By Judy Salerno, President and CEO
This past weekend was very special.
On Saturday, I walked in the 25th Susan G. Komen Global Race for the Cure in Washington, D.C., for the first time as Susan G. Komen’s President and CEO. I’d run and walked several of the previous Komen D.C. Races with my kids in tow, but it was especially exciting to be there in my leadership role, on the Race’s 25th anniversary,witnessing the commitment and passion of thousands of participants – survivors, friends, neighbors, citizens who care - racing to make a difference against breast cancer.
Their support of our communities has helped us fund more than $800 million in breast cancer research worldwide, including about $23 million at biomedical research institutions in the National Capital Region – where Komen has also invested more than $35 million into local breast cancer programs. With the highest breast cancer mortality rates in the entire country found in our nation’s capital, support for these community screening, education, outreach and patient navigation programs is essential.
Those who came together for the Global Race share our commitment to end this disease. It’s claimed too many of their wives, sisters and mothers. They are mothers like Kristi Mangan, who was nicknamed “Runner Girl” by her oncology nurse for her incredible commitment to continue running despite the pain, exhaustion and anemia caused by her breast cancer treatment. Kristi is determined to watch her boys grow up, and her mantra is, “Cancer, you’re just another finish line for me to cross.”
Kristi was just one of many mothers (and grandmothers, daughters, sons and husbands) who laced up their running shoes this Mother’s Day weekend at numerous Komen Races across the country: mothers who are investing in a future without breast cancer, and making the choice to get active and stay healthy for their children’s sake.
Let’s take this effort a step further.
Each of us can make small lifestyle changes every day to improve our health. In the ongoing fight against breast cancer, healthier choices can make a difference. And those changes can start now!
Today marks the official start of National Women’s Health Week, and over the next few days, Komen, along with our partner WWE, will be sharing information about how a healthy lifestyle may reduce your risk of breast cancer, and asking you to share with us what healthy lifestyle choices YOU will make.
In a recent blog, I shared my concern for the health of my own daughters and young women everywhere, especially when it comes to breast cancer. We moms can do more to educate young women about their risk of breast cancer, while we redouble our efforts at Susan G. Komen to find ways to prevent and cure a disease that will strike 232,000 women and men in the U.S. this year alone.
This week, we can set an example by pledging to make our health – including breast health – a priority.
Join me, your favorite WWE Superstars and Divas, and women everywhere this week by using the hashtag #NWHW to learn about healthy lifestyle choices you can make and to showcase your healthy choices. Starting tomorrow, May 12, learn more and see how others are getting involved at http://www.komen.org/wwe.
Happy Mother’s Day!
In its 25th Anniversary, we’re kicking off the 2014 Susan G. Komen Global Race for the Cure on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. tomorrow, May 10. This is another year where we have many outstanding things happening on Race day, so we’re here to provide the information you need to Race for Impact in the National Capital Region.
When traveling to the Race site, we strongly encourage all participants and spectators to use METRO to travel to and from the National Mall. The METRO* will open EARLY at 5:00 a.m. ET for the convenience of Race participants. We also have details about getting to the National Mall. The Race will start and finish at the Washington Monument, so check out the Race maps to find us! If you would like to cheer on your family and friends, the Race route map will be a great resource for you. All Race activities start at 6:30 a.m. ET with the survivor and top fundraiser breakfast, and we kick off opening ceremonies at 7:30 a.m. ET. You definitely don’t want to miss opening ceremony and post-Race festivities because we will have guest appearances from the Grand Marshal of the Race, WWE Superstar John Cena, WWE Divas and Charizma DJs . We’ll close out the morning at 10:00 a.m. ET with two of the most exciting parts of the Race – Kids for the Cure and a Survivor dance party. Check out a full explanation of our Race day activities.
Please share your Komen Global Race experience with us! Share your pictures on the Global Race Facebook page, follow @SusanGKomen, and join the Twitter conversation by using our official hashtag #KomenGlobalRace.
