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    Posted: 11/09/2005
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Series Topic: Breast Cancer
Original Air Dates – June 20, 2005 – ongoing: "Lucinda’s Breast Cancer"

Lucinda discovers a lump in her breast and gets a surgical biopsy, which can be the removal of tissue in and around the breast, to determine whether cancer cells are present. The test confirms the presence of a malignant tumor, specifically Stage III breast cancer, which suggests that this is not an early cancer. Cancer is labeled in stages as a way to describe the extent or severity of the original (primary) tumor and the extent of spread in the body. In Lucinda’s case, this indicates that the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and tissues around the chest wall including ribs and muscles in the chest, and/or organs adjacent to the primary tumor.

Lucinda is introduced to various treatment options for her breast cancer, which vary from standard treatments to newer clinical trials (research studies in which doctors find ways to prevent, diagnose, or treat cancer). NCI suggests that women consult with their doctor before designating a specific treatment or investigating clinical trials. Information on clinical trials is available from the NCI website.

The standard cancer removal options include breast-conserving surgery, operations to abstract the cancer but not the breast itself, such as a lumpectomy or partial mastectomy; or breast removal surgery, such as a mastectomy or a radical mastectomy. Lucinda determines that her ideal option is to have a lumpectomy, which is a surgical procedure to remove a tumor (lump) and a localized amount of normal tissue.

After surgery, Lucinda chooses between more treatment options which help kill any final remaining cancer cells in the body. Standard options include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or hormone therapy. Lucinda chooses chemotherapy, which destroys cancer cells by stopping them from growing or multiplying. Chemotherapy sometimes harms healthy cells, which is what causes side effects such as hair loss, but these cells usually repair themselves after chemotherapy. Oftentimes, one therapy alone is not sufficient but can instead require that two or more types of therapies, such as when chemotherapy and radiation are used in combination to treat the cancer.

Approximately 5 to 10 percent of women who have breast cancer have a hereditary form of the disease, according to the National Cancer Institute. Families with cases of breast cancer have an increased risk of developing the disease, however, not every woman with such family history is predetermined to develop the condition. Considering their increased risk for breast cancer, Lucinda’s daughters consider getting mammograms themselves.

Frustrated with the adverse effects of chemotherapy, Lucinda learns of an alternative treatment option, which she believes will allow her to stop chemotherapy. Lucinda collapses with a high fever when she experiences a bad reaction to the alternative treatment. After speaking with her doctor, she decides to continue with the chemotherapy and have the mastectomy to remove all the cancer in her breast. Lucinda undergoes a successful surgery, and is discharged from the hospital.

For more information on breast cancer, visit:


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