Swedish News Blog

Swedish Celebrates Dr. Saul Rivkin’s Long, Impressive Career as a Devoted, Accomplished Medical Oncologist and Researcher in Fight Against Ovarian Cancer

Swedish News



SEATTLE, June 6, 2013 – Swedish Cancer Institute (SCI) announced today that Saul Rivkin, M.D., medical oncologist, as well as founder and board chair of the Marsha Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer Research, will retire from his clinical practice at SCI on July 1, 2013. The highly respected and revered physician, who is 77 years old and has five daughters and seven grandchildren, Dr. Rivkin is best known for his committed, tenacious approach to fighting cancer and the personal connection he has established with the thousands of patients he has cared for over the years.

BRCA Genetic Testing for Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer

Robert Resta

Robert Resta
Genetic Counselor

In today’s New York Times, actress and director Angelina Jolie bravely and openly discusses her experience with BRCA genetic testing for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer:

The 37 year old Ms. Jolie – who has not had cancer – underwent genetic testing because of her family history of cancer. She was found to carry a mutation in the BRCA1 gene, which puts her at significant risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers. Ms. Jolie, the mother of 3 adopted and 3 biological children, elected to undergo a risk-reducing double mastectomy, and plans to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed soon to lower her risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Ms. Jolie’s story opens a public conversation about the importance of genetic testing in helping to reduce a woman’s risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers. This very personal decision about mastectomy by someone widely regarded as one of the most beautiful women in the movies also helps women recognize that their body image and sexuality does not have to be defined by their breasts. Not every woman will make the decision to have major surgery, but genetic test results can also make sure that your breast cancer screening is appropriate for your level of risk; women who carry a BRCA gene mutation need ...

iPad Loan Program at the Swedish Cancer Institute

Brian Aylward, BS, CHES

Brian Aylward, BS, CHES
Health Navigator

Going through cancer treatment as a patient, family member or caregiver can take a lot of personal time. And we know that being in a hospital environment on a day-to-day basis can be exhausting. Here at the Swedish Cancer Institute (SCI), we aim to provide resources and access to services to help your mind, body and spirit heal.

One way we do this is through using innovative programs that help connect patients and family members to resources within the community. Recently, SCI has launched a new iPad Loan Program that puts interactive and educational resources right at your fingertips.

You can use the iPads while waiting in the lobby or even during treatment to:

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

Robert Resta

Robert Resta
Genetic Counselor

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

Brian Aylward, BS, CHES

Brian Aylward, BS, CHES
Health Navigator

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....

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

Robert Resta

Robert Resta
Genetic Counselor

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

Vivek K. Mehta, MD

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 ...

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