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Maine Breast Cancer Coalition
Summer 2015 Newsletter
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Breast Cancer Deadline 2020:
A Political & Personal Imperative


by Bethany Zell, Maine Breast Cancer Coalition President

Editor's note: Three days after this article was written, Sarah Merchant died of breast cancer at the age of 34.

In May of 2012, I attended the first of my annual Advocate Leadership Summits for the National Breast Cancer Coalition in Washington, DC. Every year, as I attend the Summit, I am reminded of the tireless work of advocates around the globe … advocates just like my friend, Sarah Merchant, whom I had the honor of meeting at that very first Summit event. In 2010, at the age of 28, Sarah was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. As I sit and write this, my friend Sarah is fighting for her life in the care of hospice. 
 
I have met thousands of people who have a breast cancer diagnosis since I began my work with breast cancer in 2011. Although she isn’t the only person that I have met through the years with metastatic breast cancer, Sarah will soon be the very first friend that I have lost to this disease. Each year at the annual Summit, every meeting and session throughout the four-day event begins with a moment of silence to celebrate those NBCC advocates who have passed away since the previous year’s Summit - those who have lost their fight with this horrific disease. My heart breaks as I think about the fact that the next time I see Sarah’s face, it will be - barring some divine intervention - in a moment of silence at next year’s National Breast Cancer Coalition Summit. 
 
At the 2015 Advocate Leadership Summit in May, the NBCC paid tribute for the first time to a man, Peter Devereaux – an NBCC advocate and one of 73 men who had been stationed at Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base in North Carolina and ended up with a diagnosis of male breast cancer. Every year, these many moments of silence beg the question: When will it end?
 
I joined two other advocates from Maine, activists, survivors, researchers, policy makers, academics, industry stakeholders, grassroots fundraisers, and local and national organizations from around the world to discuss just that … the end of breast cancer as laid out by the National Breast Cancer Coalition’s Breast Cancer Deadline 2020 campaign, which was launched in 2010. Fran Visco, NBCC President, shared a keynote address on the midpoint of Breast Cancer Deadline 2020. Attendees had the privilege of joining renowned breast cancer specialists like Dr. Susan Love, Dr. Aled Edwards, and Dr. H. Kim Lyerly for small group discussions. Participants heard from the architect of the cervical cancer vaccine, Dr. John Schiller, and learned the story behind the development of the Ebola vaccine from Dr. Barney Graham. Advanced seminars offered in-depth introductions to a number of scientific topics, including reproducing research results, evaluating animal models, and the latest in DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) research. While at the Summit, we brainstormed about ways to become disruptive innovators for social change with Nadine Bloch, contributor to the book 'Beautiful Trouble' and longtime social activist. The training Summit was an invaluable resource that encouraged and equipped us to return to our local communities to share the knowledge gained, our renewed passion for this cause and the urgency of the looming Breast Cancer Deadline 2020. 
 
Before returning home, the three of us from Maine had the honor of meeting with Maine’s congressional leaders during the National Breast Cancer Coalition’s annual Lobby Day event held on the final day of the Summit, May 5. On Lobby Day, we met with staff from Representative Bruce Poliquin’s office to introduce the freshman Congressman to the National Breast Cancer Coalition and Breast Cancer Deadline 2020. Later in the day, we met with Senator Susan Collins and presented her with an award on behalf of the National Breast Cancer Coalition (see photo). Senator Collins has always taken a leading role in helping pave the way for funding of the Department of Defense’s Breast Cancer Research Program. She has also consistently been a lead co-sponsor of the National Breast Cancer Coalition’s legislative piece, the Accelerating the End of Breast Cancer Act. The award that we presented to her was in thankful recognition of her continued support of our work. 
 
Following our Lobby Day meeting with Senator Angus King (see photo), he also signed onto the Accelerating the End of Breast Cancer Act. Although we didn’t have the opportunity to visit Representative Chellie Pingree’s office on Lobby Day, Congresswoman Pingree has always been an avid supporter of the work of the National Breast Cancer Coalition. She had already signed on to the Accelerating the End of Breast Cancer Act and given a public official endorsement of the Breast Cancer Deadline 2020 prior to our visit to Washington, DC.   
 
