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Redefining good days while living with breast cancer 

Left to right: Models of Courage Laurie Tennent, Cati Diamond Stone, and Aimee Bariteau join together in a group painting session as part of Ford Warriors in Pink’s Good Day Project. To learn more, visit Fordcares.com.

Left to right: Models of Courage Laurie Tennent, Cati Diamond Stone, and Aimee Bariteau join together in a group painting session as part of Ford Warriors in Pink’s Good Day Project. To learn more, visit Fordcares.com.

(BPT) – When facing bad news—like something as serious as a cancer diagnosis—it can be difficult to imagine that any day of the coming journey would be “good.” But for many of the millions of men and women in the U.S. who have been affected by the disease, the experience has transformed their understanding of support and redefined their sense of normalcy.

Survivor Karen Martinez was prepared to go through chemotherapy alone, but was thankful to have two friends who insisted they be at her side for every appointment, which sometimes lasted five to six hours.

“They just sat there, and we were either joking, reading or talking,” says Martinez. “For a bad experience—which it was—I still looked forward to it. Not the treatment, but the friendship.”

Other survivors found peace in solitude.

20 breast cancer survivors and co-survivors join Ford Warriors in Pink’s Good Day Project to share their stories and give more good days to others affected by breast cancer.

20 breast cancer survivors and co-survivors join Ford Warriors in Pink’s Good Day Project to share their stories and give more good days to others affected by breast cancer.

“There’s a difference between being alone and being lonely. I knew I had my family,” says survivor Marisol Rodriguez, a 50-year-old teacher from Portland, Oregon, who, after initially being accompanied by her husband to chemotherapy, eventually chose to go alone. “When your friends want to visit you, in my [Latino] culture, you have to entertain them. While it was greatly appreciated, it did take a lot of energy, so I chose to just relax during this time.”

Both experiences underscore the complexity of support. While many people want to help, they’re unsure of the best way and what comforts one person might not work for another.

“The worst thing you can say to someone going through this experience is, ‘Well, let me know what you need’ or ‘Let me know what I can do,’” says survivor Tracy Nicole. “No one said that to me because they knew that I wasn’t going to ask for anything.”

Instead, Tracy Nicole’s family and friends helped with things like organizing meals, childcare and other household errands. Through the online platform Meal Train, Jenny Price, Tracy Nicole’s friend, organized a calendar and identified specific errands that friends could help with on certain days and times, including ironing her daughters’ school uniform or preparing meals for the day.

Insights like these from breast cancer survivors and co-survivors inspired Ford “Warriors in Pink” to launch The Good Day Project, an initiative to help friends and family take small, actionable steps that will bring more good days to breast cancer patients.

Free access to Meal Train’s premium service, Meal Train Plus, is offered as part of the program. Warriors in Pink also provides patients with free rides to and from appointments at select cancer treatment centers via the ride-sharing service Lyft. On its website, Warriors in Pink offers a variety of resources and tips for giving “good days.”

Here are some of their “good day” tips for others living with breast cancer and their supporters:

For those diagnosed, in treatment, or in recovery:

  • Celebrate small victories: Aimee Bariteau recalls the simple joy she got from being able to walk to the park for the first time after treatment. “Rather than being annoyed that I couldn’t do it before, I was happy when I could do it. It’s a long haul, so when something good happens, be sure to acknowledge and enjoy it.” Fellow survivor Camari Olson documented her surgeries and hair regrowth after chemotherapy in a photo project that she looks back at to remind herself how far she’s come.
  • Let others know how they can help by simply listening: “People know they can’t take the disease away from you,” added Olson. “There were times I needed to express my fears about dying or the sadness at having my body forever changed, and my friends and family helped by simply listening and not denying me those fears and feelings.”
  • Share your experience and advice with others: Steve Del Gardo says this is especially important for men with breast cancer, as there are fewer support resources dedicated to the male experience. He volunteers as a Peer Support Navigator through the Friend for Life Network to support other men affected by the disease.

