Medical Minute 10-4: Personalized Approach to Breast Cancer

By: Melissa Medalie Email
By: Melissa Medalie Email

Meet Carmen Renfroe Charleston and Irene Rosey -- two very different women, with two very different cancers.

"I discovered I had a lump doing just a basic, monthly self-exam," said

"You can wear a big 'C' on your forehead, or you can say, 'There are options,'" said Rosey.

Both women made the same choice: A clinical trial for a new kind of therapy. More than 300 women took one of these estrogen-lowering drugs -- hoping to shrink their tumors and avoid mastectomy.

"The obvious benefit of saving the breast for the patient herself is huge," said Julie Margenthaler, M.D., Surgical Oncologist, Siteman Cancer Center Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri.

Before making the next treatment decision, doctors track how each woman responds to the medication.

"My tumor did not grow, didn't do too much shrinking, so I still had to have the lumpectomy," said Charleston.

"Within one month, there was a notable decrease in the tumor. It was very noticeable," said Rosey.

In a national study, more than 50% of women with stage two and three cancers were able to avoid mastectomy by taking an estrogen-lowering drug first. The drugs are also an indicator for whether chemo will work or not. It helps doctors tailor treatments to specific patients. Carmen needed chemo. Irene didn't. Both kept their breasts. (:

"Our goal is to find targeted therapies for each individual patient that are going to be effective for her, not for masses like her," said 22) Julie Margenthaler, M.D.

Now, Carmen and Irene are both cancer-free and loving it.

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