Articles from August 2011

What’s in Your Makeup?

Before you apply your makeup or use that personal care item, ask yourself what you know about it. What chemicals are in what you are using on your face and how safe are they?

You are doing so much to safeguard your health as a survivor…eating well, getting regular exercise, staying current on appointments, but are you unknowingly adding chemicals to your body through  your makeup and personal care items?

According to the Environmental Work Group (EWG), a nonprofit organization that uses public information to protect public health and the environment, the US government has no authority to require companies to test personal care products for safety before they reach the store shelf. At present, the industry can use just about any ingredient or raw material in soap, shampoo or makeup without government review or approval.

EWG’s research documents that 22 percent of all personal care products may contain the cancer-causing contaminant 1,4-Dioxane, and more than half of all sunscreens contain oxybenzone, a potential hormone disruptor. Other studies raise serious concerns about makeup such as lead in lipsticks and chemicals in fragrance and artificial preservatives in personal care products.

The following groups of chemicals are currently being studied for links to breast cancer:

  • Parabens – chemicals commonly used as preservatives in many cosmetic products, including makeup, moisturizers, hair care products, and gels.
  • Phthalates – used to hold color and reduce brittleness in nail polish and hair spray. They’re also found in many personal care items.

Before you use your current makeup again, or buy a new makeup, visit the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep site and  check your makeup and personal care items scores.  EWG lists a product’s  hazard score based on the ingredients’ links to cancer, allergies, and other issues.

Source: Environmental Work Group

C4YW…A Gathering of Young Survivors

You are a young breast cancer survivor experiencing feelings of loneliness and isolation after the initial relief of  finishing active treatment. There are no more medical personnel or fellow patients in waiting areas to talk with and friends and family feel it is time you get back to the life that was side-tracked by breast cancer.

As a young survivor, where do you go with your fears of recurrence? Who do you share your feelings with about changes in body image? Who can listen to your concerns about your sexuality, your relationship issues, your ability to get pregnant? Which one of your friends or family can relate to what you are going through? Are friends  and family members  too uncomfortable to even listen to your fears and concerns?

Support groups, where they exist, reflect the fact that while women under 45 are diagnosed with breast cancer, more women are diagnosed later in life. Most women attending support groups are 45+ years and have different life issues than young survivors. Many young survivors use the Internet blogging to connect with and support each other.

Recently, I came across a conference for young survivors. If you can make the time, a conference is a great way to surround yourself with fellow survivors who understand exactly what you are feeling. A few days in the company of others with shared experiences is a great way to cut through the loneliness and feelings of isolation.

A few years ago, two national websites that provide education, support and resources for young breast cancer survivors came together to sponsor an annual conference just for young survivors.

Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC) and Young Survival Coalition (YSC) created a conference that caters to the unique concerns of young women, which may include more aggressive cancers, fertility, relationship issues and treatment-induced early menopause.

join the Young survivor's conferenceThe Conference for Young Women Affected by Breast Cancer (C4YW) is an annual event. It is the only conference for women who are diagnosed with the disease before the age of 45 and those who care for them. For the past three years, young survivors, from around the US and internationally, have met as strangers and left as friends who continue to support one another via telephone calls and emails.

The 4th annual C4YW will be Friday, February 24–Sunday, February 27, 2012 at the Hyatt Regency in New Orleans. Sessions will cover metastatic breast cancer, fear of recurrence, fertility and pregnancy, sex and intimacy, complementary and alternative treatments, single and dating, and long-term survivorship. There will be tailored workshops specifically for men only, lesbian partners and caregivers.

For those who qualify, financial assistance is available  for travel and conference fees.  To learn more about financial assistance and other conference details at

Nursing Helps Black Women Lower Risk for a Resistant Breast Cancer

A recent study, published in the current issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, found that black women who give birth to at least two children are at a 50% greater risk for hormone receptor-negative breast cancer. Researchers discovered that breast-feeding reduces that risk.

