Sometimes you have to hear something a few times before you allow it to sneak past your healthy skepticism or your unhealthy denial and actually sink in. A case in point occurred the other night, on June 29th, when I went to hear Susan Love speak to a Rhode Island audience about breast cancer. She said a lot of things that were much more important, which I’ll get to in a minute. But one of the things that I had evidently not heard often enough was that having hot flashes while on tamoxifen is good.
It’s kind of a math thing. Tamoxifen cuts the risk for a recurrence of breast cancer by 50% for those of us who’ve already had breast cancer. One of its side effects is hot flashes. There is some genetic research which indicates that all of us may not be able to metabolize tamoxifen effectively. However, the test for this runs to $500 and is not usually covered by insurance. Here’s where the math thing comes in. You can infer whether you are metabolizing tamoxifen without a test by noting whether you have side effects or not. Ergo, if you are on tamoxifen and you have no hot flashes, you probably need to be tested to see if you’re metabolizing it at all. If you have some hot flashes, you’re good. If you have insufferable hot flashes, your dose of tamoxifen probably needs to be decreased. So, to review: in order to determine that you are utilizing the tamoxifen you swallow daily in order to prevent breast cancer from coming back, use this simple math.
Hot flashes = 0, bad. Hot flashes = 1n, good. Hot flashes = 3n, reduce the dosage.
Okay??? So, I’m in the ‘hot flashes = 1n’ group, which is good, which means the tamoxifen is doing it’s thing and keeping the stalker at bay, kind of like a chemical restraining order. Therefore, I have finally decided to embrace my hot flashes. Although, I can’t embrace them very well, because my arms are all sweaty and they keep sliding off me when I try to hug myself. By the way, you can actually buy that personal fan by clicking on the picture.
You’re All Invited
One year ago this month, on the 24th to be exact, I was diagnosed with the Beast. At times, I don’t know whether to rage or party, but being the person I am, my inclination is to do both — at the same time! I don’t know if I’m up to throwing a party my own self, but I invite you all to “Tickled Pink,” an evening of comedy and camaradery for breast cancer survivors and their peeps that is sponsored by the hospital where I got the Beast removed. I went to this last year and laughed my ass off. It happens in October, details to follow when I have them.
Join the Army
So, back to Susan Love. As is her wont, she talked about research in her characteristic down-to-earth fashion. She also described breast cancer treatment as the “slash-‘n’-burn” method. Hmmm, where have we heard that phrase before?? Why, from the Accidental Amazon herself!! Ah, great minds think alike, is all I can say. We don’t know a lot about what causes breast cancer, but we surely won’t find out without research. To that end, Dr. Love started the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and, as an adjunct to that, the Army of Women. If you join the Army of Women, you are simply signing up to say that you would consider participating in a research study into the causes of, cures for, aftermath of, treatment of and consequences of breast cancer. You don’t have to have had it to join. I’ve joined. I’ve participated in a study. It’s easy. Just do it. Here: Army of Women
So, what do we know? Here are some highlights from Susan Love’s talk:
- There are about four to six different kinds of breast cancer.
- Breast cancer occurs only when potential cancer cells are present AND they are switched on by the right environment. If there are cells but an unfriendly environment, then there will be no cancer.
- Among all the possible predictors that have been examined, breast density is probably the most reliable predictor in determining who might develop breast cancer.
- Therefore, if post-treatment mammograms show that breast density is decreasing over time, then the survivor’s chances of developing breast cancer again are also decreasing.
- Exercise decreases the risk of developing breast cancer, but we don’t know how.
- Risk factors for breast cancer are probably different for different types of breast cancer and for different groups of people.
- In the Third World, breast cancer occurs mostly in pre-menopausal women. In the Developed World, i.e., the West, it occurs mostly in post-menopausal women.
Interesting stuff, with lots of implications for future treatment and research.
Last But Not Least…
For heaven’s sake, VOTE FOR MY BLOG!!!!!! If you all vote once daily (or more, if you can vote from different computers) through July 6th, I can catch up to the leading vote-getters and win! Truly, this blog is a lot more provocative than the leaders. Really. We have to get another few hundred votes in over the next five days. So, click here, click on the link for the “Provocative” nominees & vote!!
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