Beyond the SHOCK
For women, breast cancer is something that we all hear about but might not completely understand. To help raise more awareness for the disease and to educate women on options and information available, we spoke with Kara Causey with the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
4word: How was the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) started and what is its mission?
Kara: The National Breast Cancer Foundation was founded in 1991 by breast cancer survivor Janelle Hail. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1980 at the age of 34. At the time of her diagnosis, there was little information about the disease, and she was forced to make a decision about her health with few options. After her treatment, Janelle made a commitment to help women around the world by educating them about breast cancer and the importance of early detection. NBCF’s mission is to help women now by providing help and inspiring hope to those affected by breast cancer through early detection, education, and support services.
4word: Since its beginning, how many lives have been touched by NBCF?
Kara: NBCF has touched hundreds of thousands of lives through its programs in awareness, breast health education, navigation, screening/diagnostic, support/survivorship, and research.
4word: Are there any stories in particular that you can share about women whose lives have been changed because of NBCF?
Kara: In 2009, a 43 year-old woman in Utah found a lump under her right arm and called the University of Utah Health Care Huntsman Cancer Hospital, a NBCF National Mammography Program partner since 2008. She was worried, jobless, and without insurance. She was told about the grant provided by NBCF and was overjoyed. The ultrasound indicated that the lump she had found was a benign cyst. At this time, our National Mammography Program was able to give this woman peace of mind; however, this was only the beginning of the impact our programs had on her life.
In 2011, two years after her previous appointment, this same woman returned to the hospital, because her brother was undergoing surgery. While waiting, she asked if she could speak with someone about a mammogram. She had not been able to find work and asked if there was any help available. Because NBCF continued to support Huntsman Cancer Hospital with an additional grant, our programs were able to help this patient a second time. Her screening mammogram, provided by our National Mammography Program, showed a mass in her breast. Unfortunately, this time, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a lumpectomy and is now undergoing treatment.
“Without this grant she most certainly would not have had the mammogram that saved her life. Her gratitude is beyond what words can express,” says Terry Neihart, Mammography Manager at University of Utah Health Care Huntsman Cancer Hospital. This story emphasizes the responsibility NBCF has to continue to provide support for underserved women to receive life-saving early detection services. For every woman helped, there is a story of hope.
4word: What are some common misconceptions women have about breast cancer?
Kara: Some common misconceptions about breast cancer include:
- Finding a lump in your breast means you have breast cancer – only a small percentage of lumps turn out to be cancer, but if you discover a persistent lump in your breast or notice any changes in breast tissue, it is very important that you see a physician for a clinical breast exam.
- A mammogram can cause breast cancer to spread – a mammogram remains the gold standard for the early detection of breast cancer. Breast compression while getting a mammogram cannot cause cancer to spread, and according to the National Cancer Institute, “The benefits of mammography, however, nearly always outweigh the potential harm from the radiation exposure. Mammograms require very small doses of radiation. The risk of harm from this radiation exposure is extremely low.”
- If you have a family history of breast cancer, you are likely to develop breast cancer, too – while women who have a family history of breast cancer are in a higher risk group, most women who have breast cancer have no family history.
4word: What signs or symptoms of breast cancer should women be on the lookout for?
Kara: Every person should know the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, and any time an abnormality is discovered, it should be investigated by a healthcare professional. Most people who have breast cancer signs and symptoms will initially notice only one or two, and the presence of these does not automatically mean that you have breast cancer. Some signs and symptoms are: a change in how the breast or nipple feels, a change in the breast or nipple appearance, and any nipple discharge – particularly clear discharge or bloody discharge.
4word: What resources or programs are offered by NBCF for anyone touched by breast cancer?
Kara: NBCF is proud to offer several programs and services to those touched by breast cancer:
- Early Detection Plan: The best way to fight breast cancer is to have a plan that helps you detect the disease in its early stages. An Early Detection Plan enables you to be proactive about your health by scheduling routine breast self-exams, clinical breast exams, and mammograms, depending on your age and health history.
- Beyond the Shock: This is a free, comprehensive, online guide to understanding breast cancer. It is a resource and support system for women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, a place for loved ones to gain a better understanding of the disease, and a tool for doctors to share information. Learn through educational videos, hear survivor stories, ask questions, and get answers.
- National Mammography Program: To support our mission, NBCF partners with medical facilities across the country to provide free mammograms and diagnostic breast care services to underserved women.
- Research: NBCF strives to help find the cure for breast cancer by working with some of the finest scientists in the world. Funding is provided to MD Anderson Cancer Center for various research efforts, whose goals are to identify and personalize cancer treatment to offer hope and healing to the countless women diagnosed each year.
4word: How can 4word women help support NBCF?
Kara: NBCF strongly believes in the importance of early detection, and 4word women can help by spreading the word in their communities about NBCF’s mission and support services for those touched by breast cancer. Anyone and everyone can also support NBCF’s work by donating, fundraising, partnering, and volunteering with a charity that for ten years, has received the highest 4-star rating by Charity Navigator, America’s premier charity evaluator.
Now that you’ve gleaned some insight into breast cancer, share this information with the women in your life. Utilize your own Early Detection Plan and schedule regular annual mammograms. If you or someone you know is currently battling breast cancer, contact NBCF today to find out what they can do for you.
Has breast cancer touched your life? What resources were available to you or a loved one?
Janelle Hail, a 35-year breast cancer survivor, is the Co-Founder & CEO of the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF), Inc., one of the most highly recognized and respected breast cancer charities in the world. She founded NBCF (www.nbcf.org) in 1991 with a mission to help women now and inspire hope to those affected by breast cancer through early detection, education, and support services.
Through her leadership, NBCF created the National Mammography Program, a network of medical facilities across the country providing mammograms for uninsured and underinsured women in all 50 states in America. She also helped launch NBCF’s Patient Navigation Program, which helps guide patients with suspicious findings through the complex cancer care system to ensure timely diagnosis and treatment. These programs serve over 150K women each year.
When Janelle was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1980, there was little information about the disease and she was forced to make a decision about her healthcare without knowing her options. That’s why she helped create Beyond The Shock® (www.BeyondTheShock.com), a comprehensive, multi-language resource for women all over the world who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and the Early Detection Plan (www.earlydetectionplan.org), a reminder system to help women schedule their mammograms, clinical breast exams, and monthly breast self-exams. Both are the top-rated breast cancer apps on iTunes.
Janelle currently serves on several international boards, including the Board of Visitors and the Strategic Business Advisory Committee at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Janelle has been married for 50 years and has three sons and five grandchildren. Her greatest joy in life is knowing that the work she does helps save lives.
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