HER2 positive breast cancer and more

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By Jan Vicente B. Pekas

“Studies also showed that many breast cancers are hormone-dependent, specifically on the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. Thus the link between breast cancer and cow’s milk. One radical treatment in the past was removal of the ovaries. ”

With the development of technology, scientists are able to poke into the ultramicro level of things. Thus we are encountering new medical terms like HER2 positive breast cancer. I graduated in medical school in 1979 (almost a half century ago!) and this was unheard of in any of our classes. Well, it figures, HER2 was only discovered (identified, I guess, is the more appropriate term) in 1986. HER2 stands for human epidermal growth factor receptor2. This is a protein that promotes the growth of cancer cells.
Scientists have discovered that one out of five breast cancers have extra copies of the gene that makes this HER2. On biopsy of the breast tumor, the test will turn out positive for HER2. HER2 positive breast cancers tend to be more aggressive that other types of breast cancer but there are drugs at present that specifically target HER2. These drugs are very effective such that the prognosis is quite good. Meaning the chances of cure is good.
Experts thus recommend that if the breast cancer is invasive or has recurred or spreads, the cancer cells should be tested for HER2 and also hormone receptor status, as the results will affect the type of treatment and consequently, the outcome of treatment.
In the past, chemotherapy or drugs used to treat cancer were very destructive. These would attack all rapidly-dividing cells, not only cancer cells, thus there are a lot of side effects. With this targeted chemotherapy, there are minimal side-effects.
Studies also showed that many breast cancers are hormone-dependent, specifically on the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. Thus the link between breast cancer and cow’s milk. One radical treatment in the past was removal of the ovaries.
Scientists have found out that the cells of these cancers have receptors of either estrogen or progesterone or both. If the breast cancer is tested positive for estrogen receptors then it is diagnosed as estrogen receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer. If positive for progesterone receptors, then it is progesterone receptor positive (PR+) breast cancer. If positive for both, then it is hormone receptor positive (HR+). Sometimes, the breast cancer is negative for both hormones so it is called hormone receptor negative (HR-) breast cancer.
These specific types of breast cancer are treated with anti-estrogen medicines and/or anti-progesterone medicines as the case may be.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women and it is the easiest to treat, especially if detected early. But why wait for cancer to develop before taking action? As we have been saying in the past, cancers are treatable. The overall risk factor is our unhealthy lifestyle. For breast cancer, the following are the more specific risk factors:
1. Early age of menarche (first menstruation)
2. Late age of menopause
3. High levels of female hormones in the blood
4. High blood cholesterol
All these 4 risk factors point to one thing- prolonged exposure and/or excess amounts of female hormones, including estrogen and progesterone. This increases the risk of breast cancer. By the way, men can also develop breast cancer. They have breasts, too, you know, although not as elaborate as the women. It is the women who are designed to nurse the baby. God must have a reason why men are not designed to breastfeed.
Looking again at the above risk factors for breast cancer, all four are related to our present westernized diet which is high in animal fat and protein and refined carbohydrates. Girls now are mensing at age 9 years when before the norm was 16 or 17. That’s 7-8 years longer exposure to estrogen and progesterone! Think of risk.
It is Women’s Month and we, women, think we are smart, then we better take better care of ourselves.***
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“Lord, save your world; we strive in vain to save ourselves without your aid;
What skill and science slowly gain, is soon to evil ends betrayed.” (Hymn 373, ECP Hymnal)**


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