Study Questions Frequent Follow-Up for 'Probably Benign' Mammograms

Of the nearly 30 million American women who undergo screening mammograms every year, up to 11 percent receive “probably benign” test results — and therefore are asked to come back for a follow-up mammogram in three to six months. But according to a new study by UC Davis researchers, such frequent re-testing may be unnecessary. The study appears in tomorrow’s issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. The UC Davis researchers examined the mammography records of nearly 60,000 women enrolled in the national Women’s Health Initiative project, one of the largest preventive health studies in the United States. Among the women who had probably benign mammograms, only 1 percent went on to develop breast cancer within two years, the investigation found.

New study offers clues to how breast cancer spreads

A new study published by researchers at Georgetown University’s Lombardi Cancer Center, in collaboration with researchers at Yale University, has identified two molecular predictors of breast cancer spread, or metastasis. This study may one day lead to tests of breast cancer tissue that will help physicians determine whether a woman’s breast cancer is likely to spread, or metastasize.

Gene mutations in breast tissue may make cancer detection more difficult

Until now, researchers thought that breast cancer nearly always began when cells in the epithelium went haywire. But new research suggests that genetic mutations can ? and do ? occur initially in a deeper layer of breast tissue, called the stroma. This presents a serious concern for physicians, who believed that breast tumors spread from epithelial tissue. “Genetic alterations in carcinomas, including breast cancers, have always been attributed to epithelial cells,” said Charis Eng, Klotz professor and director of the Clinical Cancer Genetics Program at Ohio State University. She co-authored a new study that looks at genetic mutations in breast tissue.

Tamoxifen-Resistant Breast Cancers Become Receptive to New Therapies

Breast cancer tumors that stop responding to the drug tamoxifen actually change their cellular characteristics and become responsive to other types of drugs, including Herceptin, according to oncologists at the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center. “In the process of becoming resistant to tamoxifen, the tumors alter their qualities and become receptive to Herceptin and other drugs that target the HER-2 receptor,” said Kimberly Blackwell, M.D., assistant professor of oncology at Duke.

Hormone breast cancer risk normalizes after stopping pills

Researchers confirmed that a daily, combined dose of estrogen and progestin increases breast cancer risk in post menopausal women, but added that this risk begins to return to normal about six months after women stop taking the hormones. “It is reassuring that breast cancer risk begins to return to normal six months after women stop combined dose estrogen-progestin therapy,” said Duane Alexander, M.D., Director of the NICHD. “Women, in consultation with their physicians, need to make the most informed decision possible. The study authors have provided them with one more piece of important information.”

Progesterone Causes Less Bleeding than Most Hormone Replacement Therapies

Excessive bleeding, a troublesome side-effect that causes many women to stop taking hormone replacement therapies (HRT), is less likely with progesterone than with more commonly used synthetic versions. Results from a national clinical trial published in the November issue of the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, show that a combination of estrogen and micronized progesterone (MP) causes fewer days and less intense bleeding than the most commonly used combination. Previous studies have shown that unacceptable bleeding is the reason that most women discontinue HRT during the first year of therapy.

Cancer detector works both ways

Dual use technology usually starts out with a military use that civilians find a way to commercialize. The U.S. Navy is hoping to turn that equation around with a $5 million program to improve breast cancer detection. As it happens, looking for a cancerous cell in a human breast relies on a lot of the same science as identifying targets in spy satellite photos. And since the Navy believes its current pick-’em-out technology has hit a ceiling, it hopes to develop advances in breast cancer screening that can be applied to spotting Osama bin Laden from space. Wired has a terrific story on this, and notes that real-world applications are already emerging.

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