Understanding breast cancer heterogeneity, molecular profile

molecular types of breast cancer

News organizations, and to some extent advocacy groups, speak of breast cancer as though it were a homogenous disease. That is a gross simplification.

In addition to differences based upon point of origin, such as ductal or lobular cancer, there are molecular differences which affect treatment options and cell aggressiveness. These four molecular types are luminal A, luminal B, HER2 positive and basal-like (triple negative). These molecular types may some day replace point-of-origin as our labels for breast cancer.

Continue reading “Understanding breast cancer heterogeneity, molecular profile”

Understanding breast cancer heterogeneity, point of origin

estimates breast cancer 2017

What does it mean when a woman says she has breast cancer?

There are different types of breast cancer based upon where the cancer begins. The breast is composed of lobules, the gland that produces milk in nursing women, and tiny tubes (ducts) that carry the milk to the nipple. Although the most common types of breast cancer are ductal and lobular, they are not the only types. And each type has sub-types.

Globally, more than  1,300,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed each  year; 450,000 patients die of the disease.

Continue reading “Understanding breast cancer heterogeneity, point of origin”

What is metastatic breast cancer?

All breast cancers start in breast tissue. Some spread beyond the breast and nearby lymph nodes through lymphatic channels or the bloodstream or to other parts of the body, such as bones, brain, esophagus, liver, lungs or ovaries.

Cancer cells that invade nearby normal tissue are considered local or early stage disease. Cancer that spreads to nearby lymph nodes is considered regional or locally advanced.

Continue reading “What is metastatic breast cancer?”

Are breast cancer survival rates meaningful?

lifetime risk of breast cancer death

Just because you can measure something, doesn’t mean that it is a good proxy from which to draw a conclusion.

In the case of web sites, one proxy used to measure “success” is an increasing number of page views over time. But if you redesign your site to make it easier for visitors to find what they are looking for, page views (per session) may decline. That would be a good thing, although it’s counter to the belief that more is better.

Turning to cancer, a similar counterintuitive proxy is “survival rate.”

Continue reading “Are breast cancer survival rates meaningful?”