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  • 2012 Susan G. Komen Bahamas Race for the Cure

    The 2012 Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure series kicked off in a exceptional way this past weekend with the 2nd Bahamas Race for the Cure in Nassau.  With a population of only 300,000, the Bahamas is a close-knit community of generosity and support. This support is called up when a family member is diagnosed with breast cancer, a disease that strikes on average 20 years earlier than in the U.S. and leaves many families without mothers, daughters and wives.  In only two years, this Race has become a rallying cry for Bahamians that they’ve had enough and will not tolerate death from breast cancer.

    As participants were gathering in the darkness on Church Street, a young boy, no older than 12, took to the stage to honor his mother, a 2-year survivor celebrating her birthday at the Race.  In the crowd were many young survivors, some holding babies and others with young children in tow.  These strong women were surrounded by more than 1,000 co-survivors and supporters from the Bahamas, Canada and the U.S.  The energy was palpable as the gun was fired and the crowd made their way across the Atlantis Bridge to Paradise Island as daylight was breaking.

    Arriving at the waterfront on Paradise Island, the participants gathered to honor the 100+ survivors in attendance.  The most memorable moment of the morning came as the survivors made their way to the stage to be serenaded by a local gospel group and show the Bahamian face of breast cancer survivorship from one year to 25+.

    Susan G. Komen’s partnership with Marathon Bahamas to execute this event is a special one that will continue to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer programming for many years to come. There is much work to be done to improve the lives of women diagnosed with breast cancer in the Bahamas, but by working together with local NGOs such as the Cancer Society of the Bahamas, Sister Sister Breast Cancer Support Group, Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation and the Bahamas Breast Cancer Initiative Foundation, progress will be made.

  • Royal Park Bridge in Palm Beach Florida Lit Pink

    Royal Park Bridge - Palm Beach, FL

    Royal Park Bridge - Palm Beach, FL

    The first official “pink lighting” of the year occurred this evening (Friday, Jan. 13), when Komen founder and CEO Ambassador Nancy Brinker joined the mayors of Palm Beach and West Palm Beach to light the Royal Park Bridge linking the two communities. “We light this bridge to celebrate 30 years of working together to change the world,” Brinker said. “Together, we are committed to leaving a legacy of a world without breast cancer, one of the brightest lights the world will ever see.”  The lighting is a prelude to Saturday’s Perfect Pink Party in Palm Beach, which raises funds and awareness for Komen’s global breast cancer research program and local community health and patient support programs in the region. Komen’s South Florida Affiliate, based in Palm Beach, has provided $16 million in funding for education, screening, outreach and treatment programs for medically under-served women in the region since it was founded in 1991.

  • 2011 Brinker Awards for Scientific Distinction

    2011 Brinker Awards
    L to R: Dr. Carlos Arteaga of Vanderbilt University and Dr. Armando Giuliano of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

    We were delighted Thursday evening to honor two of the nation’s top breast cancer researchers with Susan G. Komen’s Brinker Awards for Scientific Distinction. It capped a big week of exciting breast cancer research news at the biggest breast cancer symposium of the year — the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

    This year’s Brinker Award winners are (from left), Dr. Carlos Arteaga of Vanderbilt University and Dr. Armando Giuliano of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Arteaga received the Brinker Award for Translational and Basic Science for identifying several key proteins that have led to many new targeted therapies for women with the disease. Giuliano was honored with the Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Clinical Research for his groundbreaking work that has led to less invasive surgical treatments for breast cancer. Each also delivered lectures about their work at the Symposium. More than 7,000 researchers, practitioners and advocates gathered in San Antonio for the 34th Symposium.

    In remarks to the awards audience, Komen President Liz Thompson highlighted the results of a Komen-funded Institute of Medicine study, also released at the conference, into environmental factors in breast cancer, and said Komen is challenging other breast cancer research funders to join Komen in further environmental research. The Institute of Medicine study identified several lifestyle factors with proven links to breast cancer — among them obesity, lack of exercise, smoking and excessive alcohol use — and recommended long-term studies to get more conclusive evidence on how chemicals and other substances contribute to breast cancer risk.

    Read more about Dr. Arteaga and Dr. Guiliano here  and about the Komen-funded Institute of Medicine study here.


