The first time Ediana Quijada found a lump in her breast, she was laughed off and told “it was happening because of her period and nothing to worry about.”
It was far from nothing. After a six-year battle with metastatic breast cancer, the cheerful Houston native is happy to share her story with other young women, advising regular breast exams, early detection having made a key difference in many cases.
Breast cancer surgeries can be quite painful, so a team at Houston Methodist West Hospital has worked to develop pain management protocols that help some patients while reducing the use of narcotics.
Dr. Candy Arentz, a breast surgical oncologist, and Dr. Warren Ellsworth, a plastic surgeon, have been using an enhanced recovery after surgery (ERAS) protocol with non-narcotic medications and nerve blocks to lessen pain and the need for narcotics in reconstructive surgeries.
Many Houston-area residents experienced at preparing for hurricane season have likely already stocked their home with basic supplies such as extra batteries, a first-aid kit, rain gear and a 7-day supply of non-perishable food and water among other essentials needed to weather a severe storm and its aftermath. But breast cancer patients should be aware to also have additional supplies on hand, especially as Texas continues to face new challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, making it more important than ever to plan ahead.
In this file image, a GOES-16 GeoColor satellite image taken Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, and provided by NOAA, shows Tropical Storm Beta, center, in the Gulf of Mexico. A hurricane watch is in effect Saturday for coastal Texas as Tropical Storm Beta gains strength. A storm surge watch and a tropical storm watch are also in effect for the area during an exceptionally busy Atlantic hurricane season. (NOAA via AP)
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“Cancer patients are often at greater risk of contracting an infection. So, try to get everything you need early on, to avoid the last-minute crowds in stores,” Marian Von-Maszewski, M.D., associate medical director of Critical Care at MD Anderson said. “It’s almost impossible to maintain adequate social distancing in those situations. And that could prove to be more dangerous than the storm itself.”
Von-Maszewski shared recommended hurricane preparation measures for cancer patients in a recent article published by the MD Anderson Communication Department. First off, breast cancer patients are advised to include an adequate supply of face masks, gloves and hand sanitizer.
“Evacuation could pose a risk,” Von-Maszewski said. “Face masks will be especially important if patients have to stay in crowded shelters.”
Related: Online support groups offer hope, support to worldwide “sisterhood” of breast cancer patients
Flood water and other standing water are also a potential source of infection and breast cancer patients are advised to add mosquito spray to guard against insect bites, and antibiotic cream and bandages to cover any open wounds to their hurricane supplies.
Plan ahead for a hurricane during the COVID-19 pandemic
Plan ahead and be sure to maintain at least a two-week supply of any current medications. Make a list of all your current medications and their dosages, and talk to your doctor about what to do if you have to miss a dose or treatment. In addition, prepare a dedicated cooler with ice packs or frozen water bottles for medications that need to be kept refrigerated. Research the location of the nearest emergency room and how to get there. Call your insurance company in advance to be sure which ones are covered by your policy. Remember to keep your car’s gas tank full, too, in case you need to seek medical attention or quickly evacuate.
On HoustonChronicle.com: New genetic, genomic tests allow personalized treatment options for breast cancer patients
Breast cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosis in the United States. Dr. Srinath Sundararajan, an oncologist and hematologist with Texas Oncology-Katy, says early detection saves lives and that screening is important, even during the pandemic.
The day before she turned 30 and had planned to leave for a celebratory vacation, Sharonda Vincent felt a lump on her left breast while in the shower. She scheduled a last-minute appointment with a doctor at Planned Parenthood, who told her to enjoy her trip because she doubted it was cancerous.
After Vincent returned home to Philadelphia, the mother of one decided to see her primary care provider, just in case. This led to a series of tests, including a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy. In the summer of 2005, she was diagnosed with stage 2B breast cancer.
“I was numb, hurt, confused, upset, questioning God,” she told TODAY. “It was a complete shock.”
Vincent, now 45, has been cancer-free for 15 years, thanks to the surgery, chemo and radiation she underwent that summer. She’s among the millions of Black women who’ve survived breast cancer, even though the odds are unjustly stacked against them.
