Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What About African American Women Under Forty?

The No Surrender Breast Cancer Foundation's most crucial program is our Before Forty Initiative which educates young, African American women about their increased risk of developing the aggressive form of breast cancer known as Triple Negative Breast Cancer. Young Caucasian women also develop this type of cancer as well, but not in the numbers that African American women do.  We encourage all young women to get early baseline screenings, BEFORE the age of forty. By doing this, a woman's doctor has a breast blueprint to work from for future screenings. Any slight change can mean a breast cancer caught at its earliest, most treatable stage.

This is particularly important for African American women who are disproportionately diagnosed with TNBC before age forty.

This a battle we are fighting. We have to fight doctors, insurance companies, government task forces, the American Cancer Society and other so-called breast cancer organizations. It has not been easy. But, we are No Surrender for a reason. We will not give up.

Recently, we applied for a regional grant from the Komen organization for this life saving initiative. Even though they state on their website the stats of the increased risk of African American women developing this aggressive type of cancer while they are young, they turned down our grant request because it" is against their guidelines: screening should not begin until after forty" - for everyone.

Today, Komen released a statement that they are thrilled that the leading medical organizations have reaffirmed that screening should begin at age forty, and they call it a "victory for women." We beg to differ. It is most certainly not a victory for young, African American women. In fact, this will now make our fight harder as we try to help them get insurance coverage for their baseline screenings before the age of forty.

It is simple math. It is also a proactive approach to fighting and surviving Triple Negative Breast Cancer- a very difficult cancer to beat. Why are we fighting other breast cancer organizations over this? Why don't they care about young, African American women who are being told to wait for screening that may be too late for them to survive the disease? How is this possible??

Komen has a slogan out about how Ms. Brinker "made a promise" to her sister, Susan, that she would end breast cancer. I also made a promise to my best friend, Ferne, who found her tumor too late, at 41. She was African American and had Triple Negative Breast Cancer. I promised her I would make sure that her story was told and other women like her would not put off screening so they would not have to suffer and die the way she did.

I am keeping my promise. I know that Ms. Brinker has done incredible work across the world for breast cancer- but what about women like Ferne? I would like to point out, according to a biography, Ms. Brinker, a breast cancer survivor herself, found her cancer at age 37 on mammogram. Early screening, before the age of forty, was important to her and she has survived her disease because of early detection.

I only wish Ferne had that opportunity. I know I benefited from early screening and found my Triple Negative Breast Cancer before 40. I want the same thing for everyone. No matter what color they are or what socio-economic background they are from. Ms. Brinker, I hope you will reconsider your guidelines.

Until then, we are asking all of you to please help us win this battle and make the investment in our Initiative, because we now have to fight even harder to save the lives of the young women who are risk of developing a most aggressive breast cancer that will not play fair and wait for them to turn forty before it shows up.

Please donate - we need you now, more than ever.

click HERE to Donate
click HERE to learn more about the Before Forty Initiative

Friday, July 8, 2011

Betty Ford, The Woman Who Changed Everything

Former First Lady, Betty Ford has died at the age of 93. She was an incredible woman who triumphed over  cancer and addiction. We owe her a great deal of both thanks and respect.

In 1974, just a month after her husband suddenly became president, she discovered she had breast cancer. She underwent a mastectomy and did not hide it. As a result, she took the whisper out of the words, "breast cancer." She was our first, true advocate. Because of her example, other high profile women opened up about their own personal battles. Barbara Bel Geddes had a radical mastectomy around the same time as Mrs. Ford and made sure it was included in the storyline of her hit television show, Dallas. We all watched as Miss Ellie fought her cancer and her emotions about her body image and whether her husband would still desire her. This had never been seen or discussed before.

All of this led to empowering women to speak with their doctors about getting screened themselves, a topic that was not as  open as it is today. The birth  of the breast cancer advocacy movement can be traced to Mrs. Ford and Ms. Bel Geddes. Soon, radical mastectomies were stopped and less drastic and deforming surgeries were perfected leading to the beautiful reconstructive surgery available today.

Mrs. Ford did not keep anything secret for long. She was also an alcoholic. After she overcame her addiction, reached out to those who needed to break the bonds of substance abuse. The Betty Ford Clinic is famous for the work it does and the lives it has changed... all because Mrs. Ford wanted to help others yet again.

She may not have been flashy or known for her designer outfits. She was soft spoken and stood by her best friend, her husband, through good and bad times as he stood by her through her struggles. Quietly, without looking for credit, she went beyond herself to help others conquer what she had endured before them.

A quite warrior who won many wars, she was the friend you didn't realize you had. Who among us has not in some way been touched by breast cancer or substance abuse? Because of Mrs. Ford, there is no shame or embarrassment anymore. Courage, dignity and the knowledge that you can fight any battle is her legacy to us. We are incredibly lucky she was there for us. May she rest in peace.

