As you know, there are literally thousands of different cancer organizations across the country – more than 1,400 dedicated in some way to breast cancer in the U.S. alone – and more often than not we compete with each other for attention, public engagement and donor dollars.  So the notion of three of the biggest breast cancer organizations working together on a large and important project for women’s health is big news. 

As diverse as our groups are, our overarching goals are the same: to end breast cancer.  To find its causes.  To find ways to prevent it.  And to end the disease as a life-threatening illness for all women and men.  As the breast cancer movement enters its fourth decade, it’s apparent that there are areas where we can advance these goals better by working together rather than separately. 

We have two objectives in this partnership.  First, we want to encourage our supporters and all of our constituents to participate in the Health of Women breast cancer study, developed by Dr. Love in 2012 as a means of getting to the causes for, and ultimately prevention of, breast cancer.  It is precisely the kind of large-scale, long-term study we need to identify patterns common to breast cancer patients, in terms of medical history, family history, geographic location, reproductive history, ethnicity or lifestyle.  

Dr. Love is “democratizing” the research by asking everyone – male, female, old, young, breast cancer survivor or not – to commit to participating in the HOW study.  The study needs women and men who have never had breast cancer and those who have; women who have had recurrences and women who have not. They need women of all ethnicities, sexual orientations, ages, and occupations. It is only by studying a large group of diverse women and men that they will find the answers that will apply to everyone. Women who have not been diagnosed will be used as a control group for the study, which is why it’s important for us to recruit as many woman as possible, and especially breast cancer survivors.

Our second, and more immediate objective, is aimed at ultimately improving breast cancer treatment by identifying issues that breast cancer survivors are facing today. These include side effects of current treatments like lymphedema, depression, mobility issues, ‘chemo-brain,’ loss of sexual appetite, etc.