These victories on Lobby Day do not mean that our work is done. There is still much to do in our mission to end breast cancer once and for all. Unfortunately, for my friend Sarah, 2020 will be far too late. The advocates who descend upon DC each year don’t do this for THEIR breast cancer. They do it for the children and the generations that will follow. The global fight is not over, even though Sarah’s personal fight will be soon. We will continue to press on and successfully meet the Deadline head on … for Peter, for Sarah and for all of the other advocates who are now unable to continue in battle with us. Breast cancer is going down. We will see that it does. Will you join us in our fight? Visit www.breastcancerdeadline2020.org or email bzell@carymed.org to find out how you can get involved.














Presentation of award on behalf of National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC) to Senator Susan Collins for her long-term support of NBCC's breast cancer legislative priorities. Left to right: Nancy Greene; Bethany Zell, MBCC president; Senator Collins; Laurel Bezanson, MBCC advocacy chair.












Meeting with Senator King to discuss the Accelerating the End of Breast Cancer Act (which Senator King signed onto following the meeting) and the Department of Defense’s Breast Cancer Research Program. 
   Meet the Volunteer

"It just seemed like a natural thing to do ... to volunteer. I had other volunteer experiences in the past, and believe volunteers bring about positive results."

Rosemarie (Ro) LeGasse'

MBCC Support Service Fund program assistant and long-term volunteer


Ro LeGasse' has been been volunteering with our organization for sixteen years. For the last five years, she has also been our part-time Support Service Fund program assistant, but still devotes much volunteer time to MBCC. The word "dedicated" comes to mind when thinking about Ro's work with MBCC.

Describe how you got started with MBCC.
I worked for the Caring Connections program at the Bangor Y, and also knew a woman who helped develop MBCC. It just seemed like a natural thing to do … to volunteer. I had other volunteer experiences in the past, and believe volunteers bring about positive results. It is a program dedicated to making a positive difference in the health of Mainers.

Why do you choose to volunteer your time with this organization?
Through my part-time position as Program Assistant with the Support Service Fund (SSF), I still donate volunteer time to MBCC. The SSF is the program of MBCC that financially assists people in Maine with breast health and breast cancer needs. MBCC is a down-to-earth program with minimal overhead and few hoops for applicants to negotiate that is operated mainly by volunteers. Most nonprofits would not be viable without volunteers ... think about it!

What tasks do you typically do for MBCC?
I manage the office for MBCC and process the SSF applications for the review committee. This gives me the opportunity to speak with many health care providers, social workers/patient navigators, and others who have goals and interests similar to those of MBCC. I talk with many women who are just diagnosed, are still in shock, and may not know which way to turn. Sometimes I am just on that phone line to listen, and at other times I help a prospective applicant determine what needs/concerns are most important to her currently.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
Though I find that spare time is almost nonexistent, I enjoy gardening, reading, walking, and gym time for weight-lifting. I treasure taking roads I have not experienced before in my life’s journey, both real roads and also the symbolic. I enjoy cooking and eating well-prepared, nutritious food, and I like occasional time with friends, and sharing some of my concoctions. Scrabble is my game of choice, and Words with Friends is a fun pastime that I can enjoy at any time.

Tell about an unforgettable experience you had as an MBCC volunteer.
I think the first time I heard a woman say that her breast cancer diagnosis changed her life in a positive way startled me, and when she went on to say that the entire experience made her a better person, I was enthralled. She said it quickly taught her that “life is short”, and she hoped to live the rest of her life remembering each day could be her last. WOW! That’s pretty powerful. Now if we could all get that message and hold it dear without having to face our mortality the hard way. What a life it would be.

Maine Breast Cancer Coalition is a volunteer-based organization. With the exception of the one volunteer who  also serves as our part-time Support Service Fund program assistant, we are all volunteers.

For information about becoming a Maine Breast Cancer Coalition volunteer, contact us at: info@mainebreastcancer.org or 207-945-0008
Research News from the Silent Spring Institute
A New Approach to Identify Chemicals that Raise Risk of Breast Cancer
 
June 2, 2015 Press Release by the Center for Occupational and Environmental Health and the Silent Spring Institute

Current safety tests miss important biological activity.

A study published today in Environmental Health Perspectives outlines a new method for assessing how synthetic chemicals and pollutants may contribute to breast cancer risk. In addition to developing the chemical testing approach, the authors identify two critical needs: the need for new chemical safety testing methods, and the need to screen more chemicals.

Inherited genes only explain about a quarter of a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. Exposure to synthetic chemicals and pollutants in air, water, food, workplaces, and consumer products may account for a significant portion of breast cancer risk.