Last, but certainly not least, many thanks to all of the National and Local partners, sponsors, participants and volunteers! Your support allows us to reach low-income, uninsured and underinsured women in Washington, D.C. , with more than $35 million invested in local programs to date. The Komen-funded programs in the D.C. area strive to improve access to vital breast cancer services services, with$1.89 million in new funding announced this year.
We look forward to seeing you all bright and early on Saturday morning!
*Please check with METRO for the most up-to-date information, including any planned or unscheduled service disruptions.
On Monday, April 14, Susan G. Komen kicked off four days of meetings and events in Beijing, China to explore issues around breast cancer research and advocacy. Made possible through Komen’s partnership with GE healthymagination, leading scientists and advocates from around the world joined together to discuss the need for accurate disease data to inform the development of policy and standards for breast cancer screening, diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship care, in addition to sessions dedicated to breast health education.
“In China, 1 in 40 women can expect to be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime, with more than 2.5 million new cases to be diagnosed by 2021,” said Komen President and CEO Dr. Judy Salerno. “Even more concerning is half of all new breast cancer cases in China are found in women younger than age 50. Compare this to the United States, where the average age at diagnosis is 61. We’ve learned from colleagues here in China that many of these women learn they have late stage breast cancer, when the disease is most difficult to treat. That makes our need to address breast cancer here all the more urgent.”
The first day commenced with the convening of a scientific roundtable featuring Dr. Judy Salerno, Komen Mission team representatives, and international and Chinese medical experts including members of Komen’s Scientific Advisory Board and Komen Scholars. Robust dialogue on topics ranging from global breast cancer trends and incidence rates to policies and priorities in China were discussed using evidence-based recommendations to mobilize the breast cancer movement in China.
The next day, Komen co-hosted a breast cancer advocacy training event with the China Women’s Development Foundation (CWDF), an organization dedicated to women’s issues. Through Komen’s support, CWDF worked with in-country experts to develop a training manual on breast cancer for provincial leaders of the All China Women’s Federation (ACWF), the largest women’s organization in China, and other community based organizations (CBOs) in China. Together, the ACWF and CWDF have the ability to advocate for a comprehensive, impactful, and sustainable response to promote the early detection of breast cancer through awareness, education, and community engagement.
Day three featured a screening and treatment literacy training for nearly 50 community leaders from provinces throughout China. Best practices and lessons learned from community mobilization were shared by Komen as well as the unique perspective from the HIV/AIDS platform featuring AIDS Care China. Additionally, GE Healthcare China shared how corporations are engaging in social responsibility programs, like GE’s PINK ACTION campaign, to raise awareness of breast cancer. Breast cancer survivors and community leaders also shared their thoughts on next steps to address barriers to breast cancer screening, diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship care in their own communities.
With the momentum gained from the first three days, Komen and GE were featured at an exclusive event at the American Chamber of Commerce – China where they discussed how innovative and collaborative partnerships with the private sector, like GE’s partnership with Komen, can move the needle on breast cancer. Alan Gilbert, Director of Government and NGO Strategy for GE healthymagination said, “With a challenge as big as breast cancer you need to bring everyone to the table. Public-private partnerships, driven by innovation, and focused on driving improved outcomes are vital to moving the needle on global health issues.”
Although breast cancer is a global disease, beliefs and approaches to its diagnosis and treatment vary greatly, in part due to differences in cultural norms, health care systems, and economic conditions. As confirmed by the outcomes of the past four days in Beijing, no single approach to breast cancer will prove effective around the world, but it’s critical that women everywhere are knowledgeable about this disease and have access to appropriate quality care. There is an opportunity to make breast health a priority in China by implementing innovative programs aimed at increasing awareness, education, screening, and access to quality care. Komen has always believed where a woman lives should not determine whether she lives. As our work continues in more than 30 countries across the globe, we look forward to the day that women everywhere can live in a world without breast cancer.
Guest post by Meagan Huisman, Affiliate Coordinator at Komen South Dakota.
