“Look Now: Facing Breast Cancer”: a photographic tribute to breast cancer survivors

October 28, 2010 by  
Filed under CANCER

What better way to end Pink October than to pay tribute to breast cancer survivors? Sycaruse University launched exactly such an event onWednesday, Oct 27. “Look Now: Facing Breast Cancer” is a photographic project that will feature a series of portraits of women who have faced, fought, and triumphed over the monster that is breast cancer. It aims “to bring awareness of the emotional and physical aspects of breast cancer.”

In our society, looks are very important. For women with breast cancer,  the loss of breasts and hair, physical attributes which make women attractive, is a big blow. This is what the artist will focus on.

Most projects on breast cancer survivorship focus on celebrities. The portraits that artist Angelika Rinnhofer created  and is planning to create would not be of the rich and famous but ordinary women like you and me. This week’s launch started with portraits of 3 central New Yorkers. The project will last for a year as the artist continues to create more portraits of more survivors of different ages, ethnicity and levels of surgery. The target is to have 20 to 25 double portraits, one with the survivor clothed, the other with the survivor nude in the upper torso.

One of the survivors already photographed is Goenka who stated:

“Breast cancer is a disease that sucks you in, chews you up and spits you out. Some women lose their breasts. Most lose their hair. And many lose their lives. But all those who survive lose their sense of themselves and never really feel whole again. I know this because I am a breast cancer survivor myself.”

Each portrait will tell a different story, yet with a common theme. Despite the uniqueness of each case, the portraits will depict the survivors “as vibrant and empowered” and despite undergoing surgery that might have led to loss of 1 or both breasts, are “still whole.”

Says the artist:

“Every case of breast cancer is a unique story that doesn’t just begin with the diagnosis and end with surgery or chemotherapy.”

What the project aims to do:

The project will culminate in an exhibition in Pink October 2011. A documentary film about the project is also being planned.

Breast cancer survivor: psychological intervention improves outcomes

August 12, 2010 by  
Filed under CANCER

Surviving breast cancer is a big victory. But it comes with a lot of psychological stress, reduced quality of life, and the constant threat of relapse. Health experts believe that postcancer care and follow-up for breast cancer survivors should include psychological intervention that would address the previously mentioned issues.

Researchers at the Ohio State University in Columbus and at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center compared women had breast cancer, and randomly received either a psychological intervention or standard assessment during posttreatment and were followed up for about 11 years.

Psychological intervention included the following clinical objectives for patients:

understand the nature of cancer stress; learn tangible ways to reduce stress and improve quality of life; maintain adherence and follow-up to cancer care; enhance communication with medical care providers; increase well-being during treatment, facilitate recovery and improve overall health.

The study results showed that women who underwent psychological therapy have a 45% reduction in recurrent rates. A follow-up study also showed that these women had a 59% reduction in the risk of dying of breast cancer.

According to lead researcher Barbara L. Andersen

Survival advantages occurred above and beyond the improvements from state-of-the-science oncology treatments received at an NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center. An empirically supported psychological intervention for cancer patients can yield robust gains of enduring quality, and ones that may include important health benefits.”

The study results suggest that postcancer follow-up treatments should not only address the physical effects of cancer but the psychological impact of the disease that has some long-term consequences. The psychological stress of cancer leads to disruptions in quality of life, health behaviors and immunity, and all these contribute to poorer health outcomes of cancer patients. Providing psychological intervention can help reduce the risk for recurrence and mortality due to breast cancer.

According to Dr. Sarah Gehlert of The Brown School, Washington University, St. Louis:

“We currently have few empirically supported psychosocial interventions for use with women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. An intervention that increased survival would be incredibly valuable. It represents a new tool for improving the lives of women with breast cancer.”

Researchers are hopeful that these results can help not only breast cancer survivors but survivors of other cancers.

Radiation exposure linked to CVD risk

February 9, 2010 by  

When we talk about the A-Bomb, what comes to mind is exposure to high doses of radiation and cancer. The event occurred almost 65 years ago but new reports about its after effects continue to appear, highlighting the fact that such an event has some long-term consequences, some of which we’ve seen and some which are still to come.

A teams of Japanese researchers looked at data of 86,611 people who survived the A-bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Previous reports have shown a disproportionately high incidence of cancer in this population, a finding that was not really surprising. What is surprising is that cardiovascular disorders such as stroke and heart disease also accounted for a significant fraction of excess deaths which are radiation-related. Analysis of the data showed that A-bomb survivors exposed to at least 0.r Gy of radiation have a significantly elevated risk for cardiovascular diseases.

According to the study authors:

This study provides the strongest evidence available to date that radiation may increase the rates of stroke and heart disease at moderate dose levels (mainly 0.5-2 Gy. Given the widespread use of multiple computed tomography scans and other relatively high-dose diagnostic medical procedures, as well as radiotherapy that exposes the heart, the implications are substantial, insofar as effects occur at doses under 1 Gy.”

The study began 50 years ago which aimed to closely follow up the health outcomes of those who survived the immediate effects of the bombs. The participants of the study were survivors who lived within a 2.5 km radius of the bomb blasts and still resided there at the start of the study. Their outcomes were compared to a group of people of similar age and gender profile but who not or less exposed to the blast. The survivors were followed up till 2003. The results showed:

19,054 survivors died from cardiovascular diseases which included 9,622 mortality cases due to stroke and 8463 cases from heart disease. Of those deaths, 210 were considered “excess” deaths linked to exposure to radiation. The excess relative risk of a circulatory-disease-related death per Gy of radiation exposure was 11% but only exposure doses higher than 0.5 Gy.

According to an editorial by Dr Mark Little of the Imperial College London, UK)

 [The study]…”adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting an association between cardiovascular disease and exposure to [low to moderate] levels of radiation, as well as the well-known (and mechanistically well-understood) association at high doses.”

The radiation-cardiovascular disease risk link is especially relevant nowadays when the issue of radiation for medical purposes is becoming a hot topic, with questions regarding its safety.

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