Posts Tagged ‘breast cancer’

Planned Parenthood, Susan G. Komen For the Cure Disagree, Then Make Up

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

After setting off a firestorm by threatening to cut funding to Planned Parenthood, the founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen For the Cure — the nation’s largest breast-cancer advocacy agency — backtracked and promised to amend the criteria.  “We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants,” Nancy G. Brinker said.  “We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women’s lives.”  According to Brinker, the decision was not “done for political reasons, or specifically to penalize Planned Parenthood.”

Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards expressed gratitude and said her agency could resume longstanding relations with Komen and that she anticipated continuing to receive ongoing funding.  “I really take them at their word that this is behind us,” according to Richards.  She gave credit to an outpouring of support, especially on social media sites, with forcing the reversal.  In just three days, Planned Parenthood raised $3 million and acquired 10,000 new Facebook supporters, Richards said.

Komen executives insisted that their decision was not compelled by pressure from anti-abortion groups.  Planned Parenthood said its national network of health centers performed more than four million breast exams over the last five years, including nearly 170,000 paid for by Komen grants.  The grants totaled $680,000 in 2011.  As the controversy developed, Planned Parenthood received $400,000 in smaller donations from 6,000 people, as well as a $250,000 pledge from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to match future donations.  Komen was flooded with negative emails and Facebook posts, accusing it of bowing to pressure from anti-abortion groups.

Although the dispute between the two sides appears to have reached an amicable solution, the debate continued as Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life Committee, said Komen’s decision to reverse its decision will almost certainly cost the group contributions.  “I think right now pro-lifers are going to be reluctant to support them because the money may go to the country’s largest abortion provider,” Tobias said.

According to Mike Paul, president of MGP & Associates, a reputation management firm, Komen will have to “build up trust” following the commotion.  Komen was the world’s most valuable non-profit brand, according to a 2010 report by market-research firm Harris Interactive.  Now, the Komen brand could become a subject for political debate, Paul said.  “People wanted to be associated with every single thing they did,” he said.  “And now we hear politics and policy has influence.  The same affinity people had on the positive side became the same affinity they’ve having on the negative perspective,” he said.

“Politics should never come between women and their healthcare, and I am very glad that Komen did the right thing and reversed their misguided and deeply damaging decision,” Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), said.  Taking an opposite position was Senator David Vitter (R-LA), who originally applauded the move.  Commenting on Friday’s announcement, Vitter said that “While Komen now claims that they don’t want their mission to be ‘marred by politics,’ unfortunately it seems that Komen caved to political pressure from the pro-abortion movement and its enforcers in the media.”

The backlash is still adversely affecting the Susan G. Komen organization. Many long-time donors, irked by the foundation’s decision to pull their funding from Planned Parenthood, have said they’ll no longer give to the organization.  Others, disappointed that the decision was reversed, also will no longer provide financial support.  Melissa Berman, president and CEO of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, is optimistic that the foundation will eventually recover.  “They changed their mind pretty quickly, and so they’re going to be able to make a recovery here,” Berman said.  “Susan G. Komen will have to tell the story of how many women they reach, how many women get access to care, how many women participate in their events, how much research they’re funding.  They’ll just have to continue to tell that story clearly and concisely,” according to Berman.

Writing in Forbes, contributor Davia Temin says that “In one of the more bizarre series of actions I have ever witnessed, Susan G. Komen for the Cure completely compromised its sterling reputation by first caving in to one set of political pressures, and then another.  And in the process, they left us all wondering who these people really are, and what they stand for.”

“Although, in their somewhat grudging apology requesting that ‘everyone who has participated in this conversation…help us move past this issue,’ they clearly want to put the past week behind them, it will never happen.  At least not for a good, long time.  I bet the folks at Komen wish they could have a do-over.  Or that in true Groundhog Day movie fashion, they could replay the week over and over again until they got it right.  Reputational suicide is not too extreme to call it.  Because no one is happy with them now.  And the questioning from all sides will continue, and spill over to their every action.  On this one, I predict our memories will be long.”