For supporters:

  • Think about how you can help others affected by someone’s diagnosis, such as their children or partners: Carrie Vieceli was living more than 3,000 miles from her close friends and family when she was diagnosed. Despite her own challenges and day-to-day care needs, she worried about the responsibilities that her husband handled on his own. “He could have used so much support—in caring for me as well as emotional support for himself.”
  • Remind your loved one that you’re thinking about them: Take five minutes to send a postcard. Survivor Cati Diamond Stone enjoyed receiving random cards from her friend on a weekly basis. Free Warriors in Pink postcards are available at fordcares.com or at their website.
  • Remember your loved one’s interests are probably still the same: While help with physically taxing tasks (laundry, driving, groceries) are much appreciated, don’t assume your friend or loved one doesn’t want to be invited to something they can’t fully participate in. If they love hiking, for example, consider a route that allows them to enjoy a scenic break.

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Rethinking breast cancer treatment: One woman’s story

Amy Thigpen

Amy Thigpen

(BPT) – In the United States, one in five new breast cancer cases is stage 0 disease, but for Amy Thigpen, a mother of three who works in an oncology clinic, breast cancer is not a statistic; it is personal. After all, her mother is a breast cancer survivor, and later, she too faced-off with a similar diagnosis.

After Amy’s mother was diagnosed with early-stage invasive breast cancer, Amy was determined to be proactive about her breast health. She had a feeling something was not right and requested a mammogram from her doctors at the age of 34, even though clinical practice guidelines do not recommend screening before the age of 50. The mammogram found a small tumor that was confined to the milk ducts; fortunately, it had not spread to the surrounding tissue. At that point, Amy faced her diagnosis—stage 0 breast cancer, known as ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS.

An oncology nurse in the hematology oncology department at Physicians East in Greenville, North Carolina, Amy worked alongside a breast cancer specialist and had seen many patients battle the disease and struggle with the many decisions that had to be made – including whether or not to pursue post-surgery treatment. After caring for so many cancer patients over the years, Amy now was speaking with her doctors about a difficult decision of her own, as it was not clear whether her cancer would come back and if she needed radiation therapy.

Amy was familiar with genomic testing and a tool doctors sometimes used to guide treatment decisions. Her mother had received the Oncotype DX test for her invasive breast cancer and used the test results to help inform her decision of whether she needed chemotherapy. Inspired by her mother’s experience, Amy talked to her doctor about genomic testing, and since the Oncotype DX test was now available and validated to provide the 10-year risk of an invasive or a DCIS local recurrence in DCIS patients, they decided to move forward. The Oncotype DX DCIS Score result has been shown to change treatment recommendations in 30 percent of patients and doctors rank it as the most important factor in treatment planning for DCIS patients.

When Thigpen received her Oncotype DX test results, her DCIS Score result was zero. “I was so excited, I carried the results to my doctor and knew we had our answer. I wouldn’t have radiation. The test probably saved me from having to go through six weeks of radiation that my body really did not need, as well as the side effects that it can cause.”

“When a woman is diagnosed with DCIS, my goal as a physician is to accurately assess her individual risk for cancer returning so we can define and personalize an appropriate treatment plan with greater confidence,” said Michael Alvarado, M.D., breast cancer surgeon, the University of California, San Francisco Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. Reflecting on a UCSF-led study of the clinical utility of the Oncotype DX test for DCIS, Dr. Alvarado added that that test was “an objective biomarker that provides independent information beyond what has been available to physicians before, which can be seen as the biggest advancement in the management of DCIS in more than a decade.”

To encourage other women to pursue personalized treatment, Amy decided to share her story on www.MyBreastCancerTreatment.org, a patient education resource providing information around breast cancer and the benefits of genomic testing. The tools, resources and eligibility quiz offered on this website enable patients and their loved ones to empower themselves with information about their specific cancer and work with their doctor to confidently select a treatment plan that can guide personalized treatment decisions based on their individual tumor.

