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What Were the Top Breast Cancer News Stories of 2013?

What do you think were the top breast cancer news stories in 2013?

I thought it might be fun to wear my pretend journalist hat and do a wrap-up so to speak about a few of the year’s biggest stories in breast cancer news. I can’t wait to hear what your top picks might be.

This list isn’t in any particular order of importance, nor is it by any means complete and  granted these are my picks, so obviously they come from my vantage point. I never said I’d be an impartial journalist! (Are there any who are anyway?) I’m sure I’ve missed some big stories, but here’s my list of some of the top breast cancer news stories of 2013.

1.  One of the biggest stories of course had to be when Angelina Jolie broke the news to the world about her BRCA1 positive status and her decision to under-go a prophylactic mastectomy. Here’s my post about it which quickly turned into one of my most-read-on-the-first day posts ever. Celebrities have that effect on people I guess.

2.  The Supreme Court ruled in April that Myriad did not have the right to fully patent the BRCA1 and BRCA 2 “breast cancer genes”. This is all still playing out, but I am convinced the decision was the right one and will ultimately benefit us all. I posted here and also on Huff Post about this landmark decision.

3.  Exemestane (Aromasin) has been recommended by the American Society of Clinical Oncology as something for doctors to discuss with certain high risk patients. Healthy post-menopausal high-risk women might consider taking this drug for breast cancer prevention purposes, much like tamoxifen has been used in the past. There is also now talk about anastrozole (Arimidex) being used for much the same purpose. Also, the aromatase inhibitor conversation (some might say controversy) continues regarding compliance, side effects and more. And yes, I’ve written about AIs myself, but this post is already getting too many links in it.

4. Though the lifetime risk for getting breast cancer is higher for white women, Black women are more at risk to die from breast cancer and younger Black women are at higher risk to get breast cancer (and often times a more aggressive type) than younger white women. Bottom line – across the board, Black women face a poorer prognosis regardless of cancer sub-type. Disparity is a problem.

5.  Breast density matters regarding screening. Legislation continues to be be passed regarding notification of women who have dense breasts about how this impacts imaging when screening. Younger women, or anyone with dense breasts, should ask for a digital mammogram. For further information on this topic visit

6.  Amy Robach of ABC News caused quite a stir when she had a mammogram on live TV and then later learned she actually did have breast cancer. This whole deal raised lots of questions about ethics and accuracy of information being shared by TV celebrities. Personally, I am troubled by the incomplete cancer information too often being shared in these instances; again, the problem of over-simplification in breast cancer awareness is a huge one. Of course, I believe in sharing stories, but sometimes how they are shared can be harmful as well as helpful, especially if the one sharing happens to be in the public eye. For an intelligent look at this dilemma, don’t miss this important and thought-provoking piece by Gayle Sulik. It’s a must read.

7.  The Metastatic Breast Cancer Alliance was formed by fifteen of the biggest players in breast cancer advocacy and charity work. I’m still feeling pretty skeptical about real change coming from this, but I’m hopeful as more collaboration is sorely needed. Fingers crossed.

8.  For months now (actually longer) there has been lots of discussion about changing the language of cancer, or specifically what we should call DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ). Some have said DCIS  should not even be called cancer. What’s in a name and does it ultimately matter? Lots of controversy here, but the discussion is good because ultimately we all should be working toward ending over-diagnosis and unnecessary treatment since the side effects of cancer treatment can be horrendous and cause ongoing QOL issues. However, until we can actually determine which cases of DCIS will become problematic (invasive caner) and which ones will not, it’s sort of like putting the cart before the horse IMO. Name change is pointless if we can’t figure out where to go from there.

9.  Mammography continues to be a hot-button topic. Peggy Orenstein’s article, “Our Feel-Good War on Breast Cancer” takes a hard look at mammography, simplistic breast cancer awareness messaging and much more. Maybe the article isn’t news as such, but then again maybe it is…Regardless, it’s an important though lengthy must-read, so I decided to include it here.

10. The number of cancer (obviously not just breast cancer) survivors continues to rise. According the the National Cancer Institute, there are about 14 million cancer survivors living in the United States alone, a number that is expected to grow to 18 million somewhere around 2022. Of course this is good news for many, but wouldn’t it be nice if there were fewer cases to diagnosis in the first place? And the companion story here is that survivorship cancer care is sorely needed and not just in the big city cancer centers I might add. Again, disparity is a big deal.

Of course, if you or someone you care about has been diagnosed with any stage of breast cancer in 2013, as far as you and your family are concerned, that’s the biggest story in breast cancer news this year.

And finally, if and when there comes a year with a significant decrease in the number of deaths from metastatic breast cancer, and when we finally learn how to prevent or halt metastasis, those will be the biggest and best breast cancer news stories of all.

I hope we don’t have to wait much longer…

Okay, what big story (or stories) did I miss?

What do YOU think were the biggest stories in breast cancer news in 2013?




Lisa DeFerrari

Thursday 9th of January 2014

Taking another look at this great post, Nancy. You've mentioned lots of issues that will be interesting to follow as they continue to unfold this year and beyond. I do hope at some point we can get past the mammography debate. There were two rather conflicting presentations about mammography at San Antonio but no real new information in either. We really need better early detection, real prevention techniques, better treatments for those with disease etc. etc.


Friday 10th of January 2014

Lisa, Thanks so much for taking another look at this post. It will be interesting to follow some of these things for sure. I agree about the mammography debate - that's getting old. We need better screening tools. We still need a lot of better things as you so aptly stated. Thanks again for stopping by.

Elizabeth J.

Tuesday 31st of December 2013

I would go with the Peggy Orenstein article. It was balanced and factual. Not just because it talked about the real value and the limitations of mammograms, but because it so clearly showed that too much of most people's "knowledge" about breast cancer is so incomplete and over-simplified. She clearly explained how the real risk is metastasizing, how people are over-reacting to DCIS, and the need for research. I would say this article, or something very much like it, ought to be published on the front page of every newspaper each October 1st, to provide balance and true education about breast cancer.


Thursday 2nd of January 2014

Elizabeth, That's an excellent choice. I thought the article was excellent too and had to include it in my list. Thanks for sharing your pick!

Serena H Chen MD

Saturday 21st of December 2013

The American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) have declared egg freezing for fertility preservation for eligible cancer patients to be "no longer experimental" and "standard of care". In reality there is still a very large gap between this new standard of care and reality. I hope you will join me in getting the word out about fertility preservation options for cancer patients so more people can make informed decisions about having a family after surviving cancer. Take a look at this recent interview for more detailed information: Thanks! Serena H Chen MD


Saturday 21st of December 2013

Serena, Thanks for sharing. Fertility preservation during cancer treatment is such an important and under-discussed topic. That gap you mentioned needs to get smaller.


Saturday 21st of December 2013

Excellent post as always.


Saturday 21st of December 2013

Betty, Thank you! I'm glad you liked it!

Beth L. Gainer

Friday 20th of December 2013

I think that this is a fantastic recap, Nancy! Thank you. For me, the Peggy Orenstein article was so powerful. That's my pick. I wish there were a true headline that said there is a cure for all cancers. My friend's brother-in-law is dying from pancreatic cancer. It never ends.


Saturday 21st of December 2013

Beth, Thanks so much. I'm glad you liked it. I agree about Peggy Orenstein's piece being a potential game changer. I'm very sorry about your friend's brother-in-law. It's horrible how it truly does never end.

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