As the Cruise for the Cause headed from Grand Cayman to Grand Turk, 500 women joined Dr. Susan Love and Olivia Founder Judy Dlugacz to “Walk the Decks for Love” in honor of all the women who have faced a breast cancer diagnosis. Watching hundreds of women walk four laps around the decks was nothing less than awe-inspiring, and their amazing efforts raised more than $18,500 for the Foundation’s research program. Go Olivians!A few hours after the walk, breast cancer survivors and their caregivers joined Dr. Love and Dr. Lisa Weissmann, a medical oncologist specializing in breast cancer, to discuss the issues facing women diagnosed with breast cancer today. The informal conversation addressed topics ranging from treatments for women with metastatic disease and cancer markers to hormone therapy options for premenopausal women and genetic testing.The day closed with the panel presentation “Cruising for Our Cause,”where Dr. Love, Dr. Weissmann, Dr. Valerie Fein-Zachary, and Dr. Mhel Kavanaugh-Lynch explored the question: Can we prevent breast cancer?Dr. Fein-Zachary, the Director of Breast Imaging at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center discussed mammography and MRI and showed examples of the images these tests produce. She noted that while MRI and mammography have advanced our ability to detect breast cancer, they remain imperfect tools because they aren’t able to find all cancers. Furthermore, they can lead to unnecessary biopsies.Dr. Weissmann followed with a presentation about known breast cancer risk factors and ways women can reduce their risk. She noted that as women get older they often stop having mammogram because they think they don’t need them anymore. “But the women who are 70 and over are in fact the ones who need them,” she said. ” That’s because as you get older your risk for breast cancer continues to increase.”

Dr. Kavanaugh-Lynch, director of the California Breast Cancer Research Program (CBCRP), began her presentation by noting that the majority of breast cancer research is on early detection and treatment. Her program, in contrast, focuses its efforts on funding researchers that are looking at ways to better understand what causes breast cancer, and what we can do to stop it. For example, she said, CBCRP is funding a project designed to develop rapid assays that could test chemicals in a wide-range of products before they are ever put on the market to see if they might increase breast cancer risk. It is also funding researchers who are looking at links between DDT, PCBs, and breast cancer risk and exploring whether increased risk might result from exposure in childhood or even prenatally.

Dr. Love wrapped up the discussion by describing the Foundation’s innovative research program and the studies it now has underway that are helping us to learn more about the normal breast, how breast cancer develops, and new treatment strategies for DCIS. She also highlighted the work she is doing to develop a “dip-stick” or “band- aid” for the nipple that could quickly and easily assess breast fluid to determine who might be at higher risk. To make an analogy, she said, “I don’t want to find the criminals. I want to find the kids in middle school who are acting out and rehabilitate them so that they don’t go on to become criminals.” And if we can do that, said Dr. Love, we can eradicate breast cancer.

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