“You have to be your own advocate and push for what you truly feel in your heart is right, because when the day is over, you have to be 100 percent comfortable with your treatment plan.”

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Breast Cancer in 2013: What you need to know


Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

(Family Features) Thirty years ago, a diagnosis of breast cancer was thought of as a virtual death sentence for many women, but since that time significant progress has been made in the fight against breast cancer. Reduced mortality, less invasive treatments, an increased number of survivors and other advancements have their roots in breast cancer research—more than $790 million of it funded by Susan G. Komen, the world’s largest breast cancer organization.

However, the reality is that breast cancer is still a serious disease. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, held each October, brings awareness to the disease and empowers women to take charge of their own breast health.

This year, about 200,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed among women in the U.S. and nearly 40,000 women will die from it. Globally, 1.6 million people will be diagnosed, and 400,000 will die. Despite the increased awareness of breast cancer, major myths still abound. Women must remain vigilant against this disease by learning the facts and understanding how they may be able to reduce their risk.

The Myths and Facts on Breast Cancer

Myth: I’m only 35. Breast cancer happens only in older women.

Fact: While the risk increases with age, all women are at risk for getting breast cancer.

Myth: Only women with a family history of breast cancer get the disease.

Fact: Most women who get breast cancer have no family history of the disease. However, a woman whose mother, sister or daughter had breast cancer has an increased risk.

Myth: If I don’t have a mutated BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, I won’t get breast cancer.

Fact: You can still get breast cancer, even without a gene mutation. About 90 to 95 percent of women who get breast cancer do not have this mutation.

Myth: Women with more than one known risk factor get breast cancer.

Fact: Most women with breast cancer have no known risk factors except being a woman and getting older. All women are at risk.

Myth: You can prevent breast cancer.

Fact: Because the causes of breast cancer are not yet fully known, there is no way to prevent it.

Actions to Reduce Your Risk

Breast cancer can’t be prevented; however, research has shown that there are actions women can take to reduce their risk of developing breast cancer.

*Maintain a Healthy Weight – Postmenopausal women who are overweight have a 30 to 60 percent higher breast cancer risk than those who are lean.

*Add Exercise into Your Routine – Women who get regular physical activity may have a lower risk of breast cancer by about 10 to 20 percent, particularly in postmenopausal women.

*Limit Alcohol Intake – Research has found that women who had two to three alcoholic drinks per day had a 20 percent higher risk of breast cancer.

*Breastfeed, if you can – Research has shown that mothers who breastfed for a lifetime total of one year (combined duration of breastfeeding for all children) were slightly less likely to get breast cancer than those who never breastfed.

For more information on the facts about breast cancer and what you need to reduce your risk, or to find resources in your community, visit Komen.org or call 1-877-GO-KOMEN.


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Fifth-grader raises money for breast cancer

Lucus Pienton (right) is shown here with his friend, Jadelen, in the football uniforms and the pink they wore for breast cancer awareness.

By Judy Reed

Most fifth-graders are thinking about having fun with their friends, what new video game is coming, or what they are getting for their birthday. Most are definitely not thinking about cancer or how they can help support a cure. But Lucus Pienton is not your average fifth-grader.
Lucus, 11, is a student at Cedar View Elementary. His mom, Julie Pierson, said that Lucus loves school and is very athletic. He plays football for Garfield Park in Grand Rapids on the juniors team. But he is also compassionate.
“Lucus has always been about helping people and doing what’s right for people,” explained Julie. “If he sees someone being picked on he tells the bully that it’s wrong, or if someone is hurt, he helps them up to make sure that person is fine.”
Recently, Lucus and his mom have been talking about cancer, because his grandpa has cancer. Lucus asked her about breast cancer, and she explained that’s why he sees people wearing pink and pink ribbons. So he asked his mom to ask his football coach if the team could all wear socks for breast cancer. She did, and the coach agreed.
But Lucus wanted to do more. He asked for pink ankle tape for his shoes and wrists, and then he asked if they could do posters. His mom readily agreed. And then Lucus decided he wanted to do donation boxes and collect the money for breast cancer awareness. Julie told Lucas that was a lot for him to. “He said, ‘I know but its worth it to help people.’ So I talked to the coach about this and he thought it was a wonderful thing,” she said.
But Lucus wasn’t finished. He wrote a letter to his stepdad’s place of work and asked them to donate to breast cancer bracelets to pass out at the game. He then made an appointment to meet with the CEO and President of Perrin so they could talk to him about what he was doing, and donate money for the bracelets.
Lucus set up his donation boxes on Saturday, October 22, at the last home football game of the season, and raised $137.12 for breast cancer awareness.
“I would have never thought of my son coming this far in a project and he was so committed,” said Julie. “As Lucus’ mother, I am so proud of him.”

