Breast cancer strikes far too many women every year. However, new research has identified four different types of breast cancer, leading researchers to investigate how treatments may be specifically geared toward each type of cancer to make therapy more effective. Women become unable to work during cancer treatment including chemotherapy, which often causes cognitive challenges and fatigue, among other symptoms.
The New York Times reports on the research of the Cancer Genome Atlas, which has been working to discover and catalogue the various genetic mutations responsible for causing cancer. The study identified four different types of breast cancers that develop in the milk ducts. For example, basal cell cancer more resembles ovarian cancer than other forms of breast cancer in terms of its makeup, which may justify using ovarian cancer treatment for this form of breast cancer. Luminal cancer, which grows in the lining of the milk ducts, comes in two forms, A and B. As luminal A cancers generally have a better prognosis than luminal B cancers, researchers are investigating whether it might be more appropriate to treat type A with hormone therapy and reserve chemotherapy only for type B patients. The fourth type of cancer identified is known as HER2-enriched which contains an extra copy of a gene which causes it to grow. While scientists had previously prescribed the drug Herceptin to "block" the HER2 gene in all cancers containing an excessive amount of the gene, it appears as though the drug may in fact only be effective on those who have diagnosable HER2 cancers. Clinical trials will reveal the effectiveness of the proposed forms of treatment on the different types of breast cancer.
While new research looks promising, we remain keenly aware of the effect that cancer treatment can have on a woman's life and her ability to work. Bonny G. Rafel is experienced in counseling breast cancer patients through the disability process, and will continue to approach each case with compassion and the unique attention that each deserves.
- By Sara E. Kaplan, Esq.