For the girls

For the girls

The Official Blog of Here for the girls

, September 23, 2020 | More Post by

A shorter version of the content below appears in A Guide to Caring For Yourself inside A Calendar to Live By 2021.

Photo by on Unsplash


Treatments for breast cancer are always changing, thanks to the amazing efforts of scientists and researchers! If you feel like you can’t keep up with what’s out there when it comes to new, cutting-edge treatment options, you’re not alone! Advances are made seemingly daily, and doctors work diligently to learn what’s new and how to use the new tools and procedures effectively. Read on to learn about the newest options available to doctors when it comes to helping patients who have this disease, as well as their thoughts on what’s on the horizon – because it’s great to know what promising things may lie ahead!

Medicine/Chemo By Mary Helen Hackney, M.D., hematologist-oncologist, VCU Massey Cancer Center

Genomic tests, which analyze groups of genes in tumor samples, are becoming increasingly important in determining breast cancer treatment. Oncotype DX, MammaPrint and PAM50 are popular tests used to identify treatment strategies for early-stage estrogen-receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer and those who might benefit from the addition of chemotherapy to hormonal therapy.

The current backbones of chemotherapy treatment for early-stage breast cancer include cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, and paclitaxel or docetaxel in some combination. Hormonal therapy (treatment that adds, blocks, or removes hormones) remains a key component of care for women with ER+ breast cancer of all stages. Tamoxifen, the oldest  hormonal medication, is now joined by aromatase inhibitors, fulvestrant and ovarian ablation (treatment that reduces the amount of estrogen produced by the ovaries).

However, the future of breast cancer treatment will rely on testing for and hopefully having drugs to target specific genetic mutations. Alpelisib combined with fulvestrant is now approved for metastatic breast cancers expressing mutations in the PIK3CA gene. Atezolizumab combined with nab-paclitaxel is available for metastatic breast cancers expressing the PD-L1 gene. Olaparib and talazoparib have been approved for women with metastatic breast cancer and the BRCA mutation. Clinical trials are underway to see if these drugs may be useful in patients with earlier stage disease.

CDK4/6 inhibitors are drugs that target specific enzymes and have blazed onto the breast cancer treatment scene. Palbociclib, ribociclib and abemaciclib are approved to be used in combination with hormonal therapy to treat recurrent breast cancer, and they are being tested in clinical trials to determine if use in early-stage cancer is beneficial. This group of drugs is well tolerated and has provided excellent results.

The first drug approved to treat HER2-positive breast cancers, trastuzumab, has made remarkable differences in survival for all stages of disease. More recent drugs include pertuzumab, lapatinib and neratinib. The newest therapies showing promise for recurrent HER2-positive disease, including TDM-1 and fam-trastuzumab, combine trastuzumab with chemotherapy.

New treatments are found through research and clinical trials, and trial participants contribute not only to their health but to the health of future generations.

Surgery by Kandace McGuire, M.D., chief of breast surgery and surgical leader of the Breast Cancer Collaborative Care Clinic, VCU Massey Cancer Center

There are a number of promising technologies on the horizon in the field of breast cancer surgical oncology.

Targeted axillary dissection (TAD) is a procedure in which a surgeon performs a biopsy of a previously involved lymph node after chemotherapy to identify evidence of cancer and potentially spare the patient from removing additional lymph nodes under their arm. TAD leads to less extensive axillary surgery and less lymphedema (swelling in the arm caused by the removal of lymph nodes).

Axillary reverse mapping (ARM) is a novel strategy being tested in clinical trials that will attempt to use a colored dye to map out the lymphatic system in patients undergoing surgery to remove lymph nodes. ARM is intended to minimize the risks of lymphedema.

Breast seed localization is a procedure in which a tiny metal seed is placed in breast tissue to guide surgeons in locating and removing tumors. This technique makes surgery times more flexible and reduces the time a patient is in the hospital on the day of surgery.

Magtrace® is a non-radioactive liquid dye that points surgeons to lymph nodes in a patient to help determine if the cancer has spread. This approach increases flexibility in injection times and where patients can go for surgery and might help some early stage breast cancer patients avoid axillary surgery.