The research was based on the Black Women’s Health Study, which has followed 59,000 African American women since 1995. The study authors analyzed medical information on 457 of the women with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer as well as 318 women who developed hormone receptor-negative breast cancer.

Julie Palmer, professor of epidemiology at the Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University, stated in a news release from the American Association for Cancer Research that, “African American women are more likely to have had a greater number of full-term births and less likely to have breast-fed their babies. The adverse effect of high childbirth without subsequent breast-feeding seems to be confined to the hormone receptor-negative breast cancer, which carries a higher mortality rate and is more common in African Americans.”

The study also found, by contrast, that higher birth rates among  black women decreased a women’s risk for estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer.

For these women, researchers found no link between breast-feeding and their risk for the disease.

Source:Palmer, J. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, September 2011.

Between Friends,Yes to Mammograms Join Our Showcase

Between Friends, a program of the Canadian Cancer Society, and Yes to Mammograms, a nonprofit organization in Brevard, Florida, are now being featured as Showcase Programs.

CCS program showcase logoBetween Friends is a animated production about friends encouraging friends to get mammograms. It includes an illustration showing  the size of a cancer when it is self discovered, discovered by a health professional, discovered in a first mammogram, and found in a routine screening in a woman who gets mammograms on a regular basis. Once viewed, no one can have any doubt about the benefit of routine mammograms.

When viewing this showcase presentation it is important to keep in mind that mammogram scheduling may differ from country to country.

Between Friends is part of a early breast cancer detection program of the Canadian Cancer Society called, “Thing a ma boob”. The Canadian Cancer Society is  a national, community-based organization of volunteers, whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer throughout Canada.

Yes to Mammograms was a feature post on this site on March 4th of this year. Amy Young, a 3x cancer survivor, founded Yes to Mammograms to give women the chance she had to beat cancer…early intervention through medical screenings. Her organization provides free mammograms and free transport to and from the screening site for low income, uninsured women.

To view these showcase programs, choose Showcase Programs from the navigation bar. Use the scroll bar arrow on the right of the film strip to access Between Friends and Yes to Mammograms.

If you have or know of a program that would make a good Showcase feature, please email me at

Have You Heard?

Have you heard that taking soy supplements does not prevent bone loss or reduce hot flashes?

These supplements are often taken by women during menopause as an alternative to hormone replacement therapy.

Why is this news important to breast cancer survivors? It’s important to those women using these natural supplements to ease the side effects of five years of hormone therapy, following active treatment, which include bone loss, hot flashes and night sweats.

Recently ran an article about the results of a study that found no improvement in bone density or reduction in hot flashes. In the new study, published  in the “Archives of Internal Medicine,” 248 menopausal women were randomly assigned to receive a placebo pill or 200 milligrams of soy isoflavone supplements per day — a dose “equivalent to approximately twice the highest intake through food sources in typical Asian diets.

At the end of the two-year study, bone scans showed no differences in bone mineral density between the two groups.

Likewise, the soy supplements did nothing to ward off hot flashes. In fact, 48% of the women who took soy experienced hot flashes, compared with just 31% percent of those in the placebo group. Roughly one-third of the women in the soy group also reported constipation as a side effect, versus 21% in the placebo group.

Have you heard that Medicaid denied coverage for a 26 year old male with breast cancer on the basis that he was male?

Raymond Johnson recently went to the  emergency room in a South Carolina hospital with chest pains. It was discovered that he has breast cancer.

Mr. Johnson meets every federal assistance qualification for breast cancer patients, except for being a woman.

When he heard that Medicaid coverage for his breast cancer treatment was denied Mr. Johnson stated, “I just can’t tell you how floored I was when I got that letter saying I didn’t quality for help,” Johnson says. “The bills are going to be huge. I have breast cancer. I really don’t see how that’s possible.”

The South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has tried more than once to get coverage under The Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment Act for male patients. There were two other men in the last four years who met all other aspects of the act’s criteria, but have been denied coverage under the act simply because they are men.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid  are working with the Center for Disease Control (CDC ) and South Carolina to see what options may exist to address Ray Johnson’s situation.