Thank you, Mrs. Ford.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Proof Positive: Regular Mammograms, Especially Early Ones, Save Lives. Period.

ABC has just released the report out of Sweden that regular mammograms, particularly those starting young, save lives. There is no question about it. So the next time your doctor tells you that you are "too young" or your breast are "too dense" or that the ACS or Komen do not recommend early, regular screenings- refer them to this report.

The No Surrender Breast Cancer Foundation is dedicated to providing the vital information to young women. This study proves that not only those at risk for Triple Negative Breast Cancer will be saved, but those who will go on to develop slower growing, estrogen responsive tumors will have fewer deaths through early, long-term screening. It is imperative  to GET SCREENED BEFORE THE AGE OF FORTY and continue yearly follow-up.

We can't do it alone. Studies like this will help us. You need to help us too. Spread the word. Donate to our foundation so we have the funds to get the message out there.

We can no longer afford to have these so-called breast cancer groups dictating when a woman "should" be screened. It is a matter of surviving the disease for a long period of time over finding a tumor that is too far gone to be stopped.

Think about this, please. And if you can, help support us.

Thank you.

Mammograms Reduce Breast Cancer Deaths, Period -- Swedish Study Finds

Mammograms save lives, period, end of story. But it takes decades to appreciate just how many.
That's the takeaway from the longest-running mammogram study -- which followed more than 100,000 Swedish women for 29 years -- that many doctors believe will put the recent ruckus over the frequency of breast cancer screening to bed.

The researchers found that seven years of mammograms made for 30 percent fewer breast cancer deaths years down the road, when compared with women who didn't receive mammograms.

"I think this study indicates the absolute benefit of screening in terms of breast cancer deaths prevented," says Stephen Duffy, a professor of cancer screening at Queen Mary, University of London, and lead author of the study.

While the American Cancer Society had long recommended that women over the age of 40 receive yearly mammograms, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force challenged this recommendation in 2009, calling into question whether the number of lives saved were worth the cost of such regular mammograms and the increased possibility of false positives. In light of the possible adverse effects of yearly screening, the Task Force recommended that women get screened every other year starting at age 50, and stop mammogram screening altogether after age 75.

But the Swedish study, published Tuesday in the Journal Radiology, suggests that when women are followed over the course of decades (in this case 29 years) instead of the seven or so years that many past studies have looked at, mammograms may save many more lives.

Among the 133,065 women studied, one breast cancer death was prevented for every 414 to 519 women screened.

"The longer follow-up period, three decades, is crucial. It is important to have this length of time to allow the benefits of screening to become apparent," says Dr. Laurie Margolies, chief of breast imaging at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, who was not involved in the Swedish study.

This long-term view is important, in part because certain types of breast cancer can take decades to become lethal, says Dr. Richard Ellis, co-director of the Norma J. Vinger Center for Breast Care in Wisconsin.

"A less aggressive, slow-growing cancer could take 15 to 25 years before it spreads to a vital organ, resulting in a breast cancer death," he says. "Thus, a shorter-term follow-up study will likely account only for breast cancer deaths due to the more aggressive cancers. … That is why studies with shorter follow-up … understate the true value of screening mammography."

The Swedish Study and Mammogram Debate
The recent study looked at more than 100,000 women in two counties in Sweden. Beginning in 1977, researchers randomly assigned half the women to receive seven years of regular medical care that did not include mammograms, and the other half to receive regular mammograms -- every two years for those age 40 to 49 and every three years for those age 50 to 74.

When the seven-year trial ended, the researchers followed up with the women for 22 more years. After seven years, all the women were offered mammograms, but only those cancers detected during those first seven years were included in the study's results.

The researchers found that the preventive effect of mammograms became more apparent as the years went by: 10 years after the study began, 71 lives had been saved because of the screenings; 29 years later, 158 lives had been saved, study leader Duffy says.


The Value of Regular Screening

Critics of frequent mammograms have generally focused on the relatively few lives saved per thousands of screenings.

According to a 2009 analysis published in the Cochrane Collection, an international health care network, one in 2,000 women will have her life prolonged by 10 years because of a mammogram, but another 10 healthy women will undergo unnecessary breast cancer treatment, and 200 women will endure significant psychological stress because of a false positive result -- they'll be erroneously told they have breast cancer when they don't.

The researchers who studied the Swedish women challenge such findings, suggesting that it takes nearly half as many mammograms to save a life, perhaps fewer if mammograms were given continually throughout middle and old age -- a rate of prevention that study leader Duffy and other breast cancer experts argue makes screenings worth the risk of possible adverse effects from radiation and false positives.