Radiation Todd Adams, M.D., medical director of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Stony Point, VCU Massey Cancer Center

For breast cancer patients experiencing recurrence after initial treatment with lumpectomy and whole-breast radiation, mastectomy has historically been the standard treatment. Recent findings from a multicenter clinical trial led by Douglas Arthur, M.D., showed that a second lumpectomy followed by partial breast irradiation was associated with a low rate of 5-year recurrence (5%), acceptable toxicity and a high rate of 5-year breast preservation (90%). Partial breast irradiation targets radiation to the area where the breast tumor was located and decreases radiation exposure of the surrounding tissue.

For patients with recurrent breast cancer initially treated with lumpectomy and whole-breast radiation, this study showed that a second lumpectomy plus partial breast irradiation may offer a practical alternative to mastectomy for many patients who hope to preserve their breast.

Detection/Diagnosis By Priti Shah, M.D., director of breast imaging, VCU Health

Every patient should determine a personalized breast cancer screening strategy that is based on a variety of individual risk factors and a discussion with their primary care provider. Mammograms continue to serve as the gold standard for all women at average risk aged 40 or older, regardless of breast density.

3D mammograms are becoming much more common at breast imaging centers around the country and can be particularly helpful for women with dense breast tissue. 3D mammograms have been shown to detect a greater number of breast tumors, and studies indicate they can also reduce the odds of being called back for follow-up imaging.

It is recommended that women at high risk of breast cancer (>20 % lifetime risk) undergo a yearly MRI in addition to their mammogram, typically starting around age 30. A breast MRI uses a magnetic field to generate images of the breast tissue that can show the presence of cancer sometimes not identified by other imaging tests.

Breast ultrasounds can be used as a supplemental screening method to mammograms for women at average risk of breast cancer with dense breast tissue. Ultrasounds are more effective than mammograms at determining if a mass is a cyst (benign and fluid-filled) or something more solid, which could require further testing.

, September 02, 2020 | More Post by

August 17: An analysis of productivity costs associated with metastatic breast cancer found that metastatic breast cancer creates a high economic burden through lost productivity, especially among women considered to be midlife. Read more on Cancer Network HERE.

August 18: The results of an online questionnaire of breast cancer survivors in the US suggest that nearly half of patients experienced delays in care during the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read the full story HERE is Science Daily.

August 19: Researchers at Duke University have developed a vaccine that targets HER2, a protein found on about 20% of breast cancers. The vaccine has so far produced promising results when paired with existing drug therapies. The vaccine is currently in Phase 2 trials. Read more in The Chronicle HERE.

August 23: A recent study indicates that risks of all-cause mortality and breast cancer-specific mortality decreased when postmenopausal female patients with invasive breast cancer followed a more anti-inflammatory diet after their diagnosis. Read the full story in AJMC HERE.

August 28: According to data from Phase I clinical trials, a new breast cancer drug developed by researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago can potentially stop progression of estrogen receptor-positive (ER-positive) breast cancer without toxicity.  Read the full article in BioSpace HERE.

August 31: A recent study indicates that honeybee venom rapidly destroyed triple-negative breast cancer and HER2-enriched breast cancer cells. Read more in Science Daily HERE.

, September 02, 2020 | More Post by

51, diagnosed at 48

1st degree family history, No known genetic mutation

The lump in Vanessa’s breast was discovered during a routine mammogram, and after testing, was found to be stage 2 breast cancer. She had a lumpectomy and radiation. Vanessa shared this news with very few people during her diagnosis and treatment. She affectionately named this group of prayer warriors her “C Squad.” An administrative assistant and now author, Vanessa found healing in journaling and later turned her writing into a short story book entitled You Have Breast Cancer, So What Now: My Journey, My Story. This book tells of her personal hurt, pain, and sadness but also of her healing, restoration, and faith. After treatment, she found the sisterhood of H4TG and says, “Being a part of this group gives purpose. I can’t imagine not having them in my life.” For Vanessa, depicting a singer in the 1920s was not just about her love of singing, it also represents the areas of progress for African Americans of that era. Even in the midst of turmoil, great things were born, and though they faced racism and oppression, this did not keep African Americans silent or stop them from progressing. She adds, “They not only found strength, they also found their voice, just as I did!”

