All Articles Tagged "breast cancer"
Angelina Jolie Reveals She Had A Double Mastectomy Recently After Finding Out She Carried “Faulty” BRCA1 Gene
Hollywood bombshell Angelina Jolie revealed today in an op-ed post that she did for the New York Times that she underwent a double mastectomy procedure over the last few months. In the piece, titled My Medical Choice, she explains that the major decision was made after Jolie was told by doctors that she had a “faulty” BRCA1 gene which could increase her risk of developing breast cancer, and even ovarian cancer greatly. Jolie watched her own mother die from cancer, ovarian cancer, in 2007 at the age of 56 after a ten year battle. Here’s some highlights from her very poignant article:
“My doctors estimated that I had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer, although the risk is different in the case of each woman.
Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could. I made a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy. I started with the breasts, as my risk of breast cancer is higher than my risk of ovarian cancer, and the surgery is more complex.
On April 27, I finished the three months of medical procedures that the mastectomies involved. During that time I have been able to keep this private and to carry on with my work.
But I am writing about it now because I hope that other women can benefit from my experience. Cancer is still a word that strikes fear into people’s hearts, producing a deep sense of powerlessness. But today it is possible to find out through a blood test whether you are highly susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer, and then take action.”
Jolie went on to discuss that she underwent three complex steps in her procedure, including a “n*pple delay,” where extra blood is directed toward the breast ducts behind the n*pple which can ultimately save it; then there was the second procedure where her breast tissue was removed, which took eight hours; lastly, she had a reconstructive surgery where she had implants put in. All in all, Jolie seems to be happy with her results, and more pleased with the fact that she did what she needed to do to be around longer for her children (her chances of having breast cancer in the future have gone down to five percent).
“It is reassuring that they see nothing that makes them uncomfortable. They can see my small scars and that’s it. Everything else is just Mommy, the same as she always was. And they know that I love them and will do anything to be with them as long as I can. On a personal note, I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity.”
Check out Jolie’s full article over at the New York Times where she goes on to discuss the support she received from her partner, Brad Pitt, and why she wanted to share her story so that more women would know that they have options. Definitely a brave choice.
What do you think of her choice to undergo the procedure after hearing that she had the “faulty gene”?
Maimah Karmo, Founder of The Tigerlily Foundation & a Breast Cancer Survivor, On How To Run A Charity
Some entrepreneurs don’t go into the for-profit business, but rather, venture into the nonprofit sector. But establishing a nonprofit can be complicated.
“I always knew that I wanted to make a difference in the community. I dabbled with a few ideas, but nothing stuck. In 2006, I was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer. During my second round of treatment, I realized that I wanted to help other young women living with breast cancer and educate young girls and the community as a whole about the disease,” explains Maimah Karmo on why she launched her nonprofit organization, the Tigerlily Foundation. Tigerlily is a breast cancer support group.
In 2006, Karmo, then 32 years old and the mother of a three-year-old, was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. While undergoing chemotherapy, she decided she wanted to help other women and came up with the idea for Tigerlily. Karmo was born in Liberia and fled to the United States as a refugee with her family at the age of 16.
According to a 34-year analyses, although breast cancer is uncommon among women under the age of 40, the rate of advanced breast cancer cases among young women has slightly increased, reports the Associated Press.
The slight change has breast cancer research experts wondering why. Although there was only a minimal increase, it is still alarming because tumors that appear in the breast of young women tend to be more aggressive than they are in older women. In addition to tumor aggression, young women are also less likely to be screened on a consistent basis. Medical director of the teen and young adult cancer program at Seattle Children’s Hospital, Dr. Rebecca Johnson believes that the increase is not the result of a single factor, but multiple causes.
“The change might be due to some sort of modifiable risk factor, like a lifestyle change,” such as frequent exposure to some type of cancer-causing substance, Johnson said.
According to Johnson, the increase translates from about 250 cases of advanced breast cancer in women under 40 in the 1970′s, compared to more than 800 cases in 2009. Nationwide, between 1970 and 2009, the number of cases have increased from 22 million to 30 million.
Other breast cancer research experts suggest that women choosing to get pregnant later on in life could also be a contributing factor, partially due to the tendency of later pregnancies to cause already growing tumors to grow and spread more rapidly, in response to pregnancy hormones. Other possible risk factors include having one to two drinks daily and obesity.
“Young women and their doctors need to understand that it can happen in young women. People shouldn’t just watch and wait,” said 44-year-old Johnson who was diagnosed with early breast cancer at 27 years old.
In general, breast cancer rates have fallen during recent years. As commonly stated, early detection is key.
