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February 2012 - Moving Forward

First and foremost, thank you for being part of our Army of Women.  Your support, encouragement and honesty are what helps us grow the Army of Women every day.  I know all of you care deeply about breast cancer, and recent public events within the breast cancer community have triggered emotions ranging from anger to dismay to sadness. It has also raised important questions about how breast cancer organizations use the hard-earned money breast cancer survivors and their family members and friends raise.

That’s why I think it’s important for us to take this opportunity to use the public awareness about breast cancer funding to refocus attention on the need for research that will take us beyond a cure and figure out what causes this disease, so that we can end it.

As I said in my essay in the New York Times, because we do not know what causes breast cancer, we focus on looking for cancers that are already there. We’ve been doing this since the 1950s, when the first screening study demonstrated a 30 percent decrease in deaths from breast cancer. But decades later, the success rate of screening remains nearly the same, even with much better imaging: routine mammography screening results in a 15- to 20-percent decrease in mortality in women over age 50.

The problem is, as we now know, that there are at least five, and probably more, different types of breast tumors, and they grow at different rates. Some are so aggressive that they have almost always spread before they are visible on mammogram. But other tumors, if left alone, may never spread at all and do not need to be found. This doesn’t mean we should stop screening. Mammography remains the best tool we have. But we have to stop trying to make mammography better and start performing more research focused on finding what causes this disease.

We need to go all the way—and stop this disease. If we could discover that HPV causes cancer of the cervix, and then develop a vaccine to prevent it, there is no reason we can’t do the same for cancer of the breast! In fact, we are currently collaborating on research to look for an infectious cause of breast cancer, and will tell you more about it in the coming months! It is challenging to do this out-of-the-box research. It takes friends, focus, and funds! But if we don’t do it, who will?

We believe all of you are in the forefront of changing the breast cancer research paradigm.  We stand 370,000 strong and counting, and together we will see an end to breast cancer.

Jill said...

Yes, it would be great if someone could find “the cause” of breast cancer. But I suspect that there is not one cause, but rather multiple contributing factors, and thus your quest may not yield results in the near future. As someone living with metastatic breast cancer, I think that research should focus on curing breast cancer, whatever its cause. Prevention does not help those of us who currently live with breast cancer.

Linda said...

I’m thankful for those working diligently on both sides of the issue. Both cause/prevention and cures. We need both.

Claudia said...

Dr. Love,

I agree. I’m an 18 month survivor and while I’m very happy that I benefited from all the progress made in breast cancer treatments, I believe the focus should now be on curing breast cancer. I’m hoping that when my 16 year old daughter and her friends are entering their 40’s, they won’t even know what a mammogram is because they will already have been vaccinated against ever getting breast cancer.

Thank you for your tremendous passion and ongoing commitment to ending breast cancer.


Lynn said...

I agree that much has been done to find a cure for breast cancer, and for that I am thankful (I am a 9-yr survivor). But, I puzzle about why I should have been stricken, and what can be done to prevent a recurrence. I think we need to continue to make progress on both fronts - prevention and cure.

Dr. Love, you and your team are doing tremendous work, keep at it!

Ingrid said...

Dr. Love,

I also believe that there are likely multiple causes of breast cancer, some of which may not be amenable to “cure” by vaccine (e.g., environmental poisons). And in the meantime, 40,000 women die of metastatic breast cancer a year. Perhaps it is time to stop trying to improve mammography, but it still too early to stop trying to cure metastatic breast cancer, particularly since the cancer research community has, in my opinion, not committed enough resources in the past to this effort. If a vaccine is developed in ten years (which is perhaps optimistic) which will prevent 25 percent of the cancers that would otherwise have occurred, that is still almost half a million deaths prior to the introduction of the vaccine, and a continuation of 30,000 deaths per year even after the introduction of the vaccine. (Full disclosure: I do not have metastatic breast cancer.)

Thank you for your continued commitment to saving women’s lives.



My breast cancer had spread to 24 lymph nodes and it still took more than a mammogram to locate the origin in my breast. ( I had annual mammograms faithfully) The mammogram only showed an enlarged lymph node– no “tumor”. I’ve had Chemo and radiation and November will be the 5 year anniversary of my mastectomy. I’ve been taking arimidex since May 2008. I believe my “cause” was completely related to Prempro and a little help from Premarin. I am grateful to be “cancer free” as of this moment in time and I do want all the causes to be investigated. I wish no woman would take either Prempro or Premarin and wish they weren’t aavailable. That would take care of one of the causes. I hope they continue to work on both causes and cures. I want to keep on being a survivor.