, August 04, 2020 | More Post by

As an organization that serves young women affected by breast cancer, we make sure to keep up with the latest news so we know what our women face when it comes to treatment and beyond. In this blog series, we will share the month’s news that we feel is most interesting and relevant.

July 6: Early-stage breast cancer is more likely to be diagnosed in U.S. states that have expanded Medicaid coverage under Obamacare than in those that haven’t, researchers say. A new study looked at a database of more than 71,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer in 31 states that expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act and 14 states that did not. Differences were especially notable among black women in expansion states, with the percentage of those diagnosed with advanced breast cancer falling from 25% to 21%. Advanced cancer diagnoses among younger women in expansion states fell from 23% to 21%, but stayed at 26% in non-expansion states. Read more in Health Day HERE.

July 20: Researchers at the University of Arkansas have developed a new nano drug candidate that kills triple negative breast cancer cells (triple negative breast cancer is one of the most aggressive types of breast cancer). The research will help clinicians target breast cancer cells directly, while avoiding the adverse, toxic side effects of chemotherapy. Read more on the University of Arkansas website HERE.

July 21: A USC-led team of scientists has found that a fasting-mimicking diet combined with hormone therapy has the potential to help treat breast cancer, according to newly published animal studies and small clinical trials in humans. Read the full story in MedicalXpress HERE.

July 23: A new study published in The Lancet Global Health includes data on women from 41 countries and found that in higher income nations, including Canada, rates of breast cancer in premenopausal women are increasing, while postmenopausal breast cancer is increasing more rapidly in lower income countries. Although the study provides evidence of an increase in breast cancer rates in women of all ages, the increase in premenopausal breast cancer in higher income countries is particularly concerning… premenopausal breast cancer was significantly increasing in 20 out of 44 populations, each representing a country or an ethnic group. Read the full story HERE in Science Daily.

July 27: Research from the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center – Jefferson Health (SKCC) found significant decreases nationwide in the number of patients being seen for cancer-related care as the COVID-19 pandemic progressed during the few first months of 2020. The most significant decline was seen in encounters related to new cancer incidences, which included screening, initial diagnosis, second opinion, and treatment initiation appointments. Read the full story in Science Daily HERE. 

July 30: There’s a low level of awareness among American women about a form of lymphoma that can occur around breast implants, a new study finds. Breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) is an immune system cancer. It’s estimated to occur in between 1 in 3,000 and 1 in 12,000 women with textured breast implants. Smooth-surfaced implants are associated with a lower rate. There is no current recommendation to remove breast implants in women with no implant-related symptoms. Symptoms of BIA-ALCL include swelling, a mass or pain in the area of the implant. Read the full story in Health Day HERE.

, August 04, 2020 | More Post by

Age 33, diagnosed at 30

No family history, No known genetic mutation

Megan was excited to be turning 30. She was preparing to move into a new home with her husband and two girls and was enjoying her sales job. Life was good. Then a lump and pain in her left breast sent Megan to her doctor. Reassuring her that it was most likely nothing, the doctor referred her for testing. Megan was stunned to learn she had stage 2 breast cancer. She underwent chemotherapy and a double mastectomy with reconstruction. Though Megan had great support at home, she says, “Joining H4TG helped me find women who understand in ways that other people just can’t — and hopefully will never have to.” She gives back by being a resource for other young women like her. “From the start of my journey, I wanted it to serve a bigger purpose than just to survive this season of breast cancer,” she says. “I will always make helping other survivors a part of my new mission in life because I believe in women. I want to lift them up when they are at their lowest and in need.” The women’s empowerment movement that began in the 1920s resonates with Megan’s new sense of purpose and awareness of her own strength and self-worth.