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Preventing and treating breast cancer

(ARA) – Compared to other forms of cancer, breast cancer gets a lot of attention. But that attention is well-deserved, because the chances of a woman developing breast cancer are greater than nearly any other form of cancer. In fact, one in eight women will experience breast cancer during her lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society.
The good news is advances are being made every day to catch breast cancer earlier and treat it effectively once it’s caught. Being diagnosed with breast cancer is far from a death sentence – five-year survival rates are 93 percent for those who catch it in its earliest stage. Due partially to its prevalence and improved treatment, approximately 2.5 million breast cancer survivors are living in the United States today.
In addition to the sheer number of people affected by the disease, breast cancer presents patients with many difficult, and often scary, decisions. “People forget that one of the unique aspects of breast cancer is the fact that most women do have a choice,” says Dr. Elisa Port, co-director of the Dubin Breast Center of The Tisch Cancer Institute at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. They have a choice between lumpectomy and mastectomy, and oftentimes those choices are very equal – and that’s just one example.”
Finding the information necessary to make these decisions and the support to get through cancer treatment procedures and beyond can be difficult. Dr. Eva Andersson-Dubin, a breast cancer survivor, doctor and former Miss Sweden, helped fund and develop the recently opened Dubin Breast Center, along with co-directors Dr. Port and Dr. George Raptis, in hopes of providing a facility where patients could find these services and information under one roof. If you’re dealing with breast cancer, or are a survivor, Dubin recommends looking for the following type of care:
* Finding a care center where all services are located under one roof can greatly ease much of the stress that comes along with your fight against cancer. Choosing a facility that allows you to have one electronic medical record, while also offering screening, treatment and counseling services, can streamline your experience and allow you to devote all of your attention to getting better. Through her own experiences and from talking to other women who have dealt with breast cancer, Dubin found that lugging scans and paperwork from appointment to appointment is one of the largest sources of frustration for patients.
* Beating cancer means more than just winning the physical battle. Much of the fight against cancer and the life changes it brings is psychological. Look for a treatment facility that cares for the whole patient by offering services like oncofertility (reproductive health for cancer patients), nutrition and psychological counseling, and possibly even massage therapy. A treatment center that involves the whole family in your treatment and offers counseling services to them as well as you can play a huge role in helping you beat the disease.
* Ask if your care center has radiologists who specialize in mammography, breast ultrasound, breast MRI and breast biopsy.  You might also ask if the center has digital mammography and any new technology such as 3D mammography – an advanced version of a conventional mammogram. 3D mammography, called tomosynthesis, helps radiologists see through layers of breast tissue facilitating the early diagnosis of breast cancer and reducing callbacks for additional screening, which can cause stress and anxiety.
* Look for a care center that offers care options well after your treatment has finished. Because a brush with cancer is a life-altering experience, having someone there to provide counseling services or answer questions as you go forward is an invaluable resource.
Experts in the field of breast cancer treatment agree that a comprehensive, lifelong approach to treatment is best. “Those with breast cancer benefit enormously from a comprehensive approach to their care that also focuses on their needs as individuals,” says Nancy G. Brinker, founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
“Our goal for the Dubin Breast Center is to provide patients with seamless care,” says Dubin. “From breast cancer screening to diagnosis to treatment and survivorship, patients will receive personalized, comprehensive care in a welcoming, private and reassuring setting.” The center provides all-in-one facility that offers a soothing atmosphere for breast cancer patients and survivors.
Since early detection is key when battling breast cancer, The Mount Sinai Medical Center urges anyone experiencing the following symptoms of breast cancer to visit a physician:
* A lump or thickening near the breast, in your underarm area or in your neck
* A change in the size or shape of a breast
* Nipple discharge or tenderness, or the nipple becoming pulled back or inverted into the breast
* The skin of your breast becoming ridged or pitted, similar to the skin of an orange
* Any change in the way your breast looks or feels
For more information on breast cancer and treatment visit www.dubinbreastcenter.org.

