Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Research Suggests 'Chemo Brain' May Be Legit! No Kidding!

It's about time. It's only been very recent studies that are revealing the reality of "chemo brain".  So many women who have undergone breast cancer treatments report such problems and so often they're ignored, or dismissed as being only a result of the stress and anxiety caused by breast cancer. Finally some studies are showing that it's the real deal. Lord knows I've suffered quite clearly from the effect and, in fact, 3 years later, still have issues that I honestly believe I wouldn't have had otherwise.

Chemo Brain. It's for real. And it sucks. Then again, so does death by cancer. Even more so.

Research Suggests 'Chemo Brain' May Involve Neurophysiological Change:

"For many years, breast cancer patients have reported experiencing difficulties with memory, concentration and other cognitive functions following cancer treatment. Whether this mental "fogginess" is psychosomatic or reflects underlying changes in brain function has been a bone of contention among scientists and physicians.  

Now, a new study led by Dr. Patricia Ganz, director of cancer prevention and control research at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, demonstrates a significant correlation between poorer performance on neuropsychological tests and memory complaints in post-treatment, early-stage breast cancer patients - particularly those who have undergone combined chemotherapy and radiation. "The study is one of the first to show that such patient-reported cognitive difficulties- often referred to as 'chemo brain' in those who have had chemotherapy- can be associated with neuropsychological test performance," said Ganz, who is also a professor of health policy and management at UCLA's Fielding School of Public Health and a professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA." (read more at the above link)


Low-Dose Aspirin May Halt Breast Cancer

If you're not already, you might want to consider taking a daily low-dose aspirin.

Proliferation Of Two Breast Cancer Lines Stymied By Low-Dose Aspirin:

"Regular use of low-dose aspirin may prevent the progression of breast cancer, according to results of a study by researchers at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Kansas City, Mo., and the University of Kansas Medical Center.  
The study found that aspirin slowed the growth of breast cancer cell lines in the lab and significantly reduced the growth of tumors in mice. The age-old headache remedy also exhibits the ability to prevent tumor cells from spreading." (Read more at the link above)


Seasonal Effect Revealed For Tamoxifen In Breast Cancer Treatment

It appears that low Vitamin D correlates to less effective Tamoxifen, meaning that in winter the Tamoxifen we take might not be working for us as well as it could be.  Interesting to me that the study doesn't recognize the importance of measuring our Vitamin D levels (which the Cancer Centre here has never tested for me despite the already documented link between breast cancer and low Vitamin D - go figure) and neither does it suggest increasing our Vitamin D levels via supplementation. What I infer from this report of the study is that they're suggesting perhaps we need more Tamoxifen during winter months instead. Hmmmm ...

Seasonal Effect Revealed For Tamoxifen In Breast Cancer Treatment:

"For women diagnosed with a form of breast cancer known as estrogen receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer, tamoxifen is an essential drug used in the treatment and prevention of recurring breast cancer. Currently, tamoxifen is used in a one-size-fits-all approach where the same dose is prescribed for every patient.  
New research at Lawson Health Research Institute has found that in addition to patient-specific genetic factors, lack of exposure to vitamin D during the long winter months affects the body's ability to metabolize the drug. The findings, which have been reported in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, are the first to identify this seasonal effect. Dr. Richard Kim, who is a physician at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) and holds the Wolfe Medical Research Chair in Pharmacogenomics at Western University, reports that during the winter months nearly 30 percent of patients are at risk for less than optimal level of the active form of tamoxifen, called endoxifen, and therefore may not benefit as much from the therapy. "  (Read more at the link above)


Breast Cancer Survival Not Affected By Alcohol Consumption

This has become pretty typical. First we're told NO, then we're told YES. I've been told to avoid alcohol and I mostly have. I have an occasional drink, which has supposedly been a non-issue but if I have a few weekends in a row where I've imbibed, I feel a twinge of concern and I chastise myself.

Now the tables have turned ... apparently (until they turn back again) ... and we learn that alcohol is a non-issue in breast cancer survival and, in fact, in moderation it may be beneficial. I feel much better about this research than the previous studies.

Tequila shots, anyone?

Breast Cancer Survival Not Affected By Alcohol Consumption:

Although previous research has linked alcohol consumption to an increased risk of developing breast cancer, a new study has found that drinking before and after diagnosis does not impact survival from the disease. In fact, a modest survival benefit was found in women who were moderate drinkers before and after diagnosis due to a reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, a major cause of mortality among breast cancer survivors. (Read more at the link above)


Mammograms Indicate Effectiveness of Tamoxifen

This makes absolute sense to me.  One of the key risk factors for breast cancer is hight breast density. I didn't have a mammogram until after I'd discovered my lump but I was told both by my radiologist and my surgeon that my breasts were "very dense". After chemo, radiation, and some time on Tamoxifen, my mammograms indicate that my breast tissue isn't dense at all. The thing is, my radiologist never volunteers this information. I always have to ask. It's such important information to know ... at least I thought so ... and now it turns out to be so.  So please ... know about your breast density whether you've had cancer or not. It's significant.