‘I Was Disappointed None Of My Cast Mates Reached Out’ Kenya Says Housewives Were Insensitive To Her Cancer Scare
During this past Sunday’s episode of “Real Housewives of Atlanta”, cast member Kenya Moore underwent a medical procedure that most women would consider rather traumatic. The former Miss USA was informed by her OB/GYN that a lump was discovered in her breast during her annual examination, which prompted her physician to perform a mammogram. Following the mammogram, two additional lumps were discovered and Kenya was ordered to have a biopsy conducted so that her doctor could asses whether or not the lumps were a result of cancer. Thankfully, the biopsy revealed that the lumps were benign. Although thankful that she received a clean bill of health, Moore recently took to her Bravo TV blog to express how thwarting it was that none of her co-stars reached out to offer an encouraging or comforting word in the wake of her medical ordeal. An excerpt from her post reads:
“I was disappointed when none of my cast mates reached out to me after learning of my ordeal when many viewers did. Whether or not I am your favorite or least favorite person, the bond that we all have is that we are women first. I’m a woman before I am any other identifying marker such as race, social status, popularity, occupation, or religious background. I am a woman. I am a child of God and I am blessed. With that said, I beg all women to get a mammogram. If you get a call back, GO BACK. BE BRAVE. Early detection is the key to survival.”
Going through a biopsy can be an extremely nerve-wracking experience for anyone.
Would you agree with Kenya? Were the ladies of “Real Housewives of Atlanta” wrong for not reaching out to their fellow co-star after learning of her traumatic experience?
In case you missed it Sunday, you can check out footage of Kenya’s health scare on the next page.
Yesterday I read this piece on Diversity Inc., which stated that a recent study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has revealed that while breast cancer related deaths have gone down since 1990 among U.S. women, the rate of death is actually higher among black women.
What’s new right? It’s seems that black folks always have a higher rate of disease and mortality than any other group, especially when compared to white folks. However, it would behoove most folks to know that in general, black women have lower incidence rates of breast cancer. So how it is those black women have a 41 percent higher death rate from breast cancer than their white counterparts? In short, racism.
A more detailed answer comes by way of the same study entitled, Vital Signs: Racial Disparities in Breast Cancer Severity – United States, 2005-2009, which says that black women experience inequities in breast cancer screenings, follow-up and treatment even as advances in screening and treatment have improved opportunities for breast cancer survival.
According to the study,
“At the individual level, the maximal effectiveness of screening for breast cancer can only be achieved when all women have timely follow-up to breast cancer exams and state-of-the-art treatment. At the health system level, optimal health-care delivery may be strengthened through performance-based reimbursement, expanded use of information technology, and quality assurance reporting-protocols. Proven effective interventions such as patient navigation could be expanded for use in other settings.”
As the study further notes,
“the prevalence of mammography use decreased from 77% to 65% among white women and from 78% to 59% among black women (7). Black women are more likely to have longer intervals between screening mammograms which might lead to an increase in diagnosis of cancer at a later stage (8). Regular and adequate breast cancer screening can result in detection of breast cancer at an earlier stage and therefore a better prognosis (8,9).”
That’s why ladies it is important that we get the breast check out on time.
However, as we encourage women to seek out early prevention – as well as follow-up – methods, the study notes that even when black women seek out treatment, the quality of response is not always there.
“Advances in treatment of breast cancer are estimated to be responsible for a quarter of the recent decline in breast cancer deaths (2). However, several studies have reported that black women do not receive the same quality of treatment for breast cancer as white women (15). A recent modeling study showed that up to 19% of the mortality difference between black and white women could be eliminated if the same treatment was provided to both populations (4). “
The study also cites the failure to start treatment in a timely matter, as a third causation to the rate of death from breast cancer in black women. This doesn’t come as much as a surprise considering an earlier study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, concluded that two-thirds of doctors harbored racial yet unconscious biases toward patients. This is particularly true of African-Americans, who according to the study, have felt that their personal and psychosocial needs were given less attention; were less likely to have their feelings involved in the decision making about their health and tended to have their conversations about their health dominated by doctors. According to that study, researchers concluded that this subtle racial bias among these unconsciously racist doctors can have a negative impact on not only the quality of care received but also “the quality of doctor-patient relationship.”