Meryl said...

Yes, we need far more focus on the causes, including the environmental factors contributing to any number of cancers.

Debra said...

Thank you for focusing on a CAUSE oriented message and for putting money and time into finding a CAUSE. I am a 20 month survivor. After 9 months of chemotherapy, I found it hard to believe that we are doing the same chemo as 20 years ago. That is because they do not know anything else to do! Until we know what causes this disease and can treat the cause, the treatments cannot improve. We might be living longer, but we are still getting the disease! Emphasis must be put on the CAUSE going forward. Thank you.

Mary said...

Dr. Love, For 26 years I have been employed in both high school and grade school, and the last ten years, we have experienced an excellerated number of female staff with breast cancer. I believe that research holds the key to a developing a cure, and I wholly agree that improved mamography, while helpful, is not the answer. Thank you for your invaluable research and help. With greatfullness, Mary

Marie Artis said...

I personally do not believe there is just one or even a just few “causes” of breast cancer; with the limited funding available, I would like to see more research emphasis on controlling metastatic disease, prolonging life while the search for a cure continues…if we can’t “cure” breast cancer, can we at least make it a disease we can live with???

Sallie said...

Like Elizabeth posted 2/29/12, my BC tumor went undetected by mammography, w/ only an enlarged node appearing on my 1st screening mammo at age 40. My diagnosis was delayed a year because of this. Pathologist report after mastectomy a microscopic “occult” tumor and 23 total involved nodes. The only hormones I ever took were birth control pills for 10yrs. I did intensive chemo, but no radiation (since I had been radiated as a child). I also had many other of the “apparently known” risk factors. Is there a data base that just collects information from patients diagnosed, without a hypothesis, that might help better understand the causes/risk factors for all the different types of BC?
Thank You Dr. Love, for including in your “Breast Book” the section about occult tumors, which gave me such hope 22yrs ago. Please keep up your important work and disseminating information. You are definitely one of my heroines!

Cynthia said...

Curing cancer is of course a #1 issue, as there are so many of us who have gone through the desease. But I also agree with the ladies who comment that we all don’t want our daughters - or sons - to have to deal with this desease. Therefore, finding the causes is crucial. Please keep asking questions of us survivors ( I am a 13 year survivor). Maybe some patterns will appear that help our children and grand children never have to deal with cancer.
Keep up all your research,please!!

Gayla said...

I would like to see and participate in studies for those who do NOT have breast cancer. Studies that would include gathering information on diet, exercise, environmental influences, etc., that might play into developing breast cancer, and following those volunteers long term.

Isa said...

I support continuing on many avenues of discovery - cause, detection, and treatment/cure. But I’d like to raise another difficult question.

If we did discover a causal link or two, how many of us could honestly say we would change our lives to reduce or remove those causes? We already know how smoking, over eating, processed foods, alcohol, drugs, and lack of sufficient exercise can and do seriously affect our health. But look at our national statistics and we can see that the knowledge itself is not enough. I am blaming no one person, not even the whole. Yet we must acknowledge our very human tendency to ignore, deny, and justify.

It would be a wonderful miracle if the only cause of breast cancer turned out to be a simple element we could easily remove from our lives. I don’t believe that is going to be the case. So while we pursue the discovery of a cause, we must each and all address our behavior. If we are not willing and ready to implement the necessary changes in our lives, we will continue to live with the consequences.

Maureen said...

I agree with Isa. I’ve got two friends who have been diagnosed with cancer who continue to smoke. I cannot fathom what hold cigarettes have on them.

I would love to see more definitive studies on what behaviors either prevent or promote cancer. We have gone through so many rounds of information that turns out not to be true that I believe people just won’t take action unless we’ve done thorough studies.

Gertie said...

I am now a ten years breast cancer survivor and I thank God. I also want to thank God for creating your organization who is a blessing to all. I truly believe that one day there will be a cure for breast cancer and I will hold on to this hope. Please keep your focus on saving lives by providing truthful information and also keep up with your research program.

Donna said...

