You cannot have emotionally taxing or abusive or negative people around you. Now is the time to be selfish about putting your happiness and peace of mind first.
  • Emotions like shame, guilt, anxiety, anger release all the bad hormones in your body. Try to avoid such emotions and seek counseling to deal with any unresolved traumas or hang-ups or low self-esteem.
  • Support groups can help greatly with emotional management and give you a feeling of solidary and safety.

As technology and hindsight increase, we will have more ammunition in the fight against Breast Cancer. This month we want to encourage more of you to get informed and participate in activities that raise funds to help with treatment, especially here in the Caribbean where medical costs are prohibitive for most people. We want to erase stigma and increase open discussion and sharing life-stories. Below are some resources we recommend:

Face Of Cancer

Saint Lucia Cancer Society

Lake Health & Wellbeing

Caribbean Cancer Research Initiative

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Accela Marketing
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