Black women are 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than white women. Black women are also more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage or at a younger age. Death rates for white women with breast cancer are improving more rapidly than for Black women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Research into the reason for these disparities is ongoing, but it’s likely “multifactorial,” Dr. Vivian Bea, chief of breast surgical oncology at New York-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, told TODAY.
What’s more, Bea expects breast cancer outcomes for Black women to only get worse due to COVID-19. A recent survey, conducted by the cancer information platform SurvivorNet, found that 1 in 3 women has delayed getting a mammogram because of the coronavirus.
A doctor who looks like you
As a physician and Black woman, Bea believes that a main inhibitor for the Black community to seeking health care is the absence of doctors who can relate to their life experiences. Only 5 percent of U.S. doctors are Black, and even fewer are Black women, per 2018 data.
“When I take care of my Black patients … I can’t tell you how often I hear, ‘I trust you because you look like me,” she said. “I hear stories of, ‘I talked to this doctor, and I told them I had a mass, and they told me it was nothing,’ or ‘I had a pain, and they said it was in my head.’ Unfortunately (Black) women are sometimes not taken seriously.”
While Vincent doesn’t feel her care team approached her differently because of her race, she said she leaned heavily on the only Black medical professional she encountered during her treatment.
In Vincent’s initial appointments, she recalled, staff struggled to draw her blood, and she had to be pricked by multiple techs each time, especially uncomfortable given her fear of needles. So the Black medical assistant planned her future visits so the one tech who could draw Vincent’s blood on the first try
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Sr.’s only great-granddaughter has died following a battle with stage 4 breast cancer. She was 31.
Desiree S. Anzalone died on Sept. 27 at Smilow Cancer Center in Connecticut, PEOPLE confirms.
Born Sept. 15, 1989 in Norwalk, Connecticut, Desiree was the daughter of Julia Arnaz and Mario Anzalone. Her maternal grandfather, Desi Arnaz Jr., was the son of late I love Lucy stars Desi Sr. and Ball. Desiree was the first great-grandchild of her famous grandparents.
Though her daughter died “peacefully,” Julia, 51, tells PEOPLE that “watching her slip away was just, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. No mother should have to watch that.”
“She was so special. All our children are special, but this little girl was something else,” she adds. “We were [best friends]. We are still,” Julia shares of her only child, who she calls “my mini me.”
“She was so beautiful, just so so beautiful inside and out,” Julia says. “She really, really reminded me a lot of my grandmother, more so than I.”
RELATED: These Stars Faced Breast Cancer and Shared Their Inspiring Stories to Help Others
Desiree was first diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer at the age of 25. After undergoing chemotherapy, she ultimately decided to get a double mastectomy. Although she was in remission for a period of time, she learned two years ago that her cancer had returned as stage 4 and had spread to her liver, lungs and bones.
“She probably would have been with us for a few more years — it was starting to spread a lot more, and the tumors were getting bigger — but we expected her to stay at least through the holidays. What went wrong is she kept getting fluid around her heart and then they kept doing surgeries and it would come back like two weeks later. And this time, they did the surgery and came back 12 hours later and [said], ‘You’ve got days, if hours.’ So that was really tough,” Julia tells PEOPLE. “I was there before that happened. It was unimaginable.”
Desiree Anzalone/Instagram Desiree Anzalone with her mother, Julia Arnaz
Prior to her death Desiree, a photographer, was receiving hormonal chemotherapy.
She wanted to raise “awareness” for October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Julia says, and “to give awareness for young girls her age because this does happen. It’s rare, but it does happen. And Desiree wanted to put awareness out for if you feel anything, just because you’re a certain age doesn’t mean that it can’t happen to somebody.”
RELATED: Remembering the Stars We’ve Lost in 2020
Julia says that while Desiree “was a rare case,” it “does happen.”
“It’s just not talked about a lot. It’s usually people in their late 30s, 40s, 50s — not somebody at this age,” Julia says. “So that was something that she really wanted — to help other women like her. A preventative, really.”
