Why is Breast Density Important?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 31, 2016

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This image shows a negative screening mammogram of 45-year-old woman with dense breast tissue.

Approximately one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer during her lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we are publishing a three-part Breast Imaging Series throughout October. Today’s post, the final in our series, discusses breast density.

Breasts contain fibrous, glandular, and fatty tissue. Generally, breasts are considered dense if they contain a lot of fibrous and glandular tissue and less fat. Breast density is classified on a mammogram report in one of four ways:

  • Almost entirely fatty
  • Scattered areas of fibroglandular density
  • Heterogenously dense
  • Extremely dense

According to the American College of Radiology, 80 percent of women in the United States fall into one of the middle two categories, 10 percent have almost entirely fatty breasts, and the remaining 10 percent have extremely dense breast tissue.

Breast density is important for several reasons. Dense breast tissue may increase a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer. Also, detection of breast cancer using mammography is more difficult in women with dense breast tissue. Read More »

Men’s Sexual Health: Five Things You Need to Know

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 28, 2016

Understanding how sexual health issues are caused, diagnosed, and treated can help men restore sexual function and regain confidence in their sex lives.

There are a number of sexual health issues among men that can interfere with a satisfying sex life, including erectile dysfunction, problems with ejaculation, infertility and others. The following sexual health problems are common among men and are routinely evaluated and treated at the Men’s Health Center at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital, which was recently established to meet a growing demand to address male reproduction and sexual health concerns.

#1: The most common male sexual health problem is Erectile Dysfunction (ED).

Erectile Dysfunction (ED), a difficulty obtaining or maintaining an erection firm enough for sex, affects 50 percent of American men over the age of 40. ED, or impotence, is mainly caused by blood flow problems such as high blood pressure or vascular disease, which are common among aging men. Other factors that increase the risk for developing ED include surgeries involving prostate cancer, smoking, certain medications and the use of alcohol or drugs.

According to Dr. Michael O’Leary, director of BWH Men’s Health Center at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital, many of the first-line agents for the treatment of ED involve medications that work for 50-70 percent of men. If a patient does not respond to medication, several non-surgical options exist to encourage an erection by promoting blood flow. Read More »

Could Genes be the Cause of Your Family’s Heart Disease?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 26, 2016

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Dr. Christine Seidman, Director of the Cardiovascular Genetics Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and her team have developed novel approaches to evaluate and care for patients with inherited heart disease and their families.

In some families, heart disease occurs more frequently than in the general public. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital have spent years studying heart disease in these families to pinpoint genetic changes that lead to the development of heart disease.

“Our team has pioneered diagnostic testing for patients at risk for genetic forms of heart disease,” said Dr. Christine Seidman, Director of the Cardiovascular Genetics Center at BWH. “We can now determine if an individual carries a dangerous genetic variant and intervene to treat or help prevent damage to the heart.”

Examples of inherited heart diseases include hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), arrhythmias, Marfan syndrome, and inherited aortic aneurysms. Caring for someone with an inherited heart disease includes the patient’s family, particularly the patient’s siblings and children. Genetic testing can be performed to determine risk in these family members. Preventative measures or therapies Read More »

Newborn DNA Sequencing – Should it become part of every baby’s future?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 25, 2016

The BabySeq Project, a Boston-based study led by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital, is exploring the impact of genomic sequencing on newborn infants and their families.

Will future routine newborn wellness screening include sequencing of the baby’s genome? Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) are leading a study to determine if knowing the results of a newborn’s genetic sequencing is beneficial to the health and wellbeing of babies and their families. Early findings of the BabySeq Project, a Boston-based study exploring the impact of genomic sequencing on newborn infants and their families, were released last week at the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) Annual Meeting in Vancouver.

“We have made some very interesting – and in some cases surprising – observations to date,” said Dr. Robert Green, a medical geneticist in the Division of Genetics at BWH and co-leader of the BabySeq Project. Read More »

Who is Reading Your Mammogram?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 21, 2016

Radiology technician examens mammography test on location

When choosing a location for your mammogram, it is important to look for a center that performs a high volume of mammograms and has radiologists who are dedicated to breast imaging.

Approximately one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer during her lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we are publishing a three-part Breast Imaging Series throughout October. Today’s post, the second in our series, discusses the importance of specialized training in reading mammograms.

When choosing a location for your mammogram, it is important to look for a center that performs a high volume of mammograms. Preferably, the radiologists in the center should be dedicated to breast imaging. Breast imaging specialists devote their time exclusively to breast imaging, including mammography, breast MRI, and breast ultrasound.

The detection of very subtle changes in early breast cancer can be very challenging. Studies have shown that radiologists specializing in breast imaging outperform non-specialist radiologists in detecting breast cancer.  Furthermore, the more mammograms and other breast images that radiologists read, the better they become at identifying these subtle changes, with higher accuracy. Read More »

Stem Cell Transplants Rise Among Older Patients

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 18, 2016

Dana-Farber/New Hampshire Oncology-Hematology (DF/NHOH). Patient Shirley Clark (consent # 6228) with Garrick Johnson, PA.