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Women’s Health

Reducing Your Risk of Breast Cancer

By James N. Martin, Jr, MD
President, the American Congress  of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Every three minutes, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer in the US. While it may seem as if you have no control over cancer, research has shown that there are certain lifestyle choices that can reduce your chances of developing the disease.
The American Institute for Cancer Research estimates that almost 40% of breast cancer cases in the US—roughly 70,000 cases per year—could be prevented if women stayed within a healthy weight range, exercised more, and cut down the amount of alcohol they consumed. The good news is that every woman has control over these factors.
Maintain a healthy weight. Women who gain excess weight, especially after menopause, are more prone to breast cancer. Extra body fat produces estrogen, which can fuel certain cancers, such as some breast and endometrial cancers. Find out your ideal body mass index (BMI)—a measure of body fat in comparison to your height and weight—at nhlbisupport.com/bmi.
Get active. Women who exercise
regularly have a 20-30% reduction in breast cancer risk. Physical activity helps keeps weight in check and may have a positive effect on harmful factors that can raise the risk of cancer, such as inflammation and excess hormones.
Just 30 minutes of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking, every day is a good start and may be enough to provide some protection. As your strength and stamina increase, add more time, intensity, and variety to your workout schedule to gain added benefit.
Drink less. Despite the often-touted cardiovascular benefits of moderate alcohol consumption, drinking has been linked to a higher risk of breast cancer. If you choose to drink, limit it to one drink per day. That translates into 5 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of hard liquor, or one 12-ounce beer.
Eat Healthier. Aim to eat a balanced diet rich in a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lowfat dairy, and lean protein. By filling your plate with healthy whole foods, you have less room for foods that are high in fat, sodium, and processed sugar.
National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is the perfect time to learn about the factors that may raise your risk, and then try your best to reduce them. To learn more, go to nbcam.org.

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Cooking for a Cause

(Family Features) If you love to entertain and want to support a good cause, now you can do both at the same time.
Now in its 10th year, Cook for the Cure presented by KitchenAid is a program that gives people with a passion for cooking a way to support the fight against breast cancer.
Through culinary-based fundraising, events, auctions and the sale of pink products, the partnership between KitchenAid and Susan G. Komen for the Cure® has raised over $8 million for the cause.
“It adds another layer of purpose to one of life’s great pleasures, cooking and enjoying food with family and friends,” said Debbie O’Connor, senior manager of brand experience for KitchenAid.
You can make a difference by hosting a party that lets you Cook for the Cure by raising awareness and funds for breast cancer research. Here are some ideas to get you started:
—Invite guests for an evening of appetizers and drinks. (Try these Mushroom-Onion Tartlets.) Encourage fundraising by awarding a prize to the guest with the highest donation. Or, let donors enter their name into a drawing to win a restaurant gift certificate or spa treatment.
—Organize a fundraising bake sale. Get the neighbors involved in baking, promoting and selling — it’s a great way to bring everyone together.
—Host a potluck brainstorming party. Invite people who share your passion for helping others to bring their favorite dish and think up creative ways you can support the cause as a group. Vote on a project and then let everyone pitch in to get started.
Cooking good food, sharing time with friends, and giving back to the community — that’s a recipe for a truly great party. Learn more at www.CookfortheCure.com.

