Breastfeeding in Combat Boots!

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The Breast Milagro Company’s mission of advocacy continues to evolve and expand. The more we learn, the more we share. The more our community grows, the more select breast health care and support groups we can help. And to share all the amazing stories properly, we are creating a new Facebook page – The Breast Milagro: Little Miracles.

Our New Support Mission

As I shared in an earlier Blog Post, our goal is to serve all breast health hopes and concerns. The tradition of The Breast Milagro is genuinely tied to the breast health dreams of sustaining life and to the breast health hopes of holding onto life.

Breast Milagros have been symbolic of the wish for breast milk to nourish a new life. Yet the work-life balance for a new mom can often be stressful. If your job is in the military, keeping it all ‘balanced’ becomes an even bigger challenge.

Robyn’s Story

In the spirit of our expanded mission, we attended the International Lactation Consultants Association (ILCA), annual meeting in Washington, DC.  While attending ILCA we met a lactation consultant, (and all around phenomenal woman), named Robyn Roche-Paull.  She is a US Navy veteran, and mother of three breastfed children. Robyn’s mission is to help women in the military find ways to breastfeed their babies.  Not an easy task in a physically demanding and predominately male environment!

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Before Robyn came along there were no books or references, and almost no professional consultants to help with this issue. With limited resources out there for new moms in the military, Robyn stepped up and took this issue on.  Over the last several years she has developed an excellent support mechanism through her very active website, and through her excellent book, entitled, “Breastfeeding in Combat Books, A Survival Guide to Successful Breastfeeding While Serving in the Military.

Available on Robyn’s site are the military policies of the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, and the Navy.   After reading these policies, it’s easy to see how challenging breastfeeding in the military must be, and how vital it is to have support mechanisms in place for each breastfeeding mom.

The Breast Milagro celebrates Robyn’s creativity and perseverance.  We are so impressed and touched by Robyn’s work that we are offering all military mom’s a permanent 20% discount on The Breast Milagro Valentina pendant.  The Valentina which sells at $35.00 will be available for only $28.00. Visit the Breastfeeding in Combat Boots Facebook page for the special Coupon Code. We will also be providing a portion of every sale – using the code – to help support this important cause. In this way, we say thanks to military women for the work they do, and for the incredible efforts they make to give their babies the best nourishment!

Will patients have to hope they can just sense breast cancer?

Dr Cary S. Kaufman, Past Chairman of the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers, was asked his opinion of today’s turnaround by The American Cancer Society regrading guidelines for mammography.

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A doctor reading mammograms at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. The American Cancer Society said women should begin mammograms later and have them less frequently. Credit Ed Kashi/VII, via Corbis (via New York Times)

“Patients will have to hope they can sense breast cancer.  They’re being told not to look, touch or image themselves.” 
Cary
S. Kaufman, MD

1. Stop screening for women between 40 and 45 years old. FACT:  9% of breast cancer occurs in these years.  These productive women are in the sandwich generation, taking care of young children and caring for their older parents.  Cancers occurring in this young age group are typically more aggressive, faster growing and benefit from early detection.  Since the effectiveness of mammography in this age group is similar to those over 45, a main reason to stop mammography is that there are fewer women who get breast cancer during these years and we have to spend more money to screen more women to find the cancers during this time.  It will take years and many deaths to demonstrate that this is a bad idea.

2. Decrease screening for women over 55 from every year to every two years. FACT: The majority of breast cancers occur in this age group.  Even with the current recommendation of yearly screening mammography, only 40% of women obtain mammograms that often.  Many delay so that the majority get mammograms now every two years.  The death rate due to breast cancer in the US has decreased every year for the last 15 years due in great part to screening mammography.  There are essentially no cancers that do better when you diagnose them when they are larger than when they are smaller.  The death rate due to breast cancer is directly related to the size of the cancer when found.  Doubling the time of screening mammography will find cancers after an extra year of growth.  Perhaps for some women this may not make a difference.  Do you want to bet your life on that wish?

3. Doctors should stop performing clinical breast exams since it hasn’t been proven to save lives. FACT: There are many physical exams which haven’t been proven to save lives. Using a stethoscope to listen to the lungs, palpating the abdomen to look for tenderness or masses, performing eye exams, ear exams and a variety of clinical exams have no evidence that they save lives.  Yet, they provide useful information.  With this recommendation we have now said that a) women shouldn’t examine themselves, b) doctors shouldn’t examine women, and c) mammograms shouldn’t be done until 45 years old.  Those patients under 45 diagnosed with breast cancer, about 26,000 women this year, will have to hope they can “sense”  cancer growing in their breast because they are told not to look, touch or image themselves.  We’ve done this in the 50’s and it didn’t work out so well.

About: Cary S Kaufman,  MD

Additional commentary: Leslie Jacobson, MS, LMFT

American Cancer Society…. selling out women’s health to save money?

