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Cancer Q & A

with Kathy Kanavos

Ask Me Anything!

Kathy O'Keefe Kanavos addresses your
concerns about Cancer

Dear Kathy,

I was switched to Aromasin after 2 ½ years on Tamoxifen, and my oncologist explained that was his first choice because it is the drug that was studied in my particular situation (I was peri-menopausal, stage II, ER/PR+, HER2-.)

But he also said that if the side effects were intolerable, Arimidex or Femara were also excellent choices, and probably have similar survival benefit. They just aren't as well studied for my situation.

I am having joint and body pain on this new drug. Do you know anything about Arimidex? Does it come in generic form? Do you have any suggestions for the pain I'm having on Aromasin?

Linda in FL

Dear Linda,

Your doctor was wise to take you off of Tamoxifen after 2 ½ years because research shows that it has a tendency to stop working, and second hormone receptive cancers can occur. I am living proof. I was on Tamoxifen for 5 years and an MRI found that the drug had stopped working. I had stage-IV lobular breast cancer.

After my second victory against breast cancer I took the drug Arimidex in both pharmaceutical and generic form. The generic form was very cost effective and worked.

I am now cancer free going on 10 years. I can't answer your question about Femara from a personal point of view because I did not take it, but I have spoken with friends who did. I did not hear anyone complain about it not working, as they did with Tamoxifen. Some people had mild joint pain and others did not.

I often wondered if my body discomfort was related to the chemo and radiation after effects because it always seemed to happen right before a severe weather change. I became a walking barometer.

Things that helped with the joint pain were stretching exercises, gentle yoga classes, chiropractic adjustments, warm baths, and occasionally a mild pain reliever like Excedrin. Please, talk to your doc before taking ANYTHING.


Dear Kathy,

I was diagnosed in February and was already at Stage IIIc Lobular Breast Cancer, after having had a "normal" mammogram just the July before.

I found the lesion myself. The oncologist said it did not show up in the mammogram because it wasn't a discrete tumor, but rather a change in the texture of my breast tissue. I'm definitely a poster child for self-exams!

In any case, having a mastectomy on the affected side was the only option given to me ...but I knew I would never again trust a mammogram, so I opted to have the other breast removed as well. It turned out to be disease-free, but with lobular having a much higher rate of recurrence in the opposite breast, I wanted to lower my risk as much as possible.

I'm now halfway through chemo and radiation treatment and want to know if you think I did the right thing by having a double mastectomy rather than only having the affected breast removed.

Donna in Detroit

Dear Donna,

I applaud you for your strength! We must make decisions we can live with.

By having a double mastectomy, (despite hospital policy) you got peace-of-mind, which will also give you a level of worry-free wellness. Worry is not an easy state of mind with which to live. Like you, I had to stand in my power and speak my truth to get a double mastectomy when my lobular stage-IV breast cancer was missed using mammograms. Welcome to the "Poster Child Club" to which we wish we did not belong, but must now make the most of reality and help others.

Mammograms miss 20-30% of breast cancers. On my website and in the back of my book SURVIVING CANCERLAND: The Intuitive Aspects of Healing, I am lobbying for women to be given the choice in hospitals and breast care facilities to use Thermography alone, or in concert with mammograms, as a tool for early Breast Cancer Detection.

Thermography is also a great way to follow the effectiveness of chemotherapy during treatment. It is less radiation than a mammogram, or MRI, and very cost effective. If you feel you made the right decision, then I agree with your choice, especially since your cancer was Stage IIIc.


If you are struggling with your own diagnosis, or know someone who is, please email Kathy with your questions and concerns at:

Dear Kathy,

My dad was diagnosed with breast cancer first, and then I was diagnosed in 2010. My cancer was triple negative.

I took 6 rounds of chemotherapy, had a bilateral mastectomy, and was tested for the breast cancer gene and was found to be BRCA 2+. I am doing well now but wondered, have you ever heard of getting the breast cancer gene from the male side of your family before?


Dear Debbie,

I am so please you are doing well. You have had a difficult road to travel with a loved family member fighting for their life and then having the sword passed to you. I have seen mothers who survived breast cancer bringing their daughters into the treatment room.

Unfortunately, we are hearing more and more about male breast cancer. Yes, I have heard of cases where our fathers carried and were affected by the gene.

Please have your children checked for the breast cancer gene because in the very near future those defective genes may be able to be "fixed", reducing the risk of breast cancer in future generations.


Kathleen O'Keefe-Kanavos is a two-time breast cancer survivor who penned SURVIVING TRAUMALAND: The Intuitive Aspects of Healing.

She is represented by Devra Jacobs of Dancing Word Group, and Steve Allen Media. In addition to writing this column, she's a phone counselor for R.A. BLOCH Cancer Foundation, an inspirational speaker, and appears frequently on inspirational radio shows.

Visit her website and Facebook page, follow her on Twitter and connect with her on LinkedIn.