Over 34 million tons of synthetic chemicals are produced or imported into the U.S. every year, and hundreds of these chemicals are commonly found in women’s blood, urine, and breast tissue. While most have not been tested for their carcinogenic potential, among those that have, hundreds increase mammary tumors in laboratory animals. Animal tests, however, are both time- and resource-intensive, and they rarely evaluate the effects of chemical exposure during early life or prenatal development. To address these issues, a panel of experts developed a new method of identifying chemicals that may increase breast cancer risk. The results of their work were published today (link is external).


The scientists reached three important conclusions: first, both genotoxicity (a chemical’s ability to damage genetic information in a cell) and endocrine disruption (interfering with normal hormonal activity) are significant contributors to breast cancer potential, so any comprehensive chemical assessment must evaluate both categories of biological mechanisms. Second, while useful test methods exist for evaluating chemicals’ genotoxicity and estrogen-like activity, there are insufficient methods for testing chemical effects on other biological processes relevant to breast cancer, including progesterone activity. Finally, they found large gaps in available test data even for chemicals generally thought of as well-tested.

“The basic question is, what would you need to know about a chemical to be able to say with confidence that it doesn't raise the risk of breast cancer?” said Megan Schwarzman, a physician and environmental health researcher at UC Berkeley and the lead author of the study.

The panel of scientists first identified biological processes that, when disturbed, could increase breast cancer risk. They then determined what tests exist to assess whether chemicals interfere with those vulnerable biological processes. “These are pretty complex chains of causation,” Schwarzman said, “so we tried to build a hazard assessment approach to recognize that complexity.”

The panel concluded that new test methods are needed to effectively evaluate chemical risks. “Developing rapid, inexpensive chemical tests to fill the gaps identified in this study will make it easier for manufacturers to choose safer chemicals for consumer products,” said Ruthann Rudel, a toxicologist at Silent Spring Institute and a co-author of the study.

“There are so many places we can use this information today – regulators can consider requiring these recommended tests now; manufacturers can choose to use chemicals that pass these tests; and consumers can request that their suppliers use products that have undergone these tests. Meanwhile, we are funding research to fill the gaps that were identified.” said Mhel Kavanaugh-Lynch, director of the California Breast Cancer Research Program, which funded this study.

“That's one of the reasons it's been such a great project,” Schwarzman says of the study and CBCRP’s response. “We're actively trying to use the results to change how chemicals are tested and the decisions that are made in public policy. We see the potential for chemical testing to contribute to breast cancer prevention efforts.”

Beyond contributing to the identification of breast carcinogens, the authors hope that the methods they developed can be applied to other diseases, such as other cancers or neurological disorders that may be affected by chemical exposure.

CONTACT: Sarah Yang (UCB) scyang@berkeley.edu 510-643-7741
Amelia Jarvinen (Silent Spring) jarvinen@silentspring.org 617-332-4288 x226


Study information:

Schwarzman MR, Ackerman JM, Dairkee SH, Fenton SE, Johnson D, Navarro KM, Osborne G, Rudel RA, Solomon GM, Zeise L, Janssen S. 2015. Screening for chemical contributions to   breast cancer risk:  A case study for chemical safety evaluation. Environmental Health Perspectives. DOI: 10.1289/ehp.1408337

http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1408337 (link is external)

Related educational materials and resources available at: http://coeh.berkeley.edu/greenchemistry/cbcrp.htm (link is external)

Support Service Fund Update

The Maine Breast Cancer Coalition's Support Service Fund provides financial assistance for breast health or breast cancer related needs to qualified Maine residents. This includes temporary living expense support for people in breast cancer treatment. The Fund assists low-income, uninsured, or underinsured people, including those newly diagnosed with breast cancer, who don’t qualify for, or whose particular needs aren’t covered by other assistance programs.

Number of applications so far in 2015: 202, from all Maine counties

What Support Service Fund recipients say about the program :


"Finding a check in the mail for travel expenses brought tears to my eyes. I will be forever grateful for the kindness and goodwill the Support Service Fund provides. There is not enough room to write here my gratitude." (reference to the "comments" section of the evaluation postcard)

"Thank you so much for this assistance! Your support allowed me to recover from surgery without being stressed about food and heating bills. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!" 

How can you help? The Support Service Fund is only partially supported by major grants and the Maine Specialty Breast Cancer License Plate Program, so we rely on contributions from individuals or local groups or businesses.

To make a donation to the Support Service Fund or find out about holding a fundraising event, click here.