, July 01, 2020 | More Post by

43, diagnosed at 38,

No family history, no known genetic mutation

Through a breast self-exam, Jennifer detected a lump in her breast that turned out to be stage 3A breast cancer. She received chemo, a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction, and radiation. Her diagnosis occurred just as Jennifer was going through a difficult separation from her husband. While undergoing treatment, she continued working as a corrections case manager to provide for her two daughters. With no other family around, her daughters were her primary source of support, and knowing they were scared, Jennifer tried to keep life as normal as possible. She found H4TG after treatment. “I wasn’t sure what to expect, but right away the ladies welcomed me with open arms and hearts.” Jennifer says she has always been an “in the background” type of person, but she doesn’t want to be that any longer. “I want to be an example for my two daughters, that if they set their mind to something, they can do it. I want them to be proud that I’m their mom.” Jennifer admires that same ideal that emerged in the 1920s saying, “Women received their voices, and their opinions and thoughts meant something.” Jennifer also wishes to show other women that they are stronger than they think.

, July 01, 2020 | More Post by

As an organization that serves young women affected by breast cancer, we make sure to keep up with the latest news so we know what our women face when it comes to treatment and beyond. In this blog series, we will share the month’s news that we feel is most interesting and relevant.

June 1: In a geographically and ethnically diverse study of young women with newly diagnosed breast cancer in the United States, a substantial portion had concerns about fertility that potentially affected treatment decisions, according to a recent study. Read the full article in Clinical Oncology News HERE.

June 2: Researchers have identified a gene that causes an aggressive form of breast cancer to rapidly grow. More importantly, they have also discovered a way to ”turn it off” and inhibit cancer from occurring. The animal study results have been so compelling that the team is now working on FDA approval to begin clinical trials. Read the full story HERE in Science Daily.

June 10: According to recent research, a strong romantic relationship was linked to lower psychological stress and lower inflammation for women with breast cancer. Read more in Health Day HERE.

June 15: Breast cancer treatment costs are highest among young and middle-aged women with advanced breast cancer, according to a recent study. Average monthly treatment costs among 18- to 44-year-olds were $4,463 for those with metastatic breast cancer and $2,418 for those with stage 1 cancer. Read the full story in Health Day HERE.

June 30: When a solid cancer is surgically removed, any small piece that is left behind increases the chance of a local recurrence or spread. In a pilot study of dogs with mammary tumors, a disease very similar to human breast cancer, a team found that an injectable dye, which glows under near-infrared light, illuminated cancerous growth in the primary tumor as well as in lymph nodes. Read more in Science Daily HERE.

, June 03, 2020 | More Post by

50, diagnosed at 47

No family history, No known genetic mutation

Lisa never thought she’d get breast cancer, never did self-exams, and never had a mammogram. Luckily, a wellness incentive at work compelled her to get a mammogram on a mobile imaging bus. Even the callback for another test didn’t register on her radar, and she declined the second imaging appointment until they showed her the first image. Upon seeing the spot, she touched her breast and could feel a lump. When the doctor’s office suggested she bring someone to her appointment, she knew it didn’t bode well. Her sister was with her when Lisa heard the news that she had stage 2, HER2+ breast cancer and would be getting a lumpectomy, chemo, and radiation. A school bus driver and newly single mom to two children, she moved into her own place for the first time a month after the diagnosis. Since then, she’s been doing all kinds of things that she wouldn’t have done before. “I want to enjoy life and have no regrets. Since I met my Boober! girlfriends, I see I’m not the only one!” Lisa wants to show that the breast cancer survivors of H4TG are women of strength and courage, much like the women of the 1920s.

, June 03, 2020 | More Post by

As an organization that serves young women affected by breast cancer, we make sure to keep up with the latest news so we know what our women face when it comes to treatment and beyond. In this blog series, we will share the month’s news that we feel is most interesting and relevant.

May 11: Compared to patients who see their primary care doctor earlier in the day, cancer screening rates decline significantly as the day goes on, according to a new study. Decision fatigue and doctors falling behind schedule may be the cause, according to study authors. Click HERE to read the story from Science Daily.

May 19: Black and white women share genes that increase the risk for breast cancer, according to a new study. These genes include BRCA1, BRCA2 and PALB2, each of which is associated with a more than sevenfold risk of breast cancer. Women of both races also share four other genes linked with a moderately increased risk. This research is important as breast cancer screening recommendations are sometimes different for black and white women. Read the full story in U.S. News and World Report HERE.