The quality of doctor-patient relationship is crucial for African Americans, who have long been subjected to racism within the health care sector. Stories about non-consensual medical experiments such as the Tuskegee Experiment and Dr. J. Marion Sims, the grandfather of gynecological, who experimented with his surgical techniques on the bodies (often without anesthesia) of enslaved black women, have been careful reminders of what the history of the overt forms of racism in the medical profession. And while healthcare, through the implementation of Obamacare, now guarantees some form of healthcare for most, it doesn’t necessarily mean equal. Thus it is up to us to speak up and be a diligent advocating our own healthcare needs.
From Black Voices
That Meatless Monday routine you’ve been trying to adopt may do your cardiovascular system some good, but according to new research from The Cancer Institute of New Jersey, it has little bearing on your chances of developing breast cancer.
In what experts are calling the first examination of African-American women and how their consumption of meat impacts their breast cancer risk, researchers found that the link between eating meat and developing breast cancer actually varies by race.
Read more at BlackVoices.com.
Every October during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, there are tons of stories about products whose proceeds are donated to breast cancer research and celebratory photos showing women and men who’ve successfully completed another run for charity. What we don’t hear about are the companies who are on the ground directly impacting the lives of breast cancer patients and survivors.
The BFFL company, founded by oncologist Dr. Elizabeth Chabner Thompson, was created to improve a breast cancer patient’s post-op experience and to help them prepare for the recovery process. BFFL’s signature product is the Breast BFFLBag, which Dr. Thompson launched after years of contemplation and six months of work. She describes it as the “ultimate insider’s guide to what a patient would need, but might forget to pack when going to the hospital for breast cancer treatment.”
The average Madame Noire reader, or any African-American woman under the age of 45, has a higher risk of developing and dying from breast cancer than any other cultural demographic. On this final day of October — Breast Cancer Awareness Month — we talked with Dr. Thompson for insight into why risk factors for African-American women are so high and to find out more about the inspiration behind the Breast BFFLBag.
Madame Noire: Both you and your mother were diagnosed with breast cancer. How did you mother’s struggle with breast cancer change the course of your career and inspire you to launch the BFFL Co?
Elizabeth Thompson: I had prophylactic mastectomies, a risk reduction surgery because of my serious family history of breast cancer. My great grandmother had bilateral breast cancer, my grandmother, and my mother all developed breast cancer. I was truly petrified of being next. As a doctor, I understood my risk and had been under intense surveillance. After a biopsy in 2002, I had enough. I wanted to have a fourth child and then I resolved to take action to reduce my own risk.
My mother developed breast cancer during my last year of medical school. She waited until after I had submitted my “match” list before telling me of her diagnosis because she did not want to influence my decision as to where I would train. Her struggle with breast cancer truly drove me to become a radiation oncologist and help others in their battle against cancer.
MN: Did you launch BFFL after your risk reduction surgery?
ET: I underwent a relatively new procedure when I had my risk reduction surgery. It was a direct to implant procedure whereby, I could preserve my nipples and emerge from surgery with reconstructed breasts. After my surgery, my reconstructive surgeon asked me to work for him part-time and take care of women after they underwent the same procedure. I was patient #50, by the time I left the practice we had published a landmark paper on the procedure and I had helped with almost 500 patients. That’s where I created the “tip sheet” and made the first BFFLBags.
When women would come to the office, their family and friends would ask me, “What can I do for her?” At first I would hand them a typed list, then the patients and family would ask me to “make it for them.” So, I would buy all of the contents and put it together in my basement. My husband had enough with that and encouraged me to make the BFFLBags for all women facing breast cancer.
MN: Is there a reason that African-American women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than their white counterparts?
ET: No. It’s not more likely to be diagnosed, but rather more likely to be detected and diagnosed at a later stage. We know that survival rates are better when cancers are diagnosed at an early stage.
MN: Why are African-American women at risk of being diagnosed with a more aggressive form of breast cancer?
ET: Biologics and access to care. We are still looking for a clear biologic explanation for the fact that a small number of African-American women are presenting with “triple negative” very aggressive breast cancer. Secondly, the issues of lack of access to care and delayed diagnosis are issues that must be addressed. We know that diagnosis at a later stage of disease (bigger tumors which may have spread) will lead to higher mortality.
One bright note is that community health centers that have nurse navigators—these are nurses that are employed to teach the community about having appropriate screening, looking for “red flags” – will promote earlier access to care and early detection, and if a cancer is diagnosed, higher compliance rates with therapy and women diagnosed with breast cancer have better outcomes. We should be pushing for these nurse navigators at all health centers.
Let me start by saying I think it’s great when famous people use their celebrity for good causes. But it’s also very troubling when those efforts end up being more about the celeb than the actual effort and the campaigns are done in a way that belittle the severity of the situation and the real people dealing with the issue they’re discussing. That is clearly the case with Lala Anthony’s Pantene Beautiful Lengths campaign.