 

Read Sylvia's Story on catching Breast Cancer Early

Sylvia’s Story – Young survivor, Sylvia Bencomo with her beautiful – and healthy – daughters Lorena (left) and Monica (middle) who together have a compelling story. To help support treatment resources for thousands of women like them. The Breast Milagro is focusing extra funding toward the Young Survivor’s Coalition (YSC)

I’m feeling pretty upset about the ACS ‘s new guidelines for mammography!  I’m in good company with many professionals who feel the ACS is misguided or worse, penny pinching perhaps?  I also know that a lot of other professionals agree with the ACS.  This has been, and will be, an on going drama.

Here’s my take.  Breast cancer risk goes up with age…the older you are, the more at risk you are.  This is statistically true.  So, why does it make any sense to tell women, as they skate past age 54, come in for a mammogram every other year?  These women have more risk at 55 than they had at 45!  Whose life are we playing with here?  Do women have to die to make this point?

In the same breath, how does it make sense to tell doctors to forego clinical breast exams?  Are we waiting for a woman (who is not an expert on breast cancer), to feel a lump so palpable that she may have risked a good outcome?  Larger breast lumps that are cancerous, are way more dangerous that those tiny ones found with mammography.  And there can be fewer choices for treatment with a later stage diagnosis.  If we rely solely on women doing their own breast exam, some one is going to fall through the cracks, and it won’t be pretty.

I’m just saying…..  My mother was diagnosed at 41 after she found a lump.  In 1956 there was no screening.  She was expected to live maybe six months.  She was an anomaly, and lived to 90.  My Mom was incredibly LUCKY!  But let’s say she had this lump and didn’t think it was important to consider it for another 4 years.  Without a mastectomy, she certainly wouldn’t make it to 90. If you asked her if she was over treated, she would say she hated her mastectomy.  And she would say she was thrilled to be alive.  What would you choose?

See our professional advisors take on the new ACS recommendations

The Breast Milagro Journey

Our Breast Milagro journey continues to take us to new places, and into the lives of incredible women!  Historically, Breast Milagros are created for concerns regarding breastfeeding and breast health.  At the suggestion of someone in the breast cancer support world, we are now making The Breast Milagro jewelry available to new mothers.  Because of the historic use of the Breast Milagro in this way, our colleague’s suggestion resonated with us!

So, off we traveled last week to the International Lactation Consultants Association Conference (ILCA) in Washington DC.  At the ILCA conference we met remarkable people dedicated to creating a safe environment for processing breast milk, breastfeeding, and breast milk delivery to infants in need.  We were so impressed. We’re excited to be able to offer the breastfeeding world, the beautiful and meaningful Breast Milagro symbol.  And, they love it!  We were as busy as we’ve ever been talking and planning with ILCA professionals about how we can use The Breast Milagro as a resource for their good work.

So, The Breast Milagro is now available to women who are focusing on giving life, as well as women who are focused on keeping life.  We’re proud to be able to support all of these women, and are so gratified that they love The Breast Milagro for all it represents.  Remember…Beneath the Breast Beats the Heart.

Thoughts: Young Survival Summit 2015

IMG_3582_0407We just returned from the Young Survival Summit meeting in Houston.  There is something very powerful about experiencing these young women fighting breast cancer.  Each woman has so much potential for her time and her future, and so much hangs in the balance with her particular cancer, and her specific treatment.

While at the conference, I felt my mother’s story of being a 49 year survivor was paramount.  I told each and every woman I met her story, and gave them a photo of her at 88 years, giving testament to her survival after being diagnosed at 41 with no hope.

We all have our stories.  And each story, and each life is precious, and deserves to be fulfilled.  When hundreds of women, come together like this, the power in the room is palpable.  And the goals are urgent.  Whether single, married with young children, forging a career, or developing and experimenting, each woman should have her full future.  And when the future is foreshortened, the remaining time should be filled with all the things each woman deems important.

The Breast Milagro is an intimate symbol of the wish for a long life.  Women who are looking at their mortality get this.  But most importantly, it is important to remind each other that sometimes futures aren’t predictable.  Sometimes something like a miracle can happen.  It may be rare, but that’s what “rare” means.  Rare does happen.

My hugs, and love to all the women at the YSC Summit.

What is this thing called Love?

jen and kim silva “What is this thing called love?” asks Irving Berlin, poignantly.

Valentine’s Day is coming, and that makes me wonder about love.  All kinds of love, not just romantic love. What is this mysterious thing we want and need so much?  And, especially, what’s the kind of love we need when we feel frightened and deeply alone?

When breast cancer comes along, fear and anxiety make it difficult to stay connected to our feelings for partners, family, and friends. Primitive anxiety gets in front of everything else. What’s more, there are moments when anxiety gives way to sadness, anger, and loneliness. And at those times, we really do need somebody.  It’s no weakness. Acknowledging this need is truly an act of strength.

I believe if you really examine it, the source of our desire for love is our most primitive and, perhaps, most desperate self asking to be truly known. It arises from our need to feel emotionally held.  So in our wish for love – our Valentine’s wish – perhaps we are asking for that: the chance to give ourselves authentically and to receive acknowledgement of our most vulnerable selves.