Last weekend, Komen South Dakota was proud to host CEO and President Dr. Judy Salerno for an exciting and impactful tour of our state. Our objective was to show Dr. Salerno the impressive health services and breast cancer research being done in South Dakota, and also illustrate the disparities in breast cancer detection and treatment arising from South Dakota’s frontier nature.
Dr. Salerno’s visit began in Sioux Falls where she joined Komen South Dakota staff and board members as they met with leaders from the two large health systems in the city. At our first meeting with Avera Health, we met with breast cancer researchers, patient navigators and doctors to see the impressive work they are doing and discuss how we can work together in collaboration to help more women and men throughout the state who may be struggling with access to quality care.
After our visit with Avera, Dr. Salerno and the Komen South Dakota team facilitated a press conference to spread the news throughout the community about how Komen is making an impact in our state by announcing our local grantees, highlighting the Komen-funded researchers in Sioux Falls, and addressing the need for more services across the state. Salerno stated, “We can do better. We must do better. And, we’re working very hard as an organization with our health systems to make improvements in those statistics.”
In the afternoon, we capped our tour of Sioux Falls with a visit to the Sanford Breast Health Institute and Research Center. Dr. Salerno was able to see first-hand the work Komen-funded researcher Dr. Kristi Egland is doing to generate a blood test for breast cancer, and to use the immune system of a patient as a bio-sensor. A breast cancer survivor herself, Dr. Egland is passionate to find the cures for breast cancer, saying, “Every day that I wake up, I’m able to continue the battle to fight against breast cancer. I know why I’m doing the research. And, the questions I’m asking are the questions I had when I went through the process.”
After a successful day of tours and meetings, Dr. Salerno and Komen South Dakota staff and board members loaded into a van and headed to the west side of the state to continue our tour. The five hour drive was insightful for Dr. Salerno as she grasped the true vastness of our state and felt what it may be like as a cancer patient, traveling two to three hours just to get treatment.
The next morning, the team geared up for the highlight of our weekend: our inaugural Pink Promise Lunch in Rapid City. The morning was heartwarming and inspiring. Survivors, co-survivors and community members gathered together to hear special stories, an educational lecture, and a moving keynote message from Dr. Salerno. We laughed; we cried; we felt inspired. It was agreed that our first event on the west side of the state was an astounding success. We are excited to continue to grow and find a way to provide every woman and man access to quality care in South Dakota.
Next, we whisked Dr. Salerno to the John T. Vucurivich Cancer Care Institute in Rapid City to witness the impressive work they are doing through a Komen-funded program “Healing Pathways” which provides travel assistance to the Cancer Care Institute to women living in rural areas. Not only is transportation, food and lodging provided to women sometimes traveling over 100 miles each way, they also have the option of attending a Survivorship program to support them through their journey.
We ended an amazing and inspiring day with a tour through the beautiful Black Hills to Mt. Rushmore, the Crazy Horse monument, and the historic town of Deadwood. We are so grateful to Dr. Salerno for spending time with us in South Dakota and for the opportunity to reach out to all parts of our state and create valuable relationships.
An additional note from Dr. Salerno regarding the trip:
“I was pleased to make the trip – South Dakotans made me feel very welcome and the work being done by our Affiliate and Komen researchers there is inspiring. Thank you for an educational few days.”
The following blog appeared in The Huffington Post on April 29, 2014.
Most women — and every mother — are injury prevention/risk reduction experts. We buckle up our children; insist they wear bike helmets; read the labels on the foods we feed them. We are committed to their well-being, and we do everything we can to ensure healthy childhoods that are the foundation for happy lives.
Whether we’re chasing our kids down for soccer practice or helping them plan a wedding, we strive to provide for and to protect our kids. As a parent, it’s always a balancing act — sharing your own knowledge and experience while letting your children forge their own paths. Ultimately, all I’ve ever wanted for my kids — well, now they’re my adult “kids” — is for them to be independent, intelligent, capable and fulfilled.
