As I think of this special day, I think of my grandmother who died of breast cancerÂ after a radical mastectomy when she was in her fiftiesÂ and of my mother, who underwent a mastectomy for a precancer when I was in college.
Today, we have lots of tools: surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy as well as newer, targeted therapies, like Herceptin, which is used to treat tumors that are HER2-positive. Most importantly, weâ€™ve learned that not all tumors respond to the same therapies, and that we need to match the treatment to the cancer. For example, some womenâ€™s tumors respond to hormones but not to chemotherapy while others do better with chemotherapy.
Until recently, we had no good way to know which tumors were which. As a result, virtually all women with tumors over 2 cm or who had positive lymph nodes received chemotherapy. Those with hormone-sensitive tumors (ER+ and/or PR+) also received hormone therapy. Now, though, we have tests that can help determine which tumors need which treatments. Mammaprint is available mostly in Europe while Oncotype DX,Â is done more in the United States.Â It is used on tumors that are ER+, and the test is conducted on the slides that made the cancer diagnosis. ByÂ measuring molecular patterns in the tumor, it can distinguish between two different kinds of ER+ breast cancer: one that does fine with hormones alone and doesnâ€™t benefit from chemotherapy and another that benefits from chemotherapy. Early studies suggest that it also works in women with positive nodes, although the definitive research is still ongoing.
This test is not done automatically, and not all insurance covers it. But YOU can ask your doctor to have it done. One of my older friends was diagnosed with breast cancer and also had significant heart disease. She did not want to have chemotherapy, which can cause heart problems, but her oncologist was insisting on it. I told her about the test, and she turned out to have a tumor that did not respond to chemotherapy but did respond to hormone therapy. She is still doing well, and she is so grateful that she took the time to become informed. Itâ€™s important that every woman with ER+ breast cancer know that a test that can help her as she makes her way through the maze of breast cancer treatments and decisions is now available.Â You can learn more about the test in this video, and we encourage you to pass the information on to friends and family members.
Matching treatments to tumors is a tremendous step forward in our ability to treat breast cancer. But as you know, for me, the end goal is not finding a cure but figuring out what causes breast cancer and how to prevent it once and for all.
Thatâ€™s why this Motherâ€™s Day, Iâ€™m honoring my grandmother, mother, and all the other women I know who have had breast cancer, by re-dedicating myself to my mission to end this diseaseâ€”now. As part of that effort, Iâ€™m continuing to recruit every woman I meet for our Army of Women.Â Iâ€™m also in training for the upcoming 4th Annual Love Walk/Run, which will be taking place in Pacific Palisades on Sunday, May 22. You donâ€™t need to be a runner or a walker to come out and show your support for the Love Walk/Run. You just need to be someone who, like me, wants to go beyond a cure and end this disease.
I hope you take time to celebrate all the amazing mothers in your life on Motherâ€™s Day this Sunday. And if you live near L.A., I hope youâ€™ll come out and join us for the Walk/Run on Sunday, May 22. Because when you think about, there are really never enough days to honor our mothers and grandmothers.