Treatments for Breast Cancer
- Leanne Hainsby, a 35-year-old Peloton instructor from London, has been battling breast cancer since August 2022 after finding a lump in her breast.
- She just finished 12 weeks of chemotherapy and is returning to teaching Peloton classes.
- Chemotherapy and surgery are common treatment paths for people diagnosed with breast cancer.
- Treatment depends greatly on the biology and genetics of the tumor, as well as the stage of cancer at the time of diagnosis. (We do not know the stage of Hainsby’s cancer at the time she was diagnosed last August.)
- Current guidelines recommend that women aged 45 to 54 with an average risk of breast cancer should get mammograms annually. Women with a family history of the disease or an elevated risk should screen sooner.
Hainsby goes on to detail her “eventful” journey to the studio through London, which included protests, a brave pigeon, and running through the Big Smoke. She says, “I literally just made it, and I’m so pleased I did so that we could celebrate the music of the coolest man on the planet, Mr @nilerodgers…”
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Hainsby continues to say that she felt lots of support. “I felt the love today,” she writes. “Honestly, I felt really apprehensive ahead of todays ride. It’s a big platform and I’ve allowed myself to be vulnerable with you all, and today felt a bit like my first day at school, and that’s all a lot for so many reasons, but you know what, this was a milestone that felt so far away at one point, and here I am on the other side of it. F**k yeah!”
The instructor credits fans and followers’ kindness and support for helping her get through recent challenges.
Chemotherapy & Other Treatments for Breast Cancer
Common treatment modalities for breast cancer include chemotherapy – which is what Hainsby just finished getting – radiation, surgery, hormone therapy, targeted therapy and immunotherapy.
The treatment path depends greatly on the specifics of each case, including the stage of the cancer at the time of diagnosis. (We do not know the stage of Hainsby’s cancer at the time of her diagnosis.)
Identifying these specifics means looking into whether the cancerous cells have certain receptors. These receptors – the estrogen receptor, the progesterone receptor, and the HER2 receptor – can help identify the unique features of cancer and help personalize treatment.
“These receptors, I like to imagine them like little hands on the outside of the cell, they can grab hold of what we call ligands, and these ligands are essentially the hormones that may be circulating in the bloodstream that can then be pulled into this cancer cell and used as a fertilizer, as growth support for the cells,” Dr. Comen told SurvivorNet.
One example of a type of ligand that can stimulate a cancer cell is the hormone estrogen, hence why an estrogen receptor positive breast cancer will grow when stimulated by estrogen. For these cases, your doctor may offer treatment that specifically targets the estrogen receptor. But for HER2 positive breast cancers, therapies that uniquely target the HER2 receptor may be the most beneficial.
Treating Stage 1 Breast Cancer
Hainsby’s Breast Cancer Battle
In January 2023, Hainsby shared that she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2022. The native Londoner told her followers on Instagram that she was diagnosed with the disease last year. Hainsby shared that continuing to teach Peloton classes throughout her cancer fight has “given her focus, and some sparkle in an otherwise incredibly tough time.”
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Hainsby’s cancer was detected when she found a lump in her breast. She writes, “After multiple scans and appointments with both consultants and cancer nurses, and being completely terrified for a few weeks, in August 2022, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.”
Hainsby, described by OnePeloton as “a former professional dancer turned fitness enthusiast,” was told she had cancer after getting a second doctor’s opinion about a lump she had found in her breast. The first doctor she visited, on the same day she found the lump, told her “everything was ok.” However, after trusting her “gut”, she got a life-saving second opinion, which led to her diagnosis.
Hainsby has now completed 12 weeks of chemotherapy and will undergo surgery to remove her portacath, which will be followed by two weeks of radiation treatment.
Screening for Breast Cancer
Current guidelines recommend that women aged 45 to 54 with an average risk of breast cancer should get mammograms annually. Mammograms screen for breast cancer and look for lumps in the breast tissue and other signs of cancer. If you’re at a higher risk for breast cancer due to a family history of the disease or presence of the BRCA gene mutations, you should start screening earlier.
In an earlier interview with SurvivorNet, Dr. Rebecca Arend, an Associate Scientist at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, explains the BRCA mutations. “What a BRCA mutation is is it’s a defect in your ability to repair a double-strand break. If you think about DNA being a double helix, that we’ve all learned about in basic science, if you have a single-strand break, a PARP enzyme is needed to repair that single-strand break. If you have a PARP inhibitor, then you can’t repair that single-strand break,” she says.
Dr. Arend continues, “And if you have a single-strand break that’s not repaired, that actually leads to a double-strand break. So when both of the arms of the DNA helix are broken, then your body has normal mechanisms for repairing that. One of them is called homologous recombination.”
She explains how this is the body’s normal way of repairing a break. “But if you have a BRCA mutation, you actually cannot repair that break.”
While getting a mammogram, ask about desnse breasts, which may obscure cancer. The technician will be able to do determine whether or not you have dense breasts.
When Should I Get a Mammogram?
Contributing: SurvivorNet staff
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