  • World AIDS Day

    Today is World AIDS Day and Former President George W. Bush took the opportunity in Tanzania to discuss the work of the Pink Ribbon-Red Ribbon initiative for breast and cervical cancer in developing nations.  Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the State Department, UNAIDS and the George W. Bush Institute announced the Pink Ribbon-Red Ribbon initiative in September, with a goal of using existing platforms for AIDS screening to include cervical and breast cancer education and screening.

    For today’s activities in Tanzania, Komen executive vice president and Chief Marketing Officer Katrina McGhee joined a delegation touring the Tanzania Cancer Hospital and attended a satellite event that included President Obama, former President Bill Clinton, Bono and other world health leaders and activists. Mr. Bush said that we cannot let a woman survive AIDS only to die of cancer and recognized Komen for our work as a partner.

  • Chicago Breast Cancer Quality Consortium

    Guest post from LaToya L. Stewart, MPH, Manager of Community Health Programs at Susan G. Komen for the Cure

    It was five years ago that a startling statistic was revealed – in Metropolitan Chicago, an African American woman’s chance of dying from breast cancer was 62 percent higher than her white counterpart.  It was then that hundreds of community leaders and activists devised a plan to tackle and eliminate this disheartening disparity.  With a $1 million grant from Susan G. Komen for the Cure (and support that has since grown to $2.1 million), the Chicago Breast Cancer Quality Consortium was launched to address a critical factor to health care that has been overlooked for too long – QUALITY.  On Nov. 11, the umbrella organization of the consortium, the Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force, convened for the fifth year to share their successes since embarking upon this mission.  Anne Marie Murphy, executive director of the Task Force shared, “Armed with a dedicated board and staff, innovative ideas and unparalleled enthusiasm from a diverse group of partners within and outside the health care arena, we have moved steadily toward our mission.”

    Each step taken has been WITH and FOR the community.  The Nov. 11 gathering was no different.  More than 150 nurses, navigators, physicians, community activists and community partners gathered at Advocate Christ Hospital to discuss their journey toward health equity.  Dr. Terry Mason, chief medical officer of the Cook County Health & Hospital Systems was the morning’s opening keynote speaker.  He challenged the audience to consider the role of historical social constructs in the creation of health disparities in our country.  With that framework, he offered a simple but tall order: develop strategies to eliminate disparities that not only address genetic factors but also include policies necessary to affect health outcomes in our country.

    Murphy reported findings from an evaluation of the quality of screening and treatment at 53 mammography clinics and hospitals representing 46 percent of hospitals providing mammography services in the area and 42 percent providing cancer treatment to at least five breast cancer patients per year.  While the majority of the participating hospitals were able to demonstrate that they are meeting treatment standards based on national guidelines, there are a few that aren’t able to demonstrate meeting the standards of care.  Those standards of care are to provide treatment quickly and provide the appropriate treatment protocol.

    The results for mammography were vastly different, with the majority of the participating hospitals and clinics saying they could not demonstrate that they are meeting the quality standards in mammography.  Only 30 percent of the hospitals could demonstrate that they were finding cancers when they are very small.  More than 60 percent couldn’t demonstrate that abnormal screenings were followed up with critical diagnostic imaging.  There are limitations to the data and more analysis is needed, but the numbers were sobering.

    After lunch, Julie Hamos, Director, Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, made a monumental announcement.  Beginning in January 2012, Medicaid reimbursement rates for screening will increase across the state of Illinois if providers participate in the quality improvement initiative.  Ms. Hamos told the group that this increased Medicaid reimbursement is an effort to get providers to focus on quality.  With 1,400 screening providers in the state, it is also a significant opportunity for growth and improvement in breast health care for Illinois.

    As the day ended, I sat in on a session called You Have Cancer, Please Hold.  This focused on key communication points with patients from screening to diagnosis, with real-world suggestions on how to improve communication with patients.

    What an amazing event!  I’ve had the privilege of serving as Komen’s program officer for this initiative since 2009.  This update was truly a reminder of the important work that is being done to save lives one clinic at a time…and now an entire state!

    Related articles:
    State Takes Major Steps Towards Improving Mammography Quality While Increasing Medicaid Mammography Reimbursement