Women's History Month and Breast Cancer
By, Candace Bloomstrand
Every March we celebrate Women's History Month to commemorate the contributions that women have made in the United States and celebrate the specific achievements that women have made in a variety of fields over the course of history. For this #FeatureFriday, it seems only fitting that we highlight the amazing women who have made significant contributions to breast cancer research and advocacy.
You may recognize her name as being part of the Estee Lauder make-up empire, but Evelyn Lauder is also known for being a breast cancer activist, survivor and advocate. Lauder, along with SELF magazine editor Alexandra Penney, created the signature pink ribbon that we have all come to know as the international symbol of breast cancer awareness. Lauder helped establish the breast and diagnostic center at New York's Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, which is known today as the Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center. Lauder also founded the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) in 1993, and has raised millions of dollars for breast cancer research. BCRF's mission is to rid the world of breast cancer and Lauder's vision has paved the way for a future with a cure.
Diahann Carroll was an Oscar-nominated actress and singer who was best known for her pioneering role as the first African American woman to star in a non-servant role in the television series "Julia". Her worked in "Julia" earned Diahann a Golden Globe award and paved the way for African American woman to break down racial barriers in entertainment. In 1992, Diahann was diagnosed with breast cancer after a routine mammogram. From then on, Diahann committed herself to spreading breast cancer awareness, especially in minority communities. Her advocacy work involved visiting and speaking to Asian, African American and Latina women about the importance of routine mammograms and early detection. Diahann passed away in 2019, but her determination to educate women on the importance of early detection and prevention has saved countless lives.
Susan Love, MD
Dr. Love is a prominent breast cancer surgeon, advocate, and survivor who is widely regarded as one of the most revered women's health specialists in the United States. Dr. Love has been the driving force behind many major breast cancer advancements such as the use of a lumpectomy over mastectomy and the tracking and documenting of "collateral damage" in breast cancer surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. She is also the author of the Breast Book editions, which have guided women through their breast cancer journeys and are known for being the "bible for women with breast cancer." Today, Dr. Love has her own foundation called the Dr. Susan Love Foundation for Breast Cancer Research and their mission is to end breast cancer and improve the lives of people impacted by it now through education and advocacy.
Robin Roberts is the co-anchor for ABC's Good Morning America and a breast cancer survivor. In 2007, while covering a news story about early cancer detection, Roberts felt compelled to perform her own breast self-exam and discovered a lump. The lump turned out to be early-stage breast cancer and Roberts underwent chemotherapy, surgery and radiation therapy. Now, Roberts inspires women everywhere with her slogan, "Make your Mess Your Message", a phrase she hopes will encourage women to find the meaning behind what they are going through.
Mary-Claire King, PhD
Mary-Claire King is an American geneticist who discovered the BRCA1 gene in 1990. This was a critical discovery because it showed that breast cancer is genetically inherited in some families and that a specific gene mutation could be attributed to breast cancer. Through her work, Dr. King has advanced the study of breast cancer genomics and offered a deeper understanding for why some women are at a higher risk for developing breast or ovarian cancer. Because of Dr. King and her work, high-risk patients can be screened and monitored early on, giving patients and their families peace of mind knowing that their situation is being managed proactively.
Breast cancer does not discriminate. It can affect any woman regardless of age, with the risk increasing as you grow older. In Singapore, it is the most common cancer among women, and more than 25 per cent of all cancers diagnosed in women are breast cancer.
We are paying homage to nine celebrities who have fought the disease and the efforts they made to raise awareness about breast cancer. Join us in applauding these inspiring women for overcoming the odds and speaking out for the cause.
It's harrowing to battle a disease and doing it in the public eye can be even more intense. But as these celebrity cancer survivors prove, opening up about battling health conditions can help destigmatize them. For these cancer survivors, talking about their experiences with cancer have helped create a conversation and build a network of support.
In the United States, the rate of breast cancer in Hispanic/Latina women is lower than in non-Hispanic white women. (The incidence is even less in Hispanic/Latina women who were not born in the country.) But those statistics can be deceiving. Not only is breast cancer the leading cause of cancer deaths in Hispanic/Latina women living in the U.S., as it is for all women in America, but the disease tends to affect these women at a younger age and is more aggressive in them than in many other populations.
One in eight women will develop breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society, so its not surprising when a celebrity-or someone you love-shares a breast cancer diagnosis. Thirty percent of early-stage breast cancer patients will eventually see this disease return as metastatic (or stage IV) cancer, meaning the disease has spread to other organs--and that stat stands in Hollywood, as well.