This month, my eldest, Alyssa, turned 27, and with Mother’s Day just around the corner, it has me thinking about young women everywhere who are looking forward to many more fulfilling years. I am concerned that, when it comes to sharing what we know with our daughters, we face a challenge we did not anticipate. In our daughters’ lifetimes, the course of breast cancer has shifted. Where it was once almost invariably fatal, modern medicine, research, technology and more widespread education about breast cancer have helped reduce death rates and increase survivability for many forms of this disease. Almost 3 million women and men in the U.S. are breast cancer survivors.
Young women may face many immediate challenges to their health, and often don’t appreciate that they should also be aware of their breast cancer risks. Although that risk is very slight, it persists. Fewer than five percent of breast cancers occur in women under age 40 in the U.S.. However, breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in this country (death from any type of cancer) among women ages 20 to 59.
Right now, young women are staying late at work, working 60-hour weeks to earn a promotion. They’re starting their own businesses. They’re taking care of children, or maybe getting ready to start a family. Or maybe they’re taking care of a parent or grandparent.
Yet, breast cancer doesn’t care about any of that. It can affect anyone — regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status. And I don’t want Alyssa, or anyone, to become complacent about this very serious disease that still claims a life every 60 seconds somewhere in the world.
While breast cancer risk is generally much lower among younger women, women who are diagnosed at younger ages are often diagnosed with more aggressive forms of the disease and often at later stages.
At Susan G. Komen, we say that women should “know what is normal” for their bodies. In young women, this is especially important. Unless someone is at high risk of breast cancer (a family history of the disease, for example), a woman under 40 is likely not getting a regular mammogram or any other imaging test. This should not, however, suggest that they shouldn’t be thinking about their breast health.
What I worry about is a scenario in which a young woman wakes up one day to notice a puckering or dimple in her breast, or maybe an itchy, scaly rash, and doesn’t give it a second thought. Or that this same woman, knowing something is wrong, will not act on her instincts if these symptoms are dismissed by a healthcare provider. Too many of our young breast cancer survivors were told, “You’re too young for breast cancer,” and although they felt something wasn’t right, they didn’t pursue a second opinion until the disease was more advanced and difficult to treat. I met a young woman last week who, at age 25, found a small lump and was told not to worry; three years later she was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer.
We, as breast cancer educators and public health advocates, have worked diligently to educate the public about breast cancer, and these efforts have helped reduce mortality by one-third since 1990. But knowing what we do — that young women are often diagnosed with more aggressive and difficult-to-treat forms of breast cancer — I see an opportunity to increase our efforts to educate young women on their risk.
Other groups are taking action to address this issue as well. In fact, in 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) convened an Advisory Committee on Breast Cancer in Young Women (ACBCYW), led by Komen Scholar Ann Partridge, M.D., M.P.H. The committee wrote, “Breast cancer among young women is a complex public health problem,” and it has a complex effect on the lives of women under 45 who are diagnosed with it. Women in these age groups worry about the impact of the disease on their ability to date, marry, have children, and embark on careers. Many have very young children, and worry about the impact of their illness on growing children.
The ACBCYW sent recommendations to the CDC and to former Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, focused primarily on the development of information and materials that are geared to younger women, providing accurate and valid information that is age-appropriate and culturally relevant.
Achieving this will be no easy task, but it’s what is required if we want to ensure that young women are informed about breast cancer and have access to quality treatment and support resources if they are diagnosed.
Komen has long funded programs that help women get the treatment and support they need. We have directed funds to promote research aimed at better understanding the basic science of breast cancer and development of better treatments, especially for the forms of breast cancer more commonly diagnosed in women under 40. We invite younger women to visit our website to learn about their risk, and to understand that as far as we’ve come in breast cancer awareness and treatment, this disease is not cured, and young women are not immune.
Going forward, we’ll continue our efforts to reach out to younger women about what they can do to take charge of their health. Information about breast cancer in younger women can be found on our website at this link.
As I celebrate another birthday with Alyssa, and think about Mother’s Day next month, I reflect on the years that she, her brother, sister and I have shared so far, and the years I hope to share. And it makes our work all the more urgent.