Friday, October 1, 2010

Breast cancer jeopardy: cause vs. cure

Image from Memphis Flyer
Would you like to play a game called Breast Cancer Jeopardy? I'm going to assume a very firm and collective NO answer to this question. Unfortunately, the reality is regardless of whether or not we want to play, we are in the game. This is because when it comes to risks for breast cancer (BC), there are some we simply cannot avoid.

For example, if you're a woman who is aging, than you're playing breast cancer jeopardy because these are  the 2 biggest risk factors for breast cancer. Here are other risks both in and out of our control:
  • Being over 40 years old
  • Having genetic links, or family members with breast, prostate or ovarian cancer
  • Having high breast density on a mammogram
  • Never having children
  • Having your first child after age 35
  • Going through menopause after age 55
  • Being exposed to radiation, or having frequent x-rays in youth
  • Overweight after menopause or weight gain as an adult
  • Used or are using hormone replacement therapy
All of these up our stakes in the BC jeopardy game. Yet, even with all the information we have about the known risk factors, 80% of women in America who get breast cancer have no other risks besides being a woman.  According to the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, "more than 4 billion dollars has been spent on breast cancer research over the past 25 years". Yet, we still have no idea what causes this disease.  To date, doctors and researchers have focused most of their attention on curing breast cancer. Personally, I would rather not have gotten the disease in the first place!

Now, please don't get me wrong. It's wonderful that the focus on finding a cure has led to great strides in detecting and treating breast cancer. However, it seems to me to make more sense to turn our attention to what is causing breast cancer and stopping it before it starts. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, right?

A recent example of the medical community turning their research focus toward the cause and prevention of a disease is cervical cancer.  Through their study of women, researchers discovered that the disease was caused by a virus. Fortunately, a similar approach is being taken by some researchers, who are now looking into determining the causes of breast cancer and ultimately figuring out how to eradicate it once and for all. One of these research organizations is the Love/Avon Army of Women (AOW). Their goal is to enlist one million women (men are welcome too) to participate in breast cancer research studies aimed at determining the causes of breast cancer - and how to prevent it. They are doing this by connecting breast cancer researchers via the internet with men and women willing to participate in a variety of research studies which are prevention based, not necessarily clinical trials.

Signing up for the Army of Women doesn't mean you're signing up for a study. You are just signing up to be added to the AOW database. Then you'll be able to hear about studies being conducted in your area in which you can choose to participate. All ethnicities, all ages (18 and older), healthy women, women with cancer, and women who are survivors can participate, depending on the study.

There is NO COST to join and NO DONATIONS are being solicited. All that's needed is your willingness to be informed about studies. Than you decide if you want to participate and which type of study commitment best fits you. Studies require a variety of things, anywhere from answering an online questionnaire to being asked for a blood sample. It's totally your choice and entirely up to you. So far, there haven't been any opportunities in my area that I have qualified for, but I'm continually updated and can choose what works for me.

Need more info? Check out the AOW website here and also look for their monthly webinars presented by the healthcare experts doing research studies on understanding the causes of breast cancer.
Let's increase our odds of winning the breast cancer jeopardy game by joining together to help encourage, support and maybe even participate in research for the cause of breast cancer.  A world without this disease is in our hands. When it comes to breast cancer, prevention really is the breast, I mean best medicine!

Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation
Avon/Army of Women

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