I am an 18 month survivor and was diagnosed when I had my first mammogram at age 40. I believe there are multiple factors in how one gets the disease. I believe it is a combo of genes mixed with chemicals put in food and our stress level somehow pay a roll. I am also leery on there ever being a cure because Cancer is big business and the pharmaceutical companies will lose billions of $$ if cancer was no more. Sorry, but I do not trust those in our gov’t or the big wig companies. I will hope and pray for a cure someday as my girls are now starting their teenage yrs.

Mary said...

Even tho I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 and have since relapsed with treatable but not curable breast cancer, I would like to see childhood cancer eradicated a smidgeon before breast cancer. My 6 year old granddaughter died after a 3 !/2 year battle with Wilm’s Tumor. It is heartbreaking and nothing that has happened to me during both my treatments comes close to what Savannah went thru.


Ronda said...

I had a double mastectomy in 2008 due to 3 types of breast cancer bilaterally. Last year my 37 year-old daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer. My sister had breast cancer a year and a half before me and both of my sisters-in-law have had breast cancer. One died after fighting for 10 years. Even though our journey through treatments and similar experiences has drawn us closer, I pray for a preventative before my granddaughters have to go through the surgery and chemo and radiation and loss of hair and peripheral neuropathy and financial setbacks and everything else that comes with a “cure” now.

Linda said...

I was diagnosed with LCIS after micro calcification was found with mammogram, core biopsy found more and surgical biopsy found LCIS. Was in the Star Trial study and still monitored every year, at the cancer clinic, for this study. This was 2001. I live with this wondering if it will break out. We need research for causes as well as cures. Thank you for pushing for more research in both areas.

Chantal said...

I agree that breast cancer can be caused by many factors. Personally I think mine was caused by the way I handle and react to certain emotional stress triggers. “Stress kills” has been a quick phrase that has been around a long while, this sentiment is exactly what applies here. I’m 40 and a mom of young children. I’m not done here! I would push for a focus in prevention (stress reduction education, a greener diet and home), but as Donna said, cancer is big $$ business. I wish everyone a speedy recovery if in treatment… take good care.

Teresa said...

Dr. Love, I know and am very angry about being betrayed by the medical community, and do not see a single word anywhere in this email or comments below about a known screen ing failure, and a deliberately kept secret.
I am a long time Army member, joining when you made the statement that “studies should be made of women who do not get breast cancer, instead of the 100% focus on those who did. I was one of those women just waiting for a research study to which I could contribute.
After years of fairly regular negative mammograms, 30 years on HRT, I was told by a “major” imaging center after digital mammogram and ultrasound that there was something, probably nothing that they wanted to watch, and asked me to return in six months instead of 12. In September I returned and again the focus was on the left breast only with designated area mammograms and ultrasound, when the “radiologist” said she wanted a single fine needle aspiration. This was Friday, it was scheduled for Wednesday. Monday I drove the 100 miles to the office of Dr. Kevin Kelly, and had a SonoCine whole breast ultrasound. There was no presence of cancer in the two areas highlighted on the scans and cd’s I brought along with me. There was in Dr. Kelly’s opinion an invasive ductal cancer, not at all seen on the mammogram. The “major imaging center” did not feel there was any value to the whole breast imaging, and barged ahead with a double excavating core biopsy through non cancerous areas they had previously identified. this was painful and costly as well as a total waste. An MRI done two days later did see the cancer just as Dr. Kelly had, for about $2,000 less. My “major imaging center” of course was well aware that I had dense breast tissue, I had no clue, nor would I have known what that meant insofar as the incredibly high failure rate of detection via mammogram alone. Mayo Jan. 2011 report put it at 75%. I did have the ultrasound at my “major imaging center,” but it is hand held, without a designated pattern and also failed me. Dr.Kelly told me September 19 that I had cancer, my “top rated” cancer center found it on September 30. My surgery was October 11 2011, my radiation November 8-16 and by choice I had Brachytherapy and am now a SAVI Sister. Why are you not promoting the dense breast notification, and pushing for giving women with dense breasts alternate screenings that work? Too many women’s first breast cancer diagnosis is at Stage 3 or later, and is the main reason for death statistics remaining unacceptably high. I was 80+ at diagnosis, my cancer could have been found while still in situ and I may not have three surgical incisions in my left breast. Hundreds of women are put in jeopardy every day by the “Medical Community.” You have enough power and following to do some good here, please do.

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