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People Top 5
LAST UPDATE: Tuesday February 10, 2015 01:10PM EST
PEOPLE Top 5 are the most-viewed stories on the site over the past three days, updated every 60 minutes
- October 26, 1998
- Vol. 50
- No. 15
The Words Terrify Women of All Ages. Yet Survivors Have Proved the Disease Can Be Beaten, as Scientists Gain in the War to End Its Menace Forever
Soon those odds are likely to improve even more. Medical advances, including more-selective lymph-node biopsies and chemotherapy with fewer side effects, have improved care and reduced the need for mutilating surgery, and there have been significant innovations in breast reconstruction. Even more tantalizing are the new drug therapies—especially the estrogen-blockers tamoxifen and raloxifene and the tumor inhibitor Herceptin [see page 68]—that mark the first significant steps toward possible prevention and cure of the disease. "The story isn't over, and there are a lot of people who are going to die of this disease before we're done," says Dr. Marc Lippman, director of the world's largest breast-cancer research program, at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. "But there has been a quiet revolution. We are entering an era in which the rules will be different."
For now, experts know that breast cancer's likeliest victims share three primary traits: They are over 65, have blood relatives who have suffered from the disease, or have been exposed to excess estrogen (a potential cancer fuel) because they menstruated early, began menopause late or were never pregnant. Still 70 percent of women diagnosed have no known risk factors at all. Until there is a cure, then, the best advice is familiar: Practice self-examination, schedule regular doctor's exams and (for women beginning at 40) annual mammograms.
That, and bear in mind the words of actress Marcia Wallace, herself a 13-year survivor: "If you're a woman and you're alive, you can get breast cancer." On the following pages, PEOPLE examines the latest medical advances, as well as the lives of 11 well-known women who found the cancer diagnosis difficult to accept but who fought back and, with the support of their loved ones, survived.
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