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Format: 04/24/2014
Format: 04/24/2014

News

Pittsburgh Tribune Review: Heinz's cancer prognosis 'very good'

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

By Luis Fabregas

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Teresa Heinz will remain active in her philanthropic work despite announcing she's being treated for breast cancer, the president of The Heinz Family Philanthropies said Wednesday.

"Her prognosis is very good," said Jeffrey R. Lewis, president of the foundation whose board Heinz chairs. "Nothing will stop her from continuing the work she's doing. Teresa has always been -- and will continue to be -- a fighter."

Heinz, 71, heiress to Heinz Co. fortune, said she learned in late September that she had Stage 1 breast cancer after having an annual mammogram. In early October, she underwent lumpectomies on both breasts -- surgical procedures to remove tumors.

The tests initially found cancer in her left breast, but doctors later found a malignant growth on her right breast. In November, Heinz had another pair of lumpectomies performed at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Heinz, who is married to Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, will undergo radiation next month. Heinz said the five days of targeted radiation should improve her odds of successful treatment to 95 percent.

In Stage 1 cancer, the cells have not spread beyond the breast or into lymph nodes, said Dr. Donald Keenan, a surgeon at West Penn Allegheny Health System. He is not involved in Heinz's treatment.

"At this stage of the disease, the majority of women can be cured," he said.

Compared with metastatic breast cancer -- which is incurable and has lower survival odds -- early-stage cancers can be treated before they have spread to other organs, Keenan said, emphasizing the importance of routine screenings such as mammograms.

Although Heinz has undergone required additional lumpectomies, it is not a sign for grave concern, Keenan said, noting that up to half the women who have lumpectomies return for second procedures.

Her case provides an opportunity to educate women about breast cancer, so they will not unnecessarily panic about their outlook, he said.

"Sometimes it takes more than one operation, and that doesn't mean the cancer is horrible," Keenan said. "It just means that it wasn't cleared the first time."

Heinz said she is undecided about follow-up treatment such as chemotherapy -- which could bump her survival odds to 99 percent -- because of her age and potential side effects.

To read more, visit the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review web site.

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