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Brogan shines pink for Breast Cancer Awareness

Yesterday marked day one of my 4th breast cancer awareness month as a breast cancer survivor. There’s a pink cast to the world, facebook profile pictures turn to pink ribbons and businesses everywhere are stepping up their support of breast cancer.

Brogan & Partners, my long time employer, has supported my journey every step of the way–participating in fundraisers, walking with me, creating my award winning Ta Ta Breast Cancer logo and just being there for me. I am honored and thrilled everyday to work for this company–the place I’ve called my home away from home for nearly 17 years. 

But Marcie Brogan, once again, you’ve outdone yourself. For the next month, our building in downtown Birmingham will shine pink to honor survivors and remember those who’ve lost their life to this disease. If you’re in the area at night, drive by the historic peabody mansion and see for yourself.  And thanks dad for capturing this great photo.  Yes, I’m one lucky survivor.

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Taking Action–Addressing the New Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines

Last week I had the opportunity to join a great group of women on a panel to talk about the new breast cancer screening guidelines put out by the USPTF.  I sat at the table with Senator Gilda Jacobs, Dr. Ruth Lerman—a breast care specialist and 3 time breast cancer survivor—and Dr. Karen Hunt, Breast Imaging Site Director at Henry Ford Hospital.  The event was hosted by the Cancer Thrivers Network  for Jewish Women and moderated by another young breast cancer survivor and member of the Cancer Thrivers Network, Elizabeth Schiff Barash.  We all brought our unique point of views and expertise to the panel and I’m so thankful to the thrivers for putting this panel together so quickly.

The December 21 panel, with moderator Elizabeth Schiff Barash, Thrivers Michelle Passon and Patti Nemer and JFS Community Outreach Officer, Ellen Yashinsky Chute

It’s been 6 weeks since the USPTF released their new guidelines.  I often wonder if they envisioned the uproar and discussion their release would create.  It took the online communities through the blogosphere, news sites and social networks minutes to start posting opposition and opinions on the new guidelines.  There was no need to wait and hear more from them.  Their guidelines, as they released them on that November day, were clear.  If you were under 50 without knowledge of a family history, your best bet was to hope that the big “C” didn’t strike.  Because if it did, you would have no way of knowing until it was staring you in the face and was perhaps too late.  No mammograms, no need for breast self-exams and no clinical breast exams.  Talk about anxiety that unnecessary biopsies create, how about the anxiety of the woman that discovers stage 4 breast cancer when her cancer should have/could have been discovered earlier?  

We’ve spent 25 years educating women on the importance of routine mammograms beginning at age 40 and we’ve spent even longer touting the importance of breast self-exams.  Just recently, Deborah Wasserman Schultz introduced the EARLY Act which is designed to educate even younger women—specifically women under 40 about the importance of early detection.  Early detection of breast cancer saves lives and no one can deny that fact. 

So why do we have these new guidelines?  And what do they mean? Will laws change?  Will insurance companies change coverage? Will women start pushing their mammograms later and later? Will we no longer learn how to do a breast self-exam?  Will doctors continue to do clinical breast exams or will those go away?  I’m sure any of these scenarios are possible but for me, the scariest, is that women will actually listen to these guidelines.  Maybe not at first but when the chatter quiets down, people may start to push their screenings later and later.  They may start to ignore years of advice to check their breasts.  And guess what, more women will die of breast cancer. 

So where does this take me?  Clearly I disagree with the guidelines.  And yes I’m angry, borderline furious, but I see this as an opportunity to start a conversation and make a difference.  We can make sure that the women in our life understand that mammograms, breast self-exams and clinical breast exams are just as important today as they were on November 16.  We can sign petitions put out by FORCE and Susan G. Komen to make our voices heard and make sure all women have access to mammograms beginning at age 40. We can push for better diagnostic tools to detect cancer even earlier, and we can advocate for our own health by doing breast self-exams, getting proper clinical breast exams and continuing on with our yearly screenings.

I love this video

Worth watching. Thanks Providence St. Vincent Medical Center.

Raising Awareness of Hereditary Cancer

 I’ve spent a lot of time in the past month thinking about hereditary cancer issues.  Last Friday, I spoke to the Michigan Cancer Genetics Alliance about FORCE.  And in between, I’ve had two FORCE outreach meetings. In speaking to the MCGA, I communicated my concern with the lack of awareness of both hereditary cancer and the importance of Genetics Counselors in the process.  Through my interactions with many of them, I know that they have similar concerns.  They had some nice suggestions of various groups within Michigan that may help me take on this issue.  I talk to women everyday who don’t know they are at risk and don’t know what to do if they are at risk.  Clearly I fit in the “didn’t know I was at risk” category. We’ve come along way through organizations like FORCE and Be Bright Pink but we still have a long way to go. 

FORCE coined a term to give people with a hereditary cancer genetic mutation a name.

FORCE coined a term to give people with a hereditary cancer genetic mutation a name.

At my most recent FORCE meeting, I met a woman who’s sister was diagnosed with DCIS (stage 0 breast cancer).  Prior to this diagnosis, she had no idea that she was a risk for a BRCA mutation.  She tried to get genetic testing but her insurance company turned her down.  6 months later her sister was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer and 1 year later is back with more cancer.  Could this be avoided?  This is just one of many stories I hear.  How can we make sure that more women have the knowledge they need to ultimately avoid a cancer diagnosis?  Do we need a specific week devoted to hereditary cancer awareness?  I need your help, my readers, to make sure that we are able to inform, educate and spread the word.  We are a small but mighty group and we can do this together.  Post some comments and let me know how you think we can make an impact.

Heading into Breast Cancer Awareness Month

In my last post, I wrote that it had been a long interesting week.  On Wednesday, just one day before the start of breast cancer awareness month, I had the opportunity to hear Nancy Brinker speak at the Mothers Daughters Sisters and Friends luncheon benefiting the Francee and Benson Ford Jr. Breast Care and Wellness Center at Henry Ford Hospital.  Since I was diagnosed with breast cancer, Nancy Brinker has become one of my personal heros.  27 years ago, she promised her dying sister she would do everything she could to end breast cancer.  And apparently when Nancy Brinker sets her mind on something, she doesn’t give up.  2007KomenLogo

Hearing her speak gave me a sense of hope and filled an intense sadness I felt just one day earlier.  Susan G. Komen is the organization that has funded the research to keep so many women alive.  Susan G. Komen is the organization that changed breast cancer from a deep dark secret to an everyday conversation.  And because of Susan G. Komen, during the month of October, we are surrounded by pink to honor and recognize those that continue to fight.    I am proud to be involved with this organization and so happy I had the opportunity to hear Nancy in person.  What a great way to head into October.

Thank you Nancy for inspiring us, leading us, and never settling for anything less than a world without breast cancer.

Please show your support of the EARLY Act for Breast Cancer

I’ve posted before about the importance of the EARLY Act.  FORCE is submitting a wonderful letter showing theirearlyactlogo support and I urge you to add your name to the letter.  Feel free to read the full letter or some of my other breast cancer posts on this topic to understand the importance of the EARLY Act.   If you would like your name added to the letter, just email info@facingourrisk.org and type EARLY in the subject line. 

Thank you again for all your support!

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