May 26: Australian scientists have discovered how an obscure protein causes breast cancer to develop and grow more quickly. The researchers found that aggressive breast cancers produce the protein Creld2, which hijacks healthy cells and promotes tumor progression. High levels of Creld2 are found in triple negative breast cancers, in kidney cancers, in non-melanoma skin cancers, and invasive squamous cell carcinomas. Blocking or destroying the protein could lead to better outcomes for these cancers. Read the full story in Medical Express HERE.

May 28: Patients who are found to have the earliest form of breast cancer – Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) – have a higher risk of invasive breast cancer and dying from the disease, a new study suggests. Read the full article HERE in Science Focus.

, May 19, 2020 | More Post by

H4TG wants to help support the businesses & those in the local community who have supported us! Many are facing difficult times during this time of social distancing; we send our love and support to all of you.  

Join Here for the Girls in showing our appreciation for these generous sponsors of A Calendar to Live By.

A.B. Harris Inc.
ABNB Federal Credit Union
AJ Nelson
An Angel on Earth
A-One Mobile Bookkeeping, Inc.
Beach Ford
Bill & Merriel Bowditch
Bob and Angie Perciak
Bruce Elliott – AXA Advisors
Casey Toyota
Charlie and Mari Ann Banks
Colonial Eye Care – Dr. Brent Segeleon
Compassionate Care
Dave and Chris Schwab
Davenport & Company
Deb Glover The Garden of Children Learning Center
Doiron Wealth Management
Dr. & Mrs. J. Christopher Paschold
Dr. Terryl and Sheri Times
Drs. Bruce & Cassianne Booth
Drs. Dean and Flavia Kostov
Drs. Henry and Christy Prillaman
Eastern Eye Associates
Erica Chigos-White, NP-C, MSN-FNP
Event Staffing/Staging Inc.
Extra Mile Landscapes
Greg and Alice Caldwell
Gregory Crisp
Harry & Judy Wason
Heather C. Morrow
Henry S. Branscome LLC
Hornsby House Inn
In Honor of Mona Smith
In Memory of Mom, Dorothy T. Byrne
Integrated Audio-Video, LLC
James A. Burden DDS and Associates
Janet McCaskey
Jayne Barnard Jennifer Reed, MD
Jerry & Barbara Stanek
Joy and Len Baxt
Knights of Columbus, Father N. J. Habets Council 4632
Lee & Betty Dooley
Libby Garrett
Liberty Warehousing, Inc.
Lorie Spence
Louise B. Lubin PhD
Massey Cancer Center, VCU Health
Melinda Dunn, MD
Michael Hollister
Myriad Genetic Laboratories
Nicholas and Vivian Vitullo
Nicole Yeshtokin, MD
Norfolk Plastic Surgery, PC
Nutritional Blessings, Melinda Pettingill, ND.
Paul and Rosemary Trible
Paul Hartmann, DDS
Pinnacle Business Solutions
Pirates of Chemo
Planet Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram
Planet Subaru
Rick & Gin Marks in honor of Mary Beth Gibson
Riverside Health System
Robert & Laura Morrill
Rooms, Blooms, & More
Sasa Espino, MD
Scotland Street Salon
Scott, Ami, Asher & Avah Dodson
Sentara Healthcare
Sherry Kletzly – BHHS Towne Realty
Sherwood and Whitney Bowditch
Southside Regional Medical Center
Stephanie H. King
Steve & Karen Barrs
Stu Chumney
Sunday?s Sun Spa Shop
Susie Williams- Texas friend of the Boobers!
The Branch Family
The Byzewski Family
The Hague Center for Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery James Carraway, MD and Robert Schnarrs, MD
The Jacobs Group
The Leading Edge Networking Group of Williamsburg
Thomas W. and Cindy Meehan
Tim and Anne Sullivan
Tricia Russell in honor of Mari Ann Banks
TST Construction
Veterans United Foundation
Vincent & Raymon Bessix
Virginia Oncology Associates
Williamsburg Dental Group Drs. Butler, Fuller & Hornsby
Williamsburg Orthodontics
Williamsburg Plastic Surgery, Johnstuart Guarnieri, MD 
 *All businesses and individuals listed supported our mission in 2019 through sponsorship of  “A Calendar A to Live By.”  
Category: Blog