For every 1,000 to 1,500 mammograms given in this study, one breast cancer death was prevented, and if the initial screening period had lasted 10 years instead of seven, only 300 screenings would have been needed to save one life, the researchers reported.

And this was found in a population that received mammograms half as frequently as the American Cancer Society currently recommends for women in the U.S. If the Swedish women had been screened every year instead, there would have been a more "dramatic" reduction in the number of breast cancer deaths, says Dr. Peter Jokich, head of the mammography Center at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

Overall, breast cancer experts believe this study out of Sweden supports the message they've been sending all along: Regular mammograms save lives. Period.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Milking It

I was at a party the other evening and the hostess had beautifully decorated cookies with frosting every color of the rainbow. She passed the platter around and asked each guest which color they wanted. When she got to me, she handed me the pink cookie and said, "We know what one you are! You're our breast cancer girl!" I put the cookie on my dessert plate and left it there, untouched.

As I looked around the table of 10 women, I realized that here on Long Island, 1 in 7 women will develop breast cancer. I was already spoken for. That left at least one or two of the women eligible for the pink cookie in the future or maybe right at that moment and they don't even know it yet.

On this rainy day before Fourth of July, I decided to take advantage of the sales advertised at Lord and Taylor because I had a gift certificate given to me for my birthday. I desperately need a new bathing suit top because I am never the same size from year to year, surgery to surgery. I was quite disappointed at the selection and walking past the cosmetic counter, near accessories, there it was, gleaming before me:  The "Promise Me" Shrine of Goods. You could buy the perfume to smell like breast cancer. There were nick knacks to make your home look more cancer-y. And of course the pink accessories to dress the part, so you, too, could someday offer a survivor a pink cookie in proper style. Note to the "Promise Me" Peeps: Breast Cancer doesn't smell like roses and jasmine. It smells like metal, from the Heparin they use to flush the port implanted in your chest;  plastic tubing; blood; disinfectant; alcohol; cardboard and salt from your tears.

Driving home, listening to NPR, there was a fascinating interview with an Egyptian Freedom Fighter. He was quite distressed about how corporations have infiltrated the fledgeling democracy to put their own spin on it and profit from it. Cleansers are advertised using photographs of the citizenry cleaning up Tahrir Square after the regime fell. A triumphant fist holding up a pair of sunglasses instead of a flag was hawking a hotel and promoting tourism. The Freedom Fighter asked, "What about the fight? The sacrifice? What these people accomplished?" Nary a billboard about that. And with that, this man, finally, found the words I have been searching for. If I take out the word he used,  "Egypt" and put in my own word, I have what I have been trying to say:

Breast Cancer Is Not A Cow. Stop Milking It.

Yes. Thank you. Shukran.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Yummy Way to Work Tumeric Into Entertaining

from the New York Times...

Lentil Pâté With Cumin and Turmeric

Lentils and curry flavors go together beautifully. This pâté tends to be dry if you overcook it, so remove it from the oven when it’s just set, before the top cracks.

1 cup brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
1 quart water
1 bay leaf
1 medium onion
4 garlic cloves, 2 crushed, 2 minced
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons peanut oil or canola oil
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon cumin seeds, toasted and coarsely ground
1 teaspoon black or yellow mustard seeds
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 eggs
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
4 teaspoons lemon or lime juice

1. Place the lentils in a medium saucepan with the water and bay leaf. Cut the onion in half, and add one half to the pot along with the crushed garlic cloves. Bring to a boil, add salt to taste, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 35 to 45 minutes until the lentils are tender. Remove the onion half, and taste and adjust seasoning. Drain and set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter or oil a 5-cup paté tureen or baking dish, or bread pan. Finely chop the other half of the onion. Heat the peanut or canola oil over medium heat in a medium skillet. Add the chopped onion and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is tender, about five minutes. Stir in the garlic and spices, and cook, stirring, until the mixture is fragrant and the spices are sizzling, about 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste, and continue to stir over medium heat until it has darkened, one to two minutes. Stir in the cilantro. Remove from the heat.

3. Place the lentils and eggs in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Turn it on, add the olive oil and process until smooth. Add the onion mixture, and pulse to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Scrape into the prepared baking dish and cover tightly.

4. Bake for 40 minutes until just set. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. For best results, refrigerate overnight. Serve at room temperature or cold.
Yield: Serves 8 to 10.

Advance preparation: This keeps for about five days in the refrigerator.

Nutritional information per serving (eight servings): 168 calories; 1 gram saturated fat; 2 grams polyunsaturated fat; 5 grams monounsaturated fat; 47 milligrams cholesterol; 16 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams dietary fiber; 26 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 8 grams protein

Nutritional information per serving (10 servings): 135 calories; 1 gram saturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 4 grams monounsaturated fat; 37 milligrams cholesterol; 13 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams dietary fiber; 21 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 7 grams protein