Understanding Breast Cancer Risk Factors: Exercise

2015KomenNCR-NBCAMGraphicFaceookCover-RiskLet’s get moving and be physically active!

Exercise can help with weight control. For postmenopausal women, being lean lowers the risk of breast cancer. And physical activity may lower estrogen levels in all women, which can also protect against breast cancer. Physical activity may also boost the body’s immune system so that it can help kill or slow the growth of cancer cells.

Activity equal to walking 30 minutes a day may lower risk by about three percent.

For breast cancer survivors, activity equal to a 30-minute brisk walk several times a week leads to lower recurrence rates and death from breast cancer.

Being active is good for your health, but it can be hard to find time to exercise. Do whatever activities you enjoy most (for example, dancing or gardening) that get you moving.

Learn more: http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/LackofExercise.html

We are celebrating National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Connect with and follow Komen St. Louis and use #Komen365 to join in the conversation.


Understanding Breast Cancer Risk Factors: Alcohol Use

2015KomenNCR-NBCAMGraphicFaceookCover-RiskMany studies show that drinking alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer.

Drinking more than one drink per day (for women) and more than two drinks per day (for men) has no health benefits and many serious health risks, including breast cancer. A pooled analysis of data from 53 studies found for each alcoholic drink consumed per day, the relative risk of breast cancer increased by about seven percent.

Research shows that women who had two to three alcoholic drinks per day had a 20 percent higher risk of breast cancer compared to women who didn’t drink alcohol.

Estrogen levels are higher in women who drink alcohol than in non-drinkers, which may increase the risk of breast cancer.

Drinking alcohol can reduce blood levels of the vitamin folic acid. Folic acid plays a role in copying and repairing DNA. Low levels of folic acid may make it more likely that errors occur when cells divide, which can cause cells to become cancerous. Such errors can lead cells down a pathway to become cancer.

Drinking low to moderate amounts of alcohol, however, may lower the risks of heart disease and high blood pressure.

It is important to note that drinking excessive alcohol has no health benefits, only health risks.

Learn more: http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/DrinkingAlcohol.html

We are celebrating National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Connect with and follow Komen St. Louis and use #Komen365 to join in the conversation.

Breast Cancer Education: What is Breast Cancer?

2015KomenNCR-NBCAMGraphicFaceookCover-GeneralIn a healthy body, natural systems control the creation, growth and death of cells. Most of the time cells divide and grow in an orderly manner. But sometimes cells grow out of control. This kind of growth of cells forms a mass or lump called a tumor.

Tumors can be either benign or malignant. Benign tumors are not cancerous. The cells of a benign tumor do not invade nearby tissue or spread to any other parts of the body. Malignant tumors are cancerous. These tumor cells can invade nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body. A malignant tumor that develops in the breast is called breast cancer.

Tumors in the breast tend to grow slowly. By the time a lump is large enough to feel, it may have been growing for as long as 10 years. However, some tumors are aggressive and grow much faster. Cells can grow out of control before any symptoms of the disease appear. That is why breast cancer screening to find early changes is so important. If breast cancer is found early, there are more treatment options and a greater chance of survival.

Between 50 and 75 percent of breast cancers begin in the milk ducts (canals that carry milk from the lobules to a nipple opening during breastfeeding) and 10 to 15 percent begin in the lobules (spherical-shaped sacs in the breast that produce milk) and a few begin in other breast tissues.

It is important to understand the differences between invasive breast cancer and non-invasive breast cancer, called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). These differences affect treatment and prognosis.

Non-invasive breast cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow inside the milk ducts.

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) occurs when abnormal cells grow inside the milk ducts but have not spread to nearby tissue or beyond. The term “in situ” means “in place.” With DCIS, the abnormal cells are still “in place” inside the milk ducts. DCIS is a non-invasive breast cancer (you may also hear the term “pre-invasive breast carcinoma”). Although the abnormal cells have not spread to tissues outside the ducts, without treatment, they can develop into invasive breast cancer.

Invasive breast cancer occurs when abnormal cells from inside the milk ducts or lobules break out into nearby breast tissue.

Cancer cells can travel from the breast to other parts of the body through the blood stream or the lymphatic system (a network of lymph nodes and vessels throughout the body). They may travel early in the process when the tumor is small, or later when the tumor is large.

The lymph nodes (small clumps of immune cells that act as filters for the lymphatic system) in the underarm area (the axillary lymph nodes) are the first place breast cancer is likely to spread.

Metastatic breast cancer is breast cancer that has spread beyond the breast to other organs in the body (most often the bones, lungs, liver or brain). Although metastatic breast cancer has spread to another part of the body, it is considered and treated as breast cancer. For example, breast cancer that has spread to the bones is still breast cancer (not bone cancer) and is treated with breast cancer drugs, rather than treatments for a cancer that began in the bones.

Learn more: http://ww5.komen.org/uploadedFiles/Content_Binaries/806-368a.pdf

We’re celebrating National Breast Cancer Awareness Month for the next six weeks. Connect with and follow Komen St. Louis and use #Komen365 to join in the conversation.

Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure: Survivors Standing in Solidarity

Guest Writer: Shelby Narike, Komen St. Louis Public Relations & Marketing Intern

I experienced the big, pink whirlwind weeks leading up to the Susan G. Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure in the temporary position of intern; however, I experienced Race Day in my newly permanent role: breast cancer survivor.

Lexie Sprague and Shelby Narike, Komen St. Louis Public Relations & Marketing interns, Summer 2015

Lexie Sprague and Shelby Narike, Komen St. Louis Public Relations & Marketing interns, Summer 2015

I discovered the Komen internship opportunity because I was desperately trying to make sense of why I had breast cancer. After beginning my internship, I have learned that the why is unimportant; the how is what matters. How is this going to shape me? How am I going to use this? How am I going to make something good out of this?

I decided to make something positive out of my diagnosis by interning with Susan G. Komen, an organization that diligently fights the very breast cancer that rattled my life and continues to rattle the lives of others.

In the weeks leading up to June 13, 2015, I assisted the wonderful women of Susan G. Komen St. Louis in preparation for the 17th Annual Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure as a public relations and marketing intern. Lexie, my fellow intern, and I were warmly welcomed into the Komen St. Louis office. These first few weeks as an intern are a caffeine-fueled blur in my mind. My coworkers are magical women who somehow manage infinite tasks to insure the Race runs smoothly. Lexie and I tried our best to assist in anything and everything Race-related.

Lexie and I arrived in Downtown St. Louis at 5 am with eager anticipation of the day we had both only experienced vicariously through the memories of our coworkers. The office attire had been jeans and purple Komen Committee T-shirts all week long, but on Saturday, I transitioned from my well-worn purple tee to the pink shirt of survivors. Race Day was one day shy of the six “monthiversary” of my bilateral mastectomy and breast reconstruction. I put on my pink shirt with a brief wave of emotion at how far I had come.

Shelby and co-intern Lexie pink-ing their hair before dawn on Race day 2015

Shelby and co-intern Lexie pink-ing their hair before dawn on Race day 2015

I was diagnosed with stage one invasive ductal breast cancer on December 19, 2014 while home in St. Louis for winter break during my junior year at Tulane University. I was only 20 years old. My cancer experience has been a lucky one. I did not have to suffer through chemotherapy or radiation. At 21 years old now, I am cancer-free.

Wearing the pink survivor T-shirt was a big step for me. I spent the first few months of 2015 avoiding people. I do not mind talking about my situation, but I struggled to deal with people’s initial reactions. I felt an irrational guilt for watching people worry about me. I would much rather have cancer than have to watch someone I love have cancer. I know my loved ones feel the exact same way about me…they would rather be sick than have me be sick. I dreaded making people think that way.

St. Louis can feel so small to the point of always seeing someone who you know everywhere you go. I was sick of going out and having people ask me why I was not in New Orleans at school. I hated catching people off-guard with some variation of “Oh, yeah I’m not in school this semester because I have breast cancer. How are you?” I was tired of the shock, the sympathy, and the feeling I was ruining someone’s day. I did not want to leave my house.

Survivor Procession at the 2015 Susan G. Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure

Survivor Procession at the 2015 Susan G. Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure

Fast-forward a few months, and I’m leading the survivors’ procession at the Race for the Cure in front of thousands of people and multiple cameras. Helen Chesnut, Komen St. Louis executive director and breast cancer survivor, kindly asked me to join her in leading the procession. I was overwhelmed by the sea of pink-shirted survivors at the Race.

Raising money is not the only thing the Race does for those affected by the disease. The Race provides the opportunity for unity, for support, for awareness, for closure. The Race allowed me to be surrounded by survivors and loved-ones who were filled with conflicting relief, anger, hope, grief, comfort, pain, and resilience just like me. Not one person greeted me with shock or sympathy. I was greeted with immeasurable solidarity. We hugged, we shed tears, we breathed as a unified whole. It was in this moment that I found closure. I finally felt like I could close the short cancer chapter of my life.

It happened. It’s over. I’m standing here. We are standing here.

* * *

Shelby is a senior at Tulane University majoring in public relations and English at the School of Liberal Arts. She is a member of Chi Omega.

Must-See TV: “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies”

Emperor of All Maladies Event Cover PhotoThe documentary series, “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies,” is set to air on PBS over three nights, March 30 – April 1.

This three-part, six-hour major television event is presented by documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, in partnership with WETA, the flagship public broadcasting station in Washington, D.C.

Based on the 2010 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer,” by Siddhartha Mukherjee, M.D., the series is the most comprehensive documentary on a single disease ever made. The film weaves a sweeping historical narrative with intimate stories of patients and an investigation into the latest scientific breakthroughs.

This “biography” of cancer covers the disease’s first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles in the 20th century to cure, control and conquer it, to a radical new understanding of its essence. The series also features the current status of cancer knowledge and treatment —the dawn of an era in which cancer may become a chronic or curable illness rather than its historic death sentence in some forms.

Learn more in this trailer: http://bit.ly/17OL1S2

Be sure to watch “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies” on PBS (KETC in the St. Louis area) at 8 pm Central Time on March 30, March 31 and April 1.

