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June 2009 Mayo Clinic Health Letter Highlights Probiotics, Carotid Artery and Breast Cancer Treatments
Date:7/7/2009

luating abnormalities in women with dense breast tissue and for those who have other risk factors, including:

  • Known carriers of the gene mutation BRCA1 or BRCA2
  • A lifetime risk of 20 percent or higher, based on family history of breast cancer and other health factors. Doctors work with women to determine this risk rating.
  • Chest radiation before age 30 for other cancers

However, MRIs aren't for everyone and are not recommended for routine screening. They are expensive, require an intravenous injection of a contrast agent, and have a high rate of anxiety-producing false-positives.

Treatment: Testing the genetic makeup of a tumor can help determine which women are at the highest risk of recurrence and which of those are more likely to benefit from chemotherapy. Conversely, women at lower risk can avoid unneeded treatment.

Researchers are looking at changes in radiation, too. They are finding that shorter-course radiation may be effective for patients with early-stage cancer and no lymph node involvement.

Post-cancer treatment: For some breast tumors, patients typically take the estrogen blocker tamoxifen after treatment. It reduces the risk of recurrence by about 50 percent. But this therapy doesn't work well for 8 to 10 percent of women -- those who have an inactive variant of the CYP2D6 enzyme. Now, genetic markers from the blood can determine which women most likely would -- or wouldn't -- benefit from tamoxifen. Other effective treatment options are available for women with the variant CYP2D6 enzyme.

Mayo Clinic Health Letter is an eight-page monthly newsletter of reliable, accurate and practical information on today's health and medical news. To subscribe, please call 1-800-333-9037 (toll-free), extension 9771, or visit

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