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PALB2 Gene Mutation & Breast Cancer: What it Means For You

PALB2 is a gene that was first linked to hereditary breast cancer risk back in 2007. Today’s Seattle Times reports on a recent study about PALB2 that was just published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study, the largest to date, detailed the breast cancer risks faced by  women – and to a lesser extent, men – who carry a mutation in their PALB2 gene. The breast cancer risks were several times greater than the ~12% risk faced by all women, and varied with the woman’s age and family history. Currently, there is no consistent evidence to suggest  that men or women who carry a single PALB2 gene mutation are at greater risks of developing ovarian or other cancers.
 
PALB2 genetic testing can provide very important information that can help women and their families better understand and reduce their risks of developing breast cancer. However, even among women with a very strong personal or family history of breast cancer, very few will test positive. Studies suggest that only about 1-3% of high risk women  will carry a PALB2 mutation. In my personal experience, I have tested about 300 high risk women for PALB2 mutations, and ...

Summer, sun, and skin cancer - what you should know

It is easy to get carried away enjoying the string of lovely sunny summer days we have had in Seattle. Our sun is strong, and our unprotected skin vulnerable to UV damage that can lead to sun damage and perhaps skin cancers. Skin cancers fall into the broad categories of squamous cell cancer, basal cell cancer and melanoma. Each of these cancers are usually surgically excised or destroyed by either a dermatologist or general surgeon.

How to tell if a skin lesion is concerning

Warning signs include moles larger than a pencil eraser head, change in size, change in color, itching, bleeding or scab forming over the mole. Areas of particular concern include face, neck, back and extremities. However, skin cancers can also develop in areas where the sun does not shine.

What to do if I have a skin cancer?

If you have a mole or skin lesion that is concerning, bring it up with your family physician who may biopsy it or refer you ..

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) in Head and Neck Cancer

Cancer of the oropharynx (throat) has undergone a drastic and dramatic change over the last decade.  In the past, most throat cancers were linked with prolonged cigarette smoking and alcohol use.  Now, the occurrence of throat cancer is rising and 80-90% is likely caused by an infection with Human Papillomavirus (HPV).  Many high-profile personalities, including actor Michael Douglas, have recently revealed that they have experienced HPV-related throat cancer.

What causes HPV-related Oropharynx cancer?

Infection with the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is known to cause genital warts and lead to various genital cancers, but now it appears to also cause the majority of throat cancers.  The types of HPV that lead to throat cancer are generally sexually transmitted, though some researchers believe that even kissing may result in HPV transmission.   The time period from HPV exposure to the development of a throat cancer is often decades. Although the cancer may be slow-growing, it is important to have annual check-ups with your physician and dentist who can assess your oral health appropriately. 
 
How is HPV-related Oropharynx cancer treated?


HPV-related throat cancer can ...

Mesothelioma update: shorter course of treatment and improved survival rates?

There have been some very exciting recent developments we (the Thoracic Surgery team at Swedish Cancer Institute) are utilizing in the treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM).

Over the past year we have offered some of our patients deemed appropriate for surgery a more streamlined approach to their overall care. Previously we have tried to offer chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation to all patients who were healthy and strong enough to undergo the three treatments, as mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer requiring aggressive treatment to optimize survival. This new approach still offers both surgery and radiation, but chemotherapy is given only to those found to have cancer in lymph nodes in the center of chest during surgery.

The advantages of this new treatment paradigm are ...

Join Swedish Cancer Institute at Seattle's Lung Force Walk on June 7

The American Lung Association (ALA) has dedicated 100+ years to promoting lung health through prevention of tuberculosis, cleaner air, smoking prevention, and providing resources to those who wish to quit smoking.

In their fight for healthy lungs, the ALA has taken on a fight with lung cancer.  Lung cancer is the #1 leading cause of cancer deaths in America for men and women.  This initiative against lung cancer is called Lung Force.

Swedish Cancer Institute has a long history of fighting lung cancer through research, early detection via low dose CT screening, staging of lung cancer, surgical and medical therapies, and palliation of lung cancer.

In support of the ALA and their efforts to spread awareness of the risks of lung cancer, raising funds for lung cancer research and providing advocacy for those affected by lung cancer, Swedish will participate in the Lung Force Walk on June 7th, in Seattle.

We welcome you to join Team Swedish for a fun filled morning of music, the 5K walk, and festivities at the finish line.  You can register for the walk for free and/or make a donation in any amount that you wish.  Dogs are invited to walk too!

To join and learn more, click here and  ....

Reducing visits to the operating room for breast cancer patients

Swedish Cancer Institute has changed the way early stage breast cancer patients are cared for by adopting new surgical margin guidelines.  These guidelines will reduce the need for taking women back to the operating room if cancer cells are found at or near the specimen edge, also known as the margin. Following extensive review of the data, this new guideline was established by breast experts from the Society of Surgical Oncology and the American Society of Radiation Oncology and has been endorsed by the American Society of Breast Surgeons and the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
 
Many women with early stage invasive breast cancer opt for breast conserving surgery, known as lumpectomy or partial mastectomy. For 20-25% of these patients, a second surgery or re-excision was performed because the margin was not considered adequate based on previous practice guidelines. The latest peer reviewed evidence shows disease control is excellent when surgery is combined with whole breast radiation with or without hormonal therapy and/or chemotherapy, regardless of the margin width.
 
The Swedish Cancer Institute’s multidisciplinary breast cancer team reviewed and approved these guidelines for our program. We believe by reducing the need ...

Facts and myths about antioxidants and cancer

Some of the most popular misconceptions surrounding cancer, cancer prevention and cancer treatment are about the role of antioxidants. Like many of the popular myths about cancer, there are facts, half-facts and outright falsehoods.
 
Fact: Damage to genes, particularly those involved in the regulation of cell division and cell death, is the key event in the development of cancer. 
Fact: Oxidants are substances, most often generated by our own body, that cause damage to chemicals, including the DNA that makes up our genes, by oxidizing them. The oxidation reaction most familiar to us is when metal rusts. 
Fact: Our bodies’ oxidants can contribute to cancer.
 
Half-fact: Antioxidants are chemicals we ingest that then run around neutralizing oxidants, rendering them powerless to promote cancer. The so-called antioxidant vitamins, of which vitamin C, E, and beta-carotene are the most well known are more properly called redox agents. In a particular environment, they prevent or reverse oxidation, called reduction. But they may change the acidity or even just the concentrations of the components of the reaction, and they may facilitate just the opposite. For example ....
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