Breast cancer makes thinking of love in this way both simple and hugely complex. In our need for love, we are asking to be “seen.” We are asking for someone to “witness” our experiences keenly. And when we feel that person recognizes and sees our true self, we find the space within to honor the connection created by this recognition. That allows us to trust and be generous, hopefully returning the gift by “seeing” someone else.

Survivors empathy photo

 

When celebrities mislead us…

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Melissa Etheridge and Sheryl Crow

The power of celebrity is extraordinary in today’s culture.  It’s not uncommon to ascribe “correctness” and “accuracy” to comments made by celebrities on a variety of subjects.  When the subject is health, it is crucial to question and pursue other resources for confirmation.

Recently, a high profile celebrity and breast cancer survivor (Melissa Etheridge), implied that genes increasing breast cancer risk could be obstructed by a healthy diet.  Melissa said “I have the BRCA2 gene but don’t encourage women to get tested. Genes can be turned on and off.  I turned my gene on with my very poor diet.”

Well….experts in the field of breast cancer and genetic testing hit the roof.  Not only was this comment misleading, it was potentially influential due to this culture’s certainty that celebrity equals correctness.  Also, from our point of view, the suggestion that women shouldn’t have genetic testing is  way off the mark.  Genetic testing is one of the best tools we have to inform women of their most significant choices.  Celebrity brings with it extra responsibility, and as consumers we too have the extra responsibility  to check out all health recommendations.

The BRCA genes are not amenable to modification from diet.  If you carry these genes, (a strong family history of multiple breast cancers), there is an 87% lifetime risk. Angelina Jolie was tested, and made her choices based on feedback from genetic testing.  Any woman who is concerned should be tested, and make her decisions accordingly.

Can nutrition and environment impact the expression of cancer?  We think so.  But this area isn’t understood well enough to forgo testing options that give pertinent information about general health, and the potential in some instances of  a breast cancer diagnosis.

Welcoming 2015…

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Here we are heading into another year with a “new normal” whether health challenges or commitments to new goals.  In our quest for something better, safer, and more positive there will be the inevitable disappointments, frustrations, hurts and fears. No matter what our issues are, we will all need emotional support in 2015.

We hear over and over how isolation from others won’t help us cope.  Yet, sometimes we don’t make healthy choices when asking for help.  We hear we should mobilize our support systems, and stay in touch with people who are there for us.  But what if those support systems do more harm than good?  People who love us don’t necessarily come equipped with a true ability to bring empathy.  How can we tell the difference?

Brene Brown PhD has done years of research on empathy.  She has created an excellent animated short on the difference between empathy and sympathy.  I recommend watching this short to many of my psychotherapy clients, and especially my breast cancer clients.  I suggest watching it several times to really get the message.  We need to know where to get unique support that holds us very close during the challenges of 2015.

As Brene Brown suggests:

“Rarely can a response make something better, what makes something better is connection.”

Take a moment to watch this short animation. You may have to wait a few seconds to skip the advertisement…it’s worth it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Evwgu369Jw&noredirect=1

 

 

 

 

 

Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Hispanic women.

Another poster at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium grabbed our attention.  The poster “Impact of a Culturally Syntonic Door-to-Door Breast Cancer Early Dection Intervention.”

The poster discusses the fact that black and Hispanic women are more frequently diagnosed with later stage breast cancer than white women.  And even though Hispanics are the least diagnosed group of women, they are the most likely to die of the disease.  Breast cancer is the leading cause of breast cancer deaths among Hispanic women.

The innovative methods used to reach minority women included targeting neighborhoods, focusing on eligible women, door to door intervention (discussions of screening and early detection), and mammography screening.

The study found the conclusions presented below.  Very exciting!

Our take away:  This intervention, executed in a culturally appropriate manner while reaching directly into the lives of under-served women, is another example of the power of the culturally personal message coupled with direct sensitive action.  Door-to door programs may save lives!

 

SA poster door to  door health disparity

Your Multidisciplinary Team: Making the difference between mastectomy and breast conservation.

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Relaxing between talks at the 2014 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium

The San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium provided great information and education.  One poster presented was very interesting, and also concerning in terms of treatment differences. The poster: “Multidisciplinary Breast Care is Associated with Higher Rates of Breast Conservation in Comparison with Non-multidisciplinary Care,”  originated from a recent study done at UCLA.

The study suggests that breast cancer patients seen in multidisciplinary settings at the time of initial diagnosis are significantly more likely than women seen in non-multidisciplinary settings, to undergo breast conservation (lumpectomy).  The study hypothesizes that the multidisciplinary model of breast cancer care, due to more informed decision making, may be a viable strategy to curb rising mastectomy rates in the United States.

This study is particularly relevant since mastectomy rates have been rising sine 2006. Mastectomies have increased due to complex and multiple reasons.  Some reasons for the rising mastectomy rates are genetic risk, MRI results, and choices by younger women.

Our take away is that whenever possible, go to a breast center that uses a multidisciplinary approach for treatment decisions.  Click on the links below to see this poster.

UCLA Multidisciplinary Poster SABCS figures only

UCLA Multidisciplinary Poster SABCS