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Battling a wily foe

The best medicine has to offer still isn't enough to help all cancer patients. But armed with new knowledge about the genetics of cancer and ways to detect and interfere with abnormal cell growth, doctors predict they'll be saving many more lives in the next few decades.

Turning 30 often involves mixed feelings of accomplishment and angst -- satisfaction with establishing a career and perhaps starting a family, and the reluctant realization that you really are grown up and getting older. For Stephanie Williams, 33, her thirtieth birthday marked a much greater period of transition, one from a healthy and successful magazine writer in New York City to cancer patient.

In July 2001, just two months after turning 30, she was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer, an invasive form of the disease that had already spread to her lymph nodes. In the last three years, her battle with breast cancer has been an emotional roller coaster that's involved double mastectomies, additional surgeries, radiation treatments, nonstop chemotherapy with a variety of drugs, and side effects including hair loss, nausea and extreme fatigue.

During that time, the cancer spread to the skin on her chest and back, and most recently to her lungs. In May, one doctor gave her a dire prediction -- just a couple of months to live -- though another doctor said a time limit simply couldn't be put on her life.

'Lost in the shuffle'
Death rates from breast cancer have dropped in recent years, thanks to earlier detection with mammograms and better treatment protocols. Doctors have developed new drugs like Herceptin and aromatase inhibitors that are making a big difference for many patients, but not for Williams.