From the category archives:

Breast Cancer Research


A new vaccine against breast cancer has shown promising results during trials, according to the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. The results of the study was published in the journal Oncogene in May.

For breast cancer cells to proliferate they need to stimulate blood flow by forming of new veins to carry that blood.  But if you block the protein Delta-like ligand 4 (DLL4) you can create new – but useless – veins.  This slows down the tumor’s growth and may prevent breast cancer recurrence following surgery, according to Dr. Kristian Pietras who lead the study, since the tumor, despite new veins, does not receive the nourishment from an increased blood supply.

The animal experiments also showed that the vaccine had no serious side effects and that wounds still healed well.

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This is the week Dr. Guru promised to do my re-excision.  But not a word from his office or from his assistant, Joy,  who  supposedly is “arranging the details.” No explanation. No apology. No  follow up.

Meanwhile I am obsessed with my research, trying to figure out the dangers of putting off radiation. Everything I have read says it should ideally be within four weeks of the lumpectomy,  no more than eight weeks.

I find a Breast Society Journal that confirms what I suspect:  2nd incision not good for the breast, tunnel syndrome etc. Dr. Guru himself has written something in this journal.

And how will Dr. Guru know where to carve again, now that my breast, presumably, has heeled?

“Will remove lateral margin with aid of frozen section. My assistant arranging details. Thanks,” reads Dr. Guru’s email in response to mine. But he gives no hint of exact date for my re-excision although “next week”  is right now.

I call Dr. Alpha, my radiation oncologist,and ask him  if a two week wait is OK.  ” Not ideal, but OK,” he says.

Pissed, I call Dr. Guru’s office.

“I am supposed to have surgery this week, but I have no idea which day he means,” I tell his assistant.

She has no idea either.

“These small procedures are so hard to fit into his schedule,” she laments.

“I am already aware of how terribly insignificant my procedure is , but I cannot go on with my radiation and hormone  treatments without the re-excision.”

”Oh no,  that is not what I mean.”

“Can another surgeon do it?” I ask realizing I sound ridiculous.

“Oh no, then you are a new patient and have to start all over again. How about  the 15th?

“That is TWO weeks away. Two months since my first surgery.”

Briefly, I am put on hold. She comes back to tell me they have no openings this week. None.

“Maybe the 7th. I will call you back if we have a cancellation. Promise.”

“He usually does these small procedures on Fridays,” she says. “But this Friday he has a 10-hour procedure scheduled.”

I don’t give a rat’s tail anymore.

“How about my little one before the big one on Friday?”

We keep wrestling over the phone, both of us digging in our heels, but neither of us loosing our cool.

“I am going over to the hospital this afternoon,” she finally concedes. “I will ask him to call you if he can do something about it. Some times he sees thing I don’t.”

“Have him call me either way,” I tell her. “I want it straight from Dr. Guru’s mouth to my ear why he told me he was going to do it this week and suddenly he can’t. I want to hear him say it.”

Around 3 PM,  Dr. Guru’s assistant calls. She sounds relieved. “You have pre-op  on Thursday at 10.45 AM. Your  re-excision is on Friday, 1 PM.

I immediately feel guilty. What melanoma patient has been pushed off the table to make room for me? What woman with advanced breast cancer, a double mastectomy with reconstruction may have been pushed off the OR table? What person needing a 10-hour surgery is now in a complete funk because of me?

“Bullshit,” says my friend Cecilia.  “He just canceled his golf game, that was his 10-hour procedure. Don’t kid yourself.”

But I am not convinced, just relieved to know it will finally be done.


OncoDX Test Results

November 1, 2009

Although no cancer cells may have been found in a patient’s lymph nodes during surgery, 20 percent of these “node negative” patients still have cancer cells somewhere outside the breast area. Not surprising perhaps, since once a tumor reaches  1 cm, you have one billion cancer cells, like this one below, in your body. In […]

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Pink O’Mania Month: A Pink Frying Pan, Anyone?

October 24, 2009

In case you somehow missed it: October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.   Basically, it means you are supposed to spend money to help find a cure. But why do we need to buy fluffy pink socks and eat pink cup cakes to raise money for much needed research? After all, breast cancer is a hideous […]

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Discovery: A Gene Not Responsive to Radiation

September 4, 2009

A cancer research team in Lund, Sweden has found a new a gene profile that can help oncologist better determine when lumpectomy followed by radiation may not be appropriate. The newly discovered gene reveals whether or not a tumor will respond to radiation. Women who have tumors with this particular gene will in the future […]

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Little Pink Bows Everywhere

August 13, 2009

Before my diagnosis, I paid no attention to pink bows, the symbol for breast cancer awareness.  But now that I have been initiated into the pink bow sisterhood, I see pink constantly and everywhere. It is obviously a powerful marketing tool. Water bottles,  T-shirts, hats,  and slippers are decorated with pink bows. There are pink […]

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Hypochondria Galore

August 6, 2009

No MRI results. No pathology report on the calcification in my left breast. No surgery date  – yet – to remove the cancerous hazelnut in my right breast. Five weeks have passed since I received my diagnosis. Five weeks since I was told I may have lived with breast cancer for a whole decade. And […]

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No Self-Pity, Just Curiosity.

July 3, 2009

I am reading in the garden, pool side, when I notice the gathering clouds and hear the rumble in the distance, so I dart inside the house to lie down on the living room sofa. My husband is already napping upstairs. Claps of thunder before rain begins to drum against the tall windows as I drift […]

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How to Lie with Statistics – or Just Ignore Them.

June 27, 2009

A perfect day to hang out in our wonderful pool, the one extravagant purchase we do not regret. It is large and deep, filled with cool turquoise,  mildly salty, water, soothing to both body and soul. My friend Cecilia comes over and gives me “The Complete Guide to Breast Cancer.” (Winner of the Ross Kushner […]

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Grasping for a Cork in the Stormy Internet Sea

June 20, 2009

My friends Cecilia and Marie email me names of surgeons and oncologists. All of them are affiliated with the hospital closest to me. But this hospital is in a feud with Blue Cross Blue Shield, my insurance company. The news is all over the local papers. Given the insurance issue and Dr. Guru’s excellent CV, […]

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