Stem cell transplantation has grown among older patients largely due to the development of reduced-intensity transplants.

Stem cell transplantation following chemotherapy can extend survival and potentially cure certain advanced cancers. Although these demanding procedures were once considered too risky for older patients, advances in transplant methods are challenging that assumption.

“In transplants involving donor cells, there was concern that older patients wouldn’t be able to tolerate the high doses of chemotherapy traditionally used,” explains Joseph Antin, MD, chief of the Adult Stem Cell Transplantation Program at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC)

“Older patients were also thought to be more at risk from graft-versus-host disease,” a sometimes severe condition in which immune system cells in the transplanted tissue attack the patient’s own tissue, Antin adds.

Now, due largely to the development of reduced-intensity transplants, which use lower doses of chemotherapy than standard transplants, greater numbers of older people nationwide are getting transplants. At Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, for example, 1,627 patients 55 and older underwent transplants between 2011 and 2015, compared to 964 between 2006 and 2010.

Read More »

Select Our Next BRIght Futures Prize Winner!

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 14, 2016

Would you like to choose the direction of medical research? Select our next BRIght Futures Prize winner! The BRIght Futures Prizes support investigators across the Brigham Research Institute (BRI) as they work to answer challenging questions and solve grand problems in medicine. This year’s finalists, all Brigham and Women’s Hospital researchers and clinicians, were selected through a rigorous two-step scientific review process. Their projects include an innovative home hospital concept, a new way to predict and treat Alzheimer’s disease, and a novel ultrasound device for ulcerative colitis.

Your vote will help decide which of this year’s three finalists will receive the $100,000 research prize. To participate, watch the video below, read the Q&A with the finalists, and then cast your vote. The winner will be announced on November 10, 2016 at Discover Brigham. This event is free and open to the public. All are welcome to attend!

 

 

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Marine Veteran Receives the Gift of New Arms

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 11, 2016

Retired Marine Sergeant John Peck is pictured recovering after undergoing a bilateral arm transplant at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

This summer, now-retired Marine Sergeant John Peck received the remarkable gift of new arms. Six years ago, Peck stepped on an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in Afghanistan during his second tour of duty. He lost both of his legs and a large part of each arm. Later, he developed an infection, which required a further amputation of his left arm to save his life. For two months after the blast, Peck remained at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. He has since undergone more than two dozen surgeries to address his injuries.

In August 2014, Peck completed an evaluation at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) for a double-arm transplant. This summer, he received a call from Dr. Simon Talbot, Director of Upper Extremity Transplantation at BWH, with news that his bilateral arm transplant would take place at BWH. A multidisciplinary team — including 12 surgeons — worked nearly 14 hours to transplant the arms, one below the elbow and one above.

Today, Peck is relearning how to perform basic tasks with his hands, such as picking things up, eating, brushing his teeth, getting in and out of a wheelchair and, perhaps most important to him, holding the hand of his fiancée, Jessica. His new arms also serve another special purpose. He is able to wear a memorial bracelet on his wrist that honors the memory of a friend killed in action.

Read More »

The Broad Reach of Violence

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 5, 2016

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Interpersonal violence affects the health and wellbeing of millions of Americans. In the United States today, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner, homicide remains among the leading causes of death in adolescents and young adults, and violence in the community has become a major public health issue.

In today’s post, Marta P. Chadwick, JD, Director of Violence Intervention and Prevention Programs in the Center for Community Health and Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), provides some key information on the prevalence and extensive impact of violence today. Read More »

Breast Cancer Screening: Understanding the Guidelines

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 4, 2016

Digital 3D mammography (digital breast tomosynthesis), the latest technology used in mammography, takes multiple images of each breast from different angles. It has been shown to improve earlier detection of breast cancers and reduce the number of call backs for repeat imaging.

Contributor: Dr. Catherine Giess is Chief of the Division of Breast Imaging at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Assistant Professor of Radiology at Harvard Medical School.

Approximately one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer during her lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). This post is designed to outline breast cancer screening guidelines.

“Mammography is a very important screening tool for early breast cancer detection, but there are several different guidelines for when to start and how often to undergo mammography,” says Dr. Giess.  “This can be confusing for many women.”

The American College of Radiology recommends annual screening mammography beginning at age 40.  The ACS guidelines (outlined below) emphasize screening based on a woman’s individual risk of developing breast cancer and her personal preferences.

 

When should I start?

A woman’s first mammogram serves as a baseline to compare results of subsequent mammograms.

  • Women should begin discussing breast cancer screening with their health care providers at age 40. From 40-44 years of age, women have the option to begin annual screening if they choose to do so.  All women should begin yearly mammograms by age 45.
  • Women who are at higher risk for developing breast cancer, such as women with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, should discuss their own personal risk factors with their health care providers, and may need to start screening earlier.

Read More »