Mushroom-Onion Tartlets

Makes 24 tartlets
4    ounces light cream cheese
3    tablespoons butter, divided
3/4    cup plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
8    ounces fresh mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1/2    cup chopped green onions
1    egg
1/4    cup dried thyme leaves
1/2    cup shredded Swiss cheese

Place cream cheese and 2 tablespoons butter in bowl of electric stand mixer. Attach flat beater to mixer. Turn to medium and beat about 1 minute. Stop and scrape bowl. Add 3⁄4 cup flour. Turn to low and mix about 1 minute, or until well blended. Form mixture into ball. Wrap in waxed paper and chill 1 hour. Clean mixer bowl and beater.
Divide chilled dough into 24 pieces. Press each piece into miniature muffin cup (greased, if desired).
Meanwhile, melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and onions. Cook and stir until tender. Remove from heat. Cool slightly.

Place egg, remaining 1 teaspoon flour, and thyme in mixer bowl. Turn to medium-high and beat about 30 seconds. Stir in cheese and cooled mushroom mixture. Spoon into pastry-lined muffin cups. Bake at 375°F for 15 to 20 minutes, or until egg mixture is puffed and golden brown. Serve warm.

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Breast cancer deaths shift to poor

A new report from the American Cancer Society finds that a slower decline in breast cancer death rates among women in poor areas has resulted in a shift in the highest breast cancer death rates from women residing in more affluent areas to those in poor areas. The authors point to screening rates as one potential factor. In 2008, only 51.4 percent of poor women ages 40 and older had undergone a screening mammogram in the past two years compared to 72.8 percent of non-poor women.
The findings are published in Breast Cancer Statistics, 2011, which appears in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. The report and its consumer version, Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2011-2012, provide detailed analyses of breast cancer trends, presents information on known factors that influence risk and survival, and provides the latest data on prevention, early detection, treatment, and ongoing research.
More highlights from Breast Cancer Statistics, 2011 and Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2011-2012:
Breast cancer mortality rates have declined steadily since 1990, with the drop in mortality larger among women under 50 (3.2 percent per year) than among women 50 and older (2.0 percent per year).
In 2011, an estimated 230,480 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Excluding cancers of the skin, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States, accounting for nearly 1 in 3 cancers diagnosed.
An estimated 39,520 women are expected to die from the disease in 2011. Only lung cancer accounts for more cancer deaths in women.
In January 2008 (the latest year for which figures are available), approximately 2.6 million women living in the U.S. had a history of breast cancer, more than half of whom were diagnosed less than 10 years earlier. Most of them were cancer-free, while others still had evidence of cancer and may have been undergoing treatment.
From 2004 to 2008, the average annual female breast cancer incidence rate was highest in non-Hispanic white women (125.4 cases per 100,000 females) and lowest for Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders (84.9). Although overall breast cancer incidence rates are lower in African American than white women, African American women are more likely to be diagnosed with larger tumors and are more likely to die from the disease.
Analyses by poverty rates showed that death rates were highest among women residing in affluent areas until the early 1990s, but since that time rates have been higher among women in poorer areas because the decline in death rates began later and was slower among women residing in poor areas compared to those in affluent areas.
Despite much progress in increasing mammography utilization, screening rates continue to be lower in poor women compared to non-poor women. In 2008, 51.4 percent of poor women ages 40 and older had a screening mammogram in the past 2 years compared to 72.8 percent of non-poor women.
“In general, progress in reducing breast cancer death rates is being seen across races/ethnicities, socioeconomic status, and across the U.S.,” said Otis W. Brawley, M.D., chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. “However, not all women have benefitted equally. Poor women are now at greater risk for breast cancer death because of less access to screening and better treatments. This continued disparity is impeding real progress against breast cancer, and will require renewed efforts to ensure that all women have access to high-quality prevention, detection, and treatment services.”

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