(Reuters) – Pfizer Inc said on Friday its cancer drug Ibrance did not meet the main goal in a late-stage trial in patients with a type of breast cancer, the latest setback in the company’s attempt to expand the use of the drug to treat early stages of the disease.
The latest development comes after an independent data monitoring committee said in May a similar trial comparing Ibrance plus an endocrine therapy to a standalone endocrine therapy to treat early-stage breast cancer was unlikely to meet the main goal.
Ibrance is already approved in the United States to treat certain adult patients with advanced breast cancer which has spread to other parts of the body. The drug has not yet been approved for treating early stages of the disease.
This puts the drug at a relative disadvantage to rival Eli Lilly and Co, which in June posted data showing that its drug Verzenio, met the trial goal of reducing the risk of early-stage breast cancer from recurring.
“Today’s data leaves Lilly’s Verzenio as the clear winner in the adjuvant space for now, giving Verzenio a blockbuster opportunity in a potential early breast cancer indication,” Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Louise Chen said.
In the late-stage trial, Ibrance failed to meet the main goal of increasing the amount of time patients survived without their cancer returning.
Lilly’s shares were up 1% at $155.10 in pre-market trading, while Pfizer’s stock was flat at $36.90.
(Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Shounak Dasgupta)
The coronavirus pandemic has impacted millions of lives in many ways, one of which is the severe cut back in the number people keeping up with their routine checkups. Houston-based nonprofit group The Rose, which has been helping women receive breast cancer diagnoses and treatments for over 35 years regardless of their ability to pay, is determined not to give up on its mission.
Dorothy Gibbons, CEO and co-founder of The Rose, said the marked increase in the number of people putting off their mammograms was disastrous since early detection was the key to stopping cancer in most cases.
Benign breast lesions detected after a woman’s initial screening mammogram are more likely to become malignant. (European Breast Cancer Conference)
Younger adults who have never smoked are the group with the biggest increase in use of electronic cigarettes. (American Cancer Society, American Journal of Preventive Medicine)
The FDA issued draft guidance aimed at getting more premenopausal women enrolled in clinical trials of new drugs and biologic agents for breast cancer.
Only one-fourth of men with prostate cancer had testing for bone health and integrity after androgen deprivation therapy, which causes loss of bone mineral. (Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network)
Updated results from a randomized trial supported single-agent nivolumab (Opdivo), as opposed to nivolumab-ipilimumab (Yervoy) combination therapy, as adjuvant therapy for resected melanoma, and adding nivolumab to neoadjuvant chemotherapy significantly improved pathologic complete response in resectable non-small cell lung cancer, Bristol Myers Squibb announced in separate statements.
Amgen announced that its investigational KRAS inhibitor sotorasib met the primary endpoint of objective response in a phase II clinical trial of previously treated advanced non-small cell lung cancer.
Minority patients with cancer, as compared with white patients, show increased risk of coronavirus infection, higher rates of hospitalization for COVID-19, and lower use of telehealth during the ongoing pandemic. (ASCO Quality Care Symposium)
Introduction of a pay-for-performance program in oncology practices increased prescriptions for cancer drugs supported by high-quality clinical evidence without significantly increasing the total cost of cancer care. (Penn Medicine, Journal of Clinical Oncology)
More than 100 patient organizations worldwide have formed the World Patients Alliance to increase patient involvement in shaping healthcare policy.
Surgery for benign breast disease does not interfere with breastfeeding. (American College of Surgeons)
Within a week after infusion of CAR T-cell therapy, changes in circulating DNA may identify which patients with large B-cell lymphoma will benefit from the treatment. (University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center)
Immune checkpoint inhibitors used to treat multiple types of cancer may aggravate systemic inflammation that drives the development of coronary atherosclerosis. (JACC: CardioOncology)
A rapid and inexpensive breath test showed promise for head and neck cancer. (Flinders University, British Journal of Cancer)
Charles Bankhead is senior editor for oncology and also covers urology, dermatology, and ophthalmology. He joined MedPage Today in 2007. Follow