Advising the CDC on Breast Cancer in Young Women

Guest post by Susan G. Komen Managing Director, Health & Science Education, Health Sciences Susan Brown. 

I spent the last day and a half at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offices in Atlanta working with a group of experts from a variety of disciplines, all focused on making a difference for young women at a heightened risk of developing breast cancer.  Of course, Komen’s interest in understanding and addressing breast cancer issues in young women isn’t new to us – it is part of our mission!

The CDC convened an Advisory Committee on Breast Cancer in Young Women (ACBCYW) in 2011, chaired by Komen Scholar Ann Partridge. The EARLY Act authorizes the CDC to develop initiatives to increase knowledge of breast health and breast cancer among women, particularly among those under the age of 40 and those at heightened risk for developing the disease.

The ACBCYW helps the CDC develop evidence-based approaches to advance understanding and awareness of breast cancer among young women.  The approaches include working through prevention research, public and health professional education and awareness activities, and emerging prevention strategies.

Two work groups were formed from the initial meeting in 2011 – an ad hoc provider workgroup and an ad hoc high risk workgroup, and Komen is pleased to have been involved with the committee from the very beginning.

I joined the high risk work group in 2012. We worked independently, with other workgroup members, and by phone and email to gather information to develop an understanding of the meaning of “high risk” of breast cancer in young women. We also worked to identify potential evidence-based messages to disseminate to this population. At the same time, the provider workgroup was considering ways to reach providers with the information they needed to communicate with these young women.

The ADBCYW sent a recommendation to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius in May 2013. The letter described breast cancer in young women as a complex public health problem.  Specific recommendations included that the CDC (1) identify and communicate effectively with young women at elevated risk; (2) support the development and utilization of strategies to engage providers to identify and communicate with young women at elevated risk; and, (3) engage patients and providers to highlight and address the issues unique to young women facing breast cancer.

I am thrilled to report that the CDC has been able to use some the findings of our workgroup to develop a campaign that will be started in the coming months! Stand by and look for focused communications for young women at heightened risk of breast cancer!

We also realized that there was more work to do – young women who aren’t at “heightened risk” (which is a somewhat vague term anyway) need messages too!  As such, a third workgroup was formed specifically to address that issue, while we continue to address unfinished work: collecting materials for women at high risk and looking at emerging research about the correlation between awareness and knowledge so that we can recommend strategies that tie the two together!

Click here to see the meeting agenda and learn more about this important work.


About the author

Susan G. Komen has written 342 articles for Susan G. Komen® | Blog

Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen and launched the global breast cancer movement. Today, Komen is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. Thanks to events like the Komen Race for the Cure®, we have invested more than $1.9 billion to fulfill our promise, becoming the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world.