Breast Cancer Surgery Doesn’t Always Require Lymph Node Removal

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Many women with early breast cancer don’t always to have their lymph nodes removed, as is often recommended. The federally funded study, involving nearly 900 women who were treated at 115 sites across the country, found that those who kept their lymph nodes were no less likely to survive five years after the surgery than those who did not, the researchers reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association.  Breast cancer is diagnosed in about 200,000 women each year in the United States, with the cancer reaching the lymph nodes in about 33 percent of the cases.

The study’s finding turns a century of standard medical practice on its head.  According to Dr. Armando E. Giuliano, the lead author and chief of surgical oncology at the John Wayne Cancer Institute at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA, approximately two-thirds of these women will match the study criteria and one-third will not. For that one-third — about 10 percent of breast cancer patients overall — node removal might be needed.  An additional five percent of all patients have “distant” disease at the time of diagnosis, meaning the cancer has already spread to organs or bones.  In the remaining two percent of cases, the stage of the disease at diagnosis is not known. There is still a risk of lymphedema even after only a few nodes are taken for biopsy, but the risk is significantly reduced than when multiple nodes are removed.

Dr. Monica Morrow, an author of the study and chief of the breast service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York said that “Genetic breast cancer doesn’t influence how we treat the nodes.  Due to the increased risk of second breast cancers, many of these women chose mastectomy.  Women with mastectomy require axillary dissection if the nodes are involved.”

“Removing all of the lymph nodes under the arm is, first of all, for many women a second trip to the operating room” said Dr. Elisa Port, Mount Sinai Medical Center’s chief of breast surgery.  “And secondly, there’s a lot of side effects associated with removing all of the lymph nodes under the arm.  There’s a higher risk of developing what we call lymphedema, which is swelling of the arm.  There is some numbness on the inner part of the arm that you can get from cutting through the little nerves that run near the lymph nodes, and some women even have mobility issues.  So sparing them this bigger surgery is certainly significant for a large number of women.”

Professor Robert Mansel, professor of surgery at University of Wales College of Medicine, Cardiff, an expert in breast cancer research, said the study is very controversial with a lot of practice “based on feelings, not data.” Mansel currently favors lymph node removal, believing the research on leaving them intact is so far inconclusive.   He urged caution about the study, pointing to “lots of warning signs,” such as failure to include as many women in the study as they would have liked – meaning the trial was “under powered”.  When faced with the prospect of lymph nodes not being removed, many patients chose not to enter the trial, he said.  He also pointed to the study’s five-year follow-up, which he believes is too short.  “Breast cancer, if nothing else, is a long-term disease, which makes this study only half way to being reliable.”

Mt. Sinai’s Dr. Port acknowledges that not all breast surgeons will agree with the new study.  “But there is no question that for many people the results that you don’t have to remove cancer are very counterintuitive and go against the sensibility of what we, as surgeons, have been ingrained to do, which is remove cancer.  And the more cancer you can remove, the better.  Doctors are supposed to do what they know to be the safest thing, and many of us erred on the side of caution, which is to take out those lymph nodes to make sure we weren’t missing anything.”

HHS and CDC Form a Breast Cancer Panel to Encourage Initiatives for Women Under 40

Monday, November 1st, 2010

New government-led panel will raise breast cancer awareness among young women.  The Department of Health and Human Services celebrated National Mammography Day by establishing an advisory committee under the auspices of the Affordable Care Act at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The 15-member panel will develop initiatives to increase awareness of breast cancer among women under the age of 40.  “From prevention research, to education for health professionals, to designing and promoting awareness activities for the public, we look forward to working with the committee to educate providers, patients and young women about breast cancer prevention and treatments,” said Thomas Frieden, CDC director.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the panel in a conference call with Jill Biden, who in 1993 established the Biden Breast Health Initiative, a non-profit organization that provides educational breast awareness programs in Delaware.  In 17 years, approximately 10,000 high school girls have learned about breast cancer awareness through the program.  Biden established her program in a year when four of her friends were diagnosed with breast cancer.