Breast Cancer and Breast Health Resources

The Maine Breast Cancer Coalition's Resources page on our website provides links and/or contact information for Maine-based and national breast cancer and breast health resources. Information about Maine-based transportation programs for those in breast cancer treatment is also included.
Maine CDC Breast and Cervical Health Program:
An Important Resource for Maine Women

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) seeks to create greater access to health care by getting more people covered by insurance. For women who have purchased coverage on the Marketplace or other privately purchased plans, but continue to be burdened by premiums, deductibles and co-pays that prevent them from receiving breast cancer screening services, the Maine CDC Breast and Cervical Health Program (MBCHP) can be a valuable resource for women needing breast and/or cervical cancer screening and follow-up services.

Program eligibility for MBCHP:
  • Women age 40 to 64, with the following exceptions:
  • Women 35-39 who have seen a doctor and need follow-up tests for a possible breast or cervical cancer;
  • Women 35-39 who have not had a Pap test in 5 or more years.
  • Maine resident (or New Hampshire resident located within 15 miles of the Maine state border), and;
  • Household income less than or equal to 250% of the current Federal Poverty Level (FPL), and;
  • Have no health insurance, or health insurance with high co-pays, deductibles or premiums;
  • Women receiving MaineCare or Medicare Part B are not eligible for MBCHP.
MBCHP enrollment is conducted over the phone in minutes: call 1-800-350-5180, Press 1
 
Important information for healthcare professionals:
Maine’s primary care providers are encouraged to continue referring women to MBCHP for screening and follow-up services for abnormal screening results. It is important to remember that even with the changes in health insurance laws and coverage, MBCHP is available to assist eligible women to gain access to needed breast and/or cervical cancer screening and follow-up services. Timely follow-up to abnormal screening results is critical to the early detection and treatment of cancer and pre-cancerous lesions.
 
Uninsured women diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer or undergoing treatment for breast or cervical cancer may qualify for MaineCare [Maine Medicaid Program] under the Maine Treatment Act. Call the MBCHP Case Manager/Patient Navigator to determine if your patient qualifies for treatment coverage [1-800-350-5180, Press 1 and ask for the Case Manager].  


Help Drive Breast Cancer Out of Business!
 
Put a Maine Breast Cancer License Plate on your car or truck and help support breast cancer education, research, and patient care. All proceeds stay in Maine --- 100%.
 
The proceeds from the plate are split equally between three organizations: 

Maine Breast Cancer Coalition for our Support Service Fund 
Maine Cancer Foundation for their Women’s Cancer Fund
Maine Breast and Cervical Health Program for their Mammogram Fund

The plates can be purchased at any Bureau of Motor Vehicles location, at most town offices, or online at
http://www.maine.gov/sos/bmv/registration.
How you Can Support MBCC's Work

Join Us!

Annual memberships are available at various levels for both individuals and businesses. Click here to join us online.

... or please consider a donation of any amount to the Maine Breast Cancer Coalition. You can donate online and make a secure donation using your credit card or PayPal account.

... or hold a fundraiser: If your community group, business, or organization would like to dedicate all or part of the proceeds from a fundraising effort to the Maine Breast Cancer Coalition, please see the "or you can hold a fundraising event or initiative" section of our Donate page to register your fundraiser. Download our Fundraiser Guide here. Or, you may contact us at 
207-945-0008 or info@mainebreastcancer.org.
We would like to express our appreciation to the following groups, organizations, or businesses that held or supported recent fundraising events to benefit MBCC:
Brighton Collectibles
Brunswick Professional Firefighters
Connectivity Point
Hebron Academy
Fraternal Order of Eagles
Messalonskee Trail Riders
York Hospital Breast Cancer Walk
We are grateful for donations from:
 
Steve Crowley & Bine Koopmann
Sean Gonzalez
Gregory Letellier
Kathy Sites
Lacey Tardiff
Rita West

In memory of Susan Phillips:
Nancy Scott
In memory of Pamela Poulin Bryant:
Fred Biermann
Donna Bunker
Theordore & Mariette Dionne
Lisa Higgins
Richard Hodges, Inc.
Marcia Mathieu
Northeast Occupational

The Maine Breast Cancer Coalition's Mission:

The Maine Breast Cancer Coalition is a volunteer-based, non-profit organization dedicated to making a positive difference in the health of Maine people through:

  • Financial support for underserved people with breast health or breast cancer needs
     
  • Advocacy for breast cancer research and legislation
     
  • Education to promote knowledge about breast cancer and quality care
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