Monday, August 15, 2011

Breast Cancer News (8/15): 3D Mammography, Risk and Vision Side Effects

What's new in breast cancer news? This weekend, 3D mammography and a study on risk made headlines. From the research world, there were studies on the vision side effects of treatment and the use of breast cancer social media to identify treatment side effects. As always, links to the studies and stories below may be found on the treatment pages of the website.

Is 3D mammography a breakthrough in breast cancer?

On August 14, The Boston Globe asked if 3D mammography, which earned FDA approval in February, and is now available in at least 9 states, is really a breast cancer breakthrough. The comprehensive story addressed the history of the mammography debate, the benefits of 3D mammography in terms of sensitivity and specificity, the risk of increased radiation exposure and the financial cost. It noted that definitive research on overall survival is years away, meaning that 3D mammography may be outdated by the time we know if it improves breast cancer survival.

Aromatase and breast cancer risk

Researchers continue to explore the factors which increase a woman's risk of breast cancer. On August 12, Cancer Research UK covered a Cancer Research study which linked the overproduction of aromatase in breast tissue to breast cancer risk. Although it was an early animal study, the results suggest that aromatase inhibitors, such as Arimidex (anastrazole), may be "a better choice for cancer prevention in postmenopausal women" than tamoxifen. A Cancer Research UK study of Arimidex for breast cancer prevention in postmenopausal women at risk, called IBIS-II, is already underway.

How does breast cancer treatment affect vision and eye health?

A review in Current Eye Research analyzed how treatment for early breast cancer affects vision and eye health. Chemotherapy, hormonal therapy and drugs for side-effects were included. According to the review, Taxotere (docetaxel) can cause epiphora, an overflow of tears onto the face, due to duct narrowing. Tamoxifen can cause cataracts, affect the optic nerve, and alter the perceived color of flashed light. Arimidex may lead to vision reduction, and bisphosphonates for bone loss may cause inflammation within the eye. The authors note that doctors should be aware of these types of side effects and suggest avenues for future research.

What can researchers learn from breast cancer social media?

Finally, an interesting study in the Journal of Biomedical Informatics suggests that researchers monitor breast cancer online social media to learn more about breast cancer treatment side effects. The authors note that medical message boards contain a large number of posts, where patients share "opinions and experiences that would be potentially useful to clinicians and researchers." The authors monitored message boards for information on the side effects of tamoxifen, Arimidex, Aromasin and Femara. 75 to 80% of the side effects discussed were documented on the drug labels. Some side effects were "previously unidentified." The authors conclude that breast cancer chat rooms and message boards become a source of "medical hypothesis generation."

Please check back tomorrow for more breast cancer news and research updates from

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