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'cancer' posts

Misconceptions & Misunderstandings About Genetic Testing For Hereditary Cancer: My family history of cancer almost guarantees that one day I will develop cancer

Many people who have a family history of cancer often assume that they are at high risk of developing cancer and do not see the value of genetic counseling and genetic testing. The reasoning often goes like this:

“My mother, my cousin, and my grandmother all had breast cancer. I know there is a very high chance that I will develop it too. I would never have a mastectomy, so I am extra good about getting mammograms and my doctor checks my breasts every time I see her. I have a healthy diet, exercise regularly, rarely drink alcohol, and I have never put a cigarette to my lips. Since I am already doing everything I can possibly do, I don’t see how genetic counseling and genetic testing can help me.”

Of course, it is a good idea to be conscientious about your medical care, and everyone should maintain a healthy lifestyle, regardless of family history. The questions that genetic testing may answer for you are:

Gift Basket Programs at the Swedish Cancer Institute

The Swedish Cancer Institute has community partnerships with several local and national organizations that strive to promote education, hope and healing to newly diagnosed patients with cancer. Specifically, two local organizations have partnered with Swedish Cancer Institute in a unique way, offering moments of inspiration and comfort in times of distress. Northwest Hope & Healing and Thrive Through Cancer are two local non-profit organizations focused on offering assistance and support to those newly diagnosed with cancer and aim to empower and connect community members with resources needed to flourish....

Breast Cancer Screening Recommendations Revisited

Are you confused about breast cancer screening recommendations? If you are, you are not alone.

Multiple organizations have come out with conflicting studies, data, and recommendations. Those advocating for reduced screening argue that screening does not improve the death rate from breast cancer; that women who have biopsies that are found to be benign suffer significant psychological harm; and that cancers are found that would never cause death.

Significant flaws have been found in these arguments by physicians who have committed their careers to understanding and treating breast cancer. There are multiple problems with the scientific methodology, assumptions, endpoints and analyses used in these critiques of mammogram screening recommendations. One problem is that medical science currently does not have the ability to distinguish between lethal cancers and those that will not cause death. Based on rigorous scientific data, we do know that the best way to improve survival from breast cancer is to detect it before it becomes clinically obvious and to treat it early.

None of the major oncology organizations support the guidelines calling for reduced screening. A letter to the New England Journal of Medicine ....

Misconceptions & Misunderstandings About Genetic Testing For Hereditary Cancer: Don’t Test Me, Test My Family!

As a genetic counselor with 30 years of experience, I have met with many families who have been concerned about their hereditary risks to develop cancer and other disorders. I have found that the complexity of genetics can sometimes cause misunderstandings about some critical information.

A common question that patients ask is this: I already have cancer, it makes no sense for me to have genetic testing, so why don’t you test my family instead?

As it turns out, the best strategy for most families is to for genetic testing to start with a relative who has already been diagnosed with cancer.

  1. If that person has a normal genetic test result, there is usually no need to test any other healthy family members.
  2. Because of the complicated nature of cancer genetics, accurate interpretation of a negative result usually requires an affected relative to have a positive genetic test.
  3. If a patient has a positive genetic test, the cost of testing all other family members will usually be considerably less expensive and increases the likelihood that health insurers will cover the test.

Let’s clarify this with a specific example.

Three sisters, all in their 30s, want to undergo genetic testing because their mother is a breast cancer survivor, and ...

Cardiac risks associated with radiation therapy following breast cancer

Recently, there has been increasing media attention to the risks of heart damage associated with adjuvant breast cancer radiotherapy.

This observation and debate has been ongoing for a long time in medical literature. Most recently, an article in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that adjuvant radiotherapy for breast cancer increases the rate of ischemic heart disease. The authors conclude that the risk is associated with the dose of radiotherapy to the heart and begins a few years after the treatment. Dr. Kesarwala, an expert radiation oncologist from Bethesda, reviewed the data and provided a report in the April issue of the ACR Journal Advisor. She noted that “nearly 80% of patients in this study had mastectomies and over 90% had adjuvant chemotherapy with regimens very different from those currently used. This study mixed lymph node-positive patients (48%) with lymph node-negative patients, two sub-populations with different expected overall survival who would also have received different types of radiotherapy.” Other variables such as stage, presence of internal mammary nodes, type of surgery, or details of radiotherapy were not matched between the control and treated patients.

Because the study does not provide details regarding the radiotherapy specifically, it is difficult to interpret the conclusions. The doses of radiotherapy delivered ...

Cancer and the culture of desperation

Cancer “diagnoses” are popularly characterized as death sentences preceded by periods of horrible suffering. This characterization, popularized by media of all types (from movie to the pages of the New York Times), is in fact what motivates much of the real problem of cancer … desperation.

What if the conditions for success could be known?

Two years in the life of the Swedish blog

For those of you who don't know, today is the official two year anniversary of the Swedish blog - this means Swedish has been blogging several times a week for two full years!

What have we been blogging about this year?

Who's been blogging?

We've had people from across Swedish blogging (more than 100 the last time we checked), including:

  • Surgeons

  • Nurses

  • Family Medicine and Primary Care Physicians

  • Dietitians

  • Educators

  • (And many others!)

Why are we blogging?

We started the blog as a way to connect with you (our community), whether you're a current patient, a past patient, a future patient…or just someone who stumbled across our site looking for health information. We believe our role is to be a resource of information, both online and off. Blogging gives us an easy way to keep you up to date, informed, and engaged on a number of health topics

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