Scientific studies are regularly being published on all forms of cancer, but as it has recently been Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October), studies on breast cancer have been focused on for this article. Two are American studies, which examine the possible reasons for an aggressive form of the disease to be more likely to be diagnosed in certain ethnicities. A second investigates the possibility that screening of men at high risk could help bring rates of late diagnosis of tumours down, and last, a survey by a British charity suggests that women diagnosed with secondary tumours could be being let down.
Genetics and RNA Molecules may be partly responsible for Aggressive Breast Cancer, suggest Scientists
A team of US scientists have discovered that a combination of genetics and RNA molecules could explain why an aggressive form of breast cancer is more prevalent in women in Latin American countries. The research could potentially lead to better treatment options for women with the disease. The study was published in Oncotarget in October 2019, which is an oncology-focused, open access, peer-reviewed weekly journal. This type of cancer can affect as many as 15-35% of women in Latin America, and they are often diagnosed at an earlier age than in other countries.
Fifty-four samples of non-treated primary breast cancer tumours were collected for the study. The scientists studied the genetics and molecules in detail and noticed that women who had been diagnosed with triple-negative forms of the disease showed changes to copies of their genes which linked to the expression of 17 RNA molecules unlike other women who had other forms of breast cancer. The levels of expression of the molecules could be linked with the advanced grade and stage of the tumour. Women who are diagnosed at an advanced stage of this particular type of the disease do not have a lot of treatment options open to them, and this research could point scientists in the right direction to look.
The scientists recognised that non-genetic factors can also play a part in the development of the disease, including socio-economic factors and lifestyle, but they felt that their research would warrant a larger study being undertaken to further refine the results.
Cavalli, L.R., et al., Integrated copy number and miRNA expression analysis in triple negative breast cancer of Latin American patients. Oncotarget, 2019, 10:6184-6203
Men at high risk of Breast Cancer may have risk reduced by Screening, claim Scientists
A team of scientists from the Radiological Society of North America have produced a study which claims that selectively screening men at high risk for breast cancer through mammography, could enable higher rates of early diagnosis, which could then lead to higher rates of survival. The study was published in Radiology in September, online.
The disease is rare in men, but can be fatal if not caught in time. There are no screening guidelines for men who are at high risk, including those who have had the disease before, those who carry genetic mutations for the disease, or who have close family members who have the disease. Men are more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage than women, and may be less likely to survive.
The study involved just under 1,900 men, of average age 55 years, who underwent mammograms from 2005-2017. Breast cancer was detected in 18 of 1000 mammograms in the men, who were considered at high risk of developing the disease. Detection rates in women of average risk are usually only 3-5 in 1000 scans. The men’s cancer tumours were detected earlier, which gave the treatment a much better chance of success. The mammograms were 100% successful in detecting cancer tumours, partly because of the lack of breast fibroglandular tissue which can mask the results in women. The scientists had a 95% success rate in discovering cancer as opposed to other findings, using the screenings.
A personal history of developing the disease offers the highest risk for men, however a national screening program is not currently supported due to a lack of evidence. Earlier guidelines considered by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) have suggested adopting baseline mammograms for individuals. This study suggests that this would be a good idea. The scientists hope that further and larger studies will be undertaken to enable the scientific community to discover more information on cancer risk factors for men.
Gao, Y., et al., Breast Cancer Screening in High-Risk Men: A 12-Year Longitudinal Observational Study of Male Breast Imaging Utilization and Outcomes. Radiology, September 2019; 190971
Charity calls for Secondary Breast Cancer to be Recognised more Readily
A charity, Breast Cancer Now, has called for the disease to be recognised more quickly. Secondary breast cancer is when the cancer has moved from the breast, via the lymph nodes or the blood circulation system, into another part of the body. The charity surveyed 2100 people who had been diagnosed with a secondary form of the disease and found that only 13% had been given a list of symptoms to check if their cancer had spread. Just under half of the participants of the survey, also said that they had had difficulty getting their GP to take their symptoms seriously.
The disease is most likely to spread to the bones, liver, brain or lungs, although other parts of the body can be affected too. The cells causing the cancer are breast cancer cells. Treatment can slow the spread of the disease and alleviate the symptoms, but there is presently no cure. Early detection and treatment is important to ensure good quality of life for as long as possible.
Symptoms include: severe or continual headaches, altered speech or vision, unexpected weight loss or no longer feeling hungry, discomfort or swelling under the ribs or across the upper part of the stomach, nausea, a dry cough or breathlessness, lumps or swellings under the arm, collarbone or breast bone, bone pain that doesn’t improve with pain relief and may worsen at night, losing your balance or weakness or numbness of the limbs.
Breast Cancer Now Secondary breast cancer research
Breast Cancer Now Secondary Cancer