Like my friend and fellow breast cancer blogger, AnneMarie at Chemobrain…In the Fog, I am a fan of Dr. Susan Love, breast surgeon, author of “the” bible on breast cancer, frequent medical contributor to NBC News and president of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation. Dr. Love’s foundation is working to eradicate breast cancer and improve the quality of women’s health through innovative research, education and advocacy. In addition, her foundation joined forces with the Avon Foundation to form the Love/Avon Army of Women to discover ways to prevent breast cancer. As Dr. Love said in her recent New York Times essay, the “real race in cancer is finding the cause.”
Because it’s harder to find women to study, researchers use mice, but as Dr. Love told me over lunch recently, “mice don’t get breast cancer.” Therefore, Love has created an innovative research initiative designed to recruit real women of every age, ethnicity and breast cancer risk to participate in a wide array of clinical studies. In effect, the Army of Women gives all women, with or without breast cancer, the opportunity to partner with researchers and take breast cancer awareness beyond a cure to prevention.
Some of the Army of Women’s current research studies include:
• Developing an inexpensive and easy to use band-aid-like test strip that can assess whether a premenopausal woman is at risk to develop breast cancer
• Low-dose anti-estrogens & Omega-3 fatty acids to prevent hormone-independent breast cancer
• Using specially trained dogs and a chemical test on exhaled breath markers for early detection of epithelial ovarian cancer
• How bacteria in the intestines metabolize estrogen & other female hormones
• To see if there are differences in breast cells found in the breast milk of healthy women & those who have cancer
• Whether wake/sleep cycle disruptions in women who work the night shift may increase their breast cancer risk
Another Army of Women study is trying to determine whether DNA cell damage in normal breast tissue could be an indicator of future breast cancer risk. Initially, researchers at MD Anderson recruited women with benign breast biopsies who went on to develop breast cancer. Now they are looking for women who had benign biopsies but did not develop breast cancer. By studying both categories of women, scientists are looking for markers in breast cells that may be indicators of future breast cancers.
Researchers aided by women, not mice, are a powerful combination. We already know what happened when researchers, with the help of women, focused on the cause of cervical cancer. Thirty years ago, women were given hysterectomies after a single abnormal Pap smear, but now our daughters have the opportunity to be vaccinated against cervical cancer. Once again, we have the opportunity to make a full-scale invasion on another cancer that kills women.
Please join me and the other 360,000 plus women who’ve already become a member of the Army of Women. Whether it’s your book club, Bible study group, sorority, friends and family or the women in your office, forward this blog to ALL of the women in your life, whether they’ve had breast cancer or not, and urge them to sign up.
If you’re a cancer researcher, tell your colleagues, medical professional associations and include in your newsletters that researchers can submit a research proposal to the Army of Women.
If you’re an individual or a corporation and the Komen controversies have left you jaded about raising and donating money to breast cancer research, you might consider donating to the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation. The Army of Women needs ALL of us to fund the search for the cause and prevention of breast cancer.