The Affordable Care Act includes a provision that if a woman or her family is enrolled in a health plan on or after September 23, 2010, mammograms will be required coverage for women aged 40 and above.  Additionally, the act bans insurers from imposing lifetime dollar limits on essential benefits for women.  Beginning January 1, 2011, Medicare patients will be able to have mammograms with no co-payment.  Sebelius noted that 100 American women die each day from breast cancer, though survival rates run as high as 98 percent after five years if the disease is detected early.

Healthcare Reform Promotes Breast Cancer Awareness Among Younger Women

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

New healthcare law provides grants to help breast cancer patients aged 15 to 44. One little-discussed provision in the healthcare reform law is designed to increase awareness of breast cancer risk in young women aged 15 to 44.   Under the law, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will create educational campaigns to focus on breast cancer risk in young women and to promote prevention and early detection  Additionally, the law provides grants to groups that help young women with breast cancer, and directs the National Institutes of Health to develop new screening tests aimed at enhancing early detection.  The law provides $9 million for these efforts on a yearly basis between 2010 and 2014.

Just 10 percent of the approximately 250,000 women who are diagnosed with breast cancer annually are aged 45 or younger, according to the American Cancer Society.  Breast cancer tends to be more aggressive in younger women, with an 83 percent five-year survival rate, compared with 90 percent for women older than 45.  The lower survival rate for younger breast cancer patients is partly due to deferred diagnoses and a lack of screening because of the low incidence.  Mammograms of younger women’s breasts can be hard to read because the tissue is often too dense to be evaluated effectively by X-ray.

The advocacy group Young Survival Coalition encourages women to act quickly if they notice a change in their breasts.  “Be familiar with the look, feel and shape of your breasts, so that if something develops you’re aware of it,” said Stacy Lewis, the group’s vice president of programming.  “If you see a change, go see a doctor, and if you’re told that it’s probably nothing, go to another provider.”

The healthcare reform law’s most significant provisions related to breast cancer in younger women may be those that encourage research.  Because screening women before age 40 isn’t always practical, identifying young women who are at risk is vital, said Dr. Therese Bevers, medical director of the cancer prevention center at the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas in Houston.  “We’ve got to have a way of picking out the right young women,” she said. “Otherwise we’ll miss cases.”

Fighting Cancer With Laughs and T-Shirts

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Linda Hill has reacted to multiple primary cancers with T-shirt that poke fun at the disease.  Linda Hill is a cancer survivor with an offbeat sense of humor.  At age 48, Hill has been battling several forms of cancer since her diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma when a softball-size tumor was found in her chest.  While undergoing treatment for her first cancer, the then 19-year-old Hill noticed that most of the other patients were bitter about their diagnoses.  “They were all just angry and bitter and sad.  And I thought, ‘I don’t want to live like that.  I don’t want my kids to remember me that way.’”

Blessed with a wise-cracking sense of humor – a trait shared by her seven children – single mother Hill has since fought three further bouts of cancer which required removal of her thyroid, spleen, colon and breasts by laughing at it.  She’s created a T-shirt business designed to help cancer patients cope through laughter.  Her T-shirts, which are sold through Hill’s website So Much More, at cancer centers around the country, and in the gift shop of the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City, bear messages such as “Of course they’re fake, the real ones tried to kill me”.  Another of Hill’s favorites:  “Mastectomy: $12,000.  Radiation:  $30,000.  Chemotherapy:  $11,000.  Never wearing a bra again:  Priceless.”

Although Hill isn’t making money and is still $7,000 in debt from her thyroid, breast and colon surgeries in the past six years, she donates $2 from each sale to the Huntsman Cancer Institute.  She’s also something of a cancer celebrity, and participates in research by regularly providing blood and tissue samples.  Multiple primary cancers occur in only approximately eight percent of survivors, according to the American Cancer Society.