Mammograms Reveal Response To Common Cancer Drug:

Tamoxifen is a common hormone therapy drug that is usually given over a course of five years to prevent relapse in women who have completed their primary breast cancer treatment. However, no method has been available for assessing which women are likely to respond to the tamoxifen and not develop relapse of breast cancer. Researchers from Karolinska Institutet have now produced a possible way of doing just this.
The team looked into mammograms, which are X-ray images of the breast, for an answer. Breast tissue on a mammogram can be broadly classified into fatty or dense. The proportion of tissue which appears white is what contributes to 'density', whilst the black parts are mostly fat. Since tamoxifen has been repeatedly shown to induce a reduction in mammographic density, could it be that only women responding to tamoxifen treatment would exhibit a concomitant decrease in mammographic density?
The study included almost 1,000 postmenopausal women who had been treated for breast cancer. Roughly half of the group had been given tamoxifen. The women were monitored over an average of 15 years, after which 12.4 per cent (121 women) had died as a result of theircancer.
The team discovered that the difference in mammographic density between two mammograms taken after the initiation of tamoxifen was related to breast cancer survival. Women who experienced a pronounced density reduction of 20 percent or more upon initiation of tamoxifen were half as likely to die from breast cancer, over a span of 15 years, than those who experienced little or no change.
The researchers hope that their results will be used to assess which breast cancer patients are responding to tamoxifen treatment. Since the patient group already undergoes annual follow-up mammograms, no further examinations are needed.
"What's needed is accurate measurement of mammographic density, which isn't currently routine," says Per Hall, Professor at Karolinska Institutet's Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics. "Measuring changes in density can be a simple and cheap means of assessing the effect of the treatment. If a patient is not responding to tamoxifen, maybe they should be given a different drug."


Thursday, February 28, 2013

Copper and Breast Cancer. Dang!

This recent research on copper and it's relationship to breast cancer is weighing heavily on my mind.

About a year ago my Naturopath had my copper levels tested (I don't remember why) among other things and when the results came back, my Family Doctor called me immediately to tell me that my copper levels were VERY high. CRAZY high. She suggested I talk to my Naturopath about it right away. And I did. My Naturopath started me on Zinc to counteract the copper. The reason my Family Doctor called first is because any tests my Naturopath wants done have to be requested by a medical doctor - it's the law in Saskatchewan.

We couldn't find any explanation for my high copper levels and I can't FEEL that I'm high in copper. Weird. And so I've been taking my zinc. But now I'll be going back to my Naturopath and my Family Doctor to get my copper levels tested again to see what's going on. I've never had my copper levels tested before so I can't know if they were high before I got breast cancer. It's interesting to me that if it's so significant, why doesn't an oncologist test for it? Then again, we know that low Vitamin D is also significantly related to breast cancer but they don't test for that either - at least mine doesn't.

Here's a report about the research.

Copper Chelation May Help Prevent Recurrence In High-Risk Breast Cancer Patients - Food for Breast Cancer

Recurrence is never far from a breast cancer survivor's mind.

Monday, January 21, 2013

A New Blog ... Just About Quilting

A new year. A new me. A new blog ...

It only seems fitting. I have days when I don't even think about cancer. It's wonderful! So I want to stop talking about it and spend more time making things.

I'll still update this blog from time to time but only about my health and recovery or ... please, NOOOOOO ... if cancer recurs. Since I can't know if that will happen and since I finally have days when I don't think about it, I think I can successfully LIVE like someone who is cancer free. I don't have cancer today!

My new blog ...  ... will be just about quilting and it will be a "slow blog". I don't feel compelled to blog all the time or even regularly. I'll just blog when I have something to show or talk about as it relates to quilting. I've designed it so that photos will display larger. I have wanted to redesign this blog for a long time but was always afraid that I'd mess something up and lose all or part of it and make a huge amount of work for myself in fixing things. So this is my chance to redesign.

So, if you're interested in what I'm up to in my dining room with my sewing machine and fabric stash, please follow along at .

I made a new table runner this weekend and there are photos of it over there. Check it out!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Seven Wonders Table Runner for Matt

This is a belated Christmas gift for Matt, Hannah's boyfriend. Prepare for a lot of photos. If you want to see close-ups, just click on a photo.

I made this yesterday … my first ever table runner. All in one day! I'm sure someone else would have whipped this up in a few hours but it took me a lot longer than that. Pretty much all day. I hand sewed the binding at night. The binding was a one-movie-job.

Matt has been making some beautiful tables out of worn barn board and metal and I wanted to make something that would look good against old wood.

I think these fabrics … Seven Wonders by David Butler (aka Parson Gray) … will look nice with worn wood. Remember the quilt I made for Uncle Reg? Well, the fabrics are by the same designer. David Butler is married to Amy Butler, famous for her fabric designs, patterns, etc. and he's also the lead vocalist with the rock band, the Black Owls … just so you know. Check them out. Follow him and/or his band on Facebook. I really like his fabric designs. Earthy. Manly.

I didn't use a pattern. I just chose three fabrics for the front and cut them in sizes that best worked with the repeat in the fabric design, resulting in a 12 inch wide runner. You can see that there are basically 4 blocks sewn together.  I was careful to cut the wavy and rainy fabrics in the same direction. The other fabric I wanted to show in different orientations because it gives a different effect depending on which way it lays.

For the back I was going to use a single fabric but because the runner is a bit longer than the width of fabric that I have, I chose a fabric to add to each end. The blue fabric is "wind" and the pieces on either end are "rain". The binding is the wavy fabric from the front.

Today Kevin and I were out for a bit so we looked for some places to take photos - a park, back alley fences, snow.

Seven Wonders in the Snow.

The sun finally emerged only for a little while when we got back home so I quickly pinned the runner to a neighbour's fence in our back alley and took a few sunny photos.

And some close-ups. 

I'll mail this to Matt this week.  He doesn't read my blog so no worries about him seeing it.  If you know Matt, don't tell him.

I just LOVE these fabrics.

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