This is the advertisement for the effort aimed at raising awareness and money for breast cancer early detection and research. It may be hard to read the print so let me explain what’s going on. The ad reads:
A woman’s hair is her crowning glory, and Lala is covering hers up for a cure. The television personality is taking a stand to help raise awareness by putting herself in the shoes of a cancer patient and covering up her locks.
Lala will only unveil her hair if she receives 10K tweets…etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
Where do I begin?
Given that Pantene is a line of hair products, it makes sense to launch a campaign related to hair, but a well-done campaign dedicated to breast cancer this is not. Wearing a beanie, or a hat, or a scarf or anything along those lines is nowhere near equivalent to “putting oneself in the shoes of a cancer patient.” While the physical side of losing one’s hair while undergoing chemotherapy is certainly a major concern for most women with breast cancer who have to go that treatment route, it is hardly their most primary concern. Not to mention simply covering your hair versus losing it because your body is being pumped with radiation and other chemicals in an attempt to save your life are two very different things. Wearing a hat is a style choice at best, having your hair fall out as a result of being diagnosed with a deadly disease is an emotionally, mentally, and physically trying experience that should not be trivialized in this manner.
Adding more insult to injury is the fact that Lala’s hair isn’t even fully covered in this advertisement. She has a thick bang hanging out one side of the front of her beanie and a perfect hairline on the other. That’s not something a woman undergoing chemo could do. And the irony of pushing a product titled “Beautiful Lengths” is not lost on me. Were this a product that was specifically tied to breast cancer (other than having a pink lid) I could get behind this. But it comes off as beyond insensitive to push “visibly stronger, longer hair” in this campaign, even if the point is that buying this product will help support breast cancer research and real-hair wig donations.
Furthermore, the issue at hand has clearly become more about Lala and #BeautifulLengths than breast cancer, mastectomies, and sick, balding women. Lala will only unveil her hair if she receives 10,000 tweets using the hashtag #BeautifulLengths? One, who is checking for her hair like that? And two, why not tweet something more meaningful (to someone other than Pantene) like early detection or breast cancer awareness or something along those lines? And adding more insult to injury is Lala’s Instagram which shows numerous pictures of her with her hair clearly down and uncovered. Where’s the transparency? Where’s the commitment to the cause? Where is the true concern for breast cancer because it’s a horrible disease affecting hundreds of thousands of women every year not because it’s free publicity?
I don’t doubt that this campaign started off with good intentions, but somewhere along the lines things took a sharp left. It’s disappointing that between LaLa, Pantene, P&G, and all the other marketing and PR people involved, they couldn’t see what a mess of an idea this is. Yes a woman’s hair may be her crowning glory, but let’s not forget that we are also not our hair. Tweeting to help unveil Lala’s beauty i.e. her hair implies that women with cancer, and consequently without their hair, have lost their beauty. That is far from the message of hope these women need to hear. The next time these “great minds” get together to plan a public awareness campaign I need them not to think alike because the result is catastrophic. I would encourage them to instead go to #BeautifulLengths to empower breast cancer patients rather than take a shortcut to shame.
What do you think about this campaign?
Pin your pink ribbons proudly. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and during the past few weeks women across the country have been racing for the cure, spreading awareness about the disease and even NFL players are showing their support sporting pink NFL gear for games.
Breast cancer doesn’t discriminate and affects women and even men of all races, classes and religions. Although there are many factors linked to breast cancer, the truth is that simply being an aging woman is enough to place you at risk. According to the American Cancer Society, about 1 in 8 breast cancers are found in women younger than the age of 45, while about 2 of 3 invasive breast cancers are found in women age 55 or older. And although Caucasian woman have a slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer, African-American women are more likely to die from it since they are less likely to perform self breast exams and have regular mammograms where the disease can be detected early. If breast cancer isn’t a major concern for young women, chances are they have a mother, aunt, sister or grandmother who has been affected by the disease.
The only way to make sure more black women are survivors is to include breast health in our usual health responsibility regimen. In addition to eating healthy, being sexually responsible and being incredibly fierce, we need to make sure we take care of the girls. The journey to better breast health starts with a single step:
Today marks the 77th birthday of one of our living legends, Diahann Carroll. With a career that spans over five decades, many of us don’t remember a time when the spry Carroll wasn’t on the stage or some type of screen. Whatever role she played, we could be sure that she would bring an air of class and dignity to the project and for that we’re thankful and are taking the time to celebrate her legacy through a series of pictures from her most memorable roles.