Follow along with Komen St. Louis on Facebook and Twitter as we share information on the history of breast cancer. Join the “virtual watch party” on March 30-April 1, and let us know your thoughts about the film.

A Survivor’s Story: A New Way to Fight Cancer

Guest Writer: Rhiannon Reynolds Chavez, two-time breast cancer survivor and Komen St. Louis volunteer from Belleville, IL

My mother was 38 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1990, and it was unexpected to say the least. She was young and our family did not have a history of breast cancer. My breast cancer diagnosis came when I was 27. I knew I carried a higher risk for breast cancer, but the results were still shocking.


Rhiannon Reynolds Chavez, two-time breast cancer survivor and Komen St. Louis volunteer

I figured we must have some genetic predisposition for breast cancer. In December 2005, during my treatment at Saint Louis University Hospital, Dr. Suzanne Mahon submitted a genetic sample to determine if I had one of the BRCA genes linked to breast cancer.

Two weeks later I was reluctantly ready to hear their findings. I knew I was going to be positive for one of the BRCA genes. I knew it was good to have as much information as possible, and yet I knew I would be upset to see it on paper. I opened the envelope with Dr. Mahon ready to interpret the results.

The lab found nothing. There were no genetic markers indicating that I would be at risk for breast cancer.

I looked at Dr. Mahon, she looked at the results, frowned and said, “I think we just haven’t advanced far enough yet. I believe your cancer is genetic, we just don’t know where to look for it yet.”

Frustrated and angry that I had no answers as to why my mother and I had the same type of breast cancer, I tried to put it in the back of my mind. I continued aggressive treatment and focused on recovery. My hair started to grow back, I got a new job, I bought a house, I got married.

Seven years later, at the age of 34, my breast cancer returned. Dr. Mahon informed me that cancer researchers and geneticists had made significant advances since I had last seen her frowning at my results. I was encouraged that there were many more DNA areas to look at. So I again swabbed the inside of my cheek, swished with mouthwash and sent in the sample, with my health insurance covering the cost.

Two weeks later Dr. Mahon told me, again, there was nothing to indicate a genetic predisposition for cancer. Disappointed and irritated, we carried on the same conversation from seven years before; it’s probably genetic, there’s still a lot we don’t know, etc.

Dr. Mahon then said, “There are places some researchers are looking at, it’s pretty new and your insurance may not cover it, but I think it’s worth a shot.” Intrigued but doubtful, I hung up the phone. If my insurance wouldn’t cover this, could I afford paying out of pocket? Would I have to wait for years for health insurance to catch up?

Two weeks later Dr. Mahon called, but this time our conversation was very different. She was able to have the lab run new tests. That third test found the answer I had been looking for since 2005.

Now my doctors and I know what we’re fighting. I know that I’m at risk not only for breast cancer, but other cancers as well. It’s scary, but knowledge is power.

Now I get additional screenings each year.

Now my cousins, even distant ones, can speak more confidently about their own health.

Now I know my son will need to be tested when he’s an adult.

I am so grateful that Susan G. Komen St. Louis granted funding to Dr. Mahon in 2012, and that she armed me with a new way to fight cancer. I am constantly encouraged by the advances in breast cancer treatment. My hope is that cancer treatment continues to become more and more refined so oncologists can isolate the cause and effectively treat each patient with a direct, targeted approach. I believe we can find a way to fix or turn off genes that cause cancer.

This is why I choose to volunteer with the Susan G. Komen St. Louis Affiliate. As a member of the Komen St. Louis Young Professionals, I can serve as an ambassador in our community, sharing my story and making sure other young women and men are aware of the resources in St. Louis. We work together year-round to raise awareness and funds for Komen St. Louis, ensuring support for critical breast health programs in St. Louis.

Rhiannon is a member of the Komen St. Louis Young Professionals and also volunteers on the committee for Komen St. Louis’ inaugural Trivia Night, taking place on January 17.

2014 Komen St. Louis Race Honorary Co-Chairs: Jason and Caitlin Motte

Race Large Banner_2014We are so pleased to announce our Honorary Co-Chairs for the 2014 Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure: Jason and Caitlin Motte.

Jason Motte has been a member of the St. Louis Cardinals team since September 2008. The Mottes are personally committed to providing comfort and care for those affected by cancer. Caitlin has been involved with Komen St. Louis on various projects through the Cardinals organization both at Busch Stadium and at the Komen St. Louis Race.

Our 2014 Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure Honorary Co-Chairs: Caitlin and Jason Motte

Our 2014 Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure Honorary Co-Chairs: Caitlin and Jason Motte

“Jason and I are extremely honored and humbled to have the opportunity to work with Komen St. Louis,” says Caitlin. “We hope this year’s Race will enhance awareness, provide comfort for those in treatment, and serve as a celebration of life for breast cancer survivors.”

Thank you, Jason and Caitlin, for joining us in our mission to save lives and end breast cancer!

The 16th Annual Susan G. Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure® takes place in downtown St. Louis on Saturday, June 14, 2014. Register at www.komenstlouis.org.