October 21, 2013 at 4:42 pm , by Amelia Harnish
In May of 1961, President John F. Kennedy stood before Congress with his ambitious plan to land a man on the moon before the end of that decade. Critics across the country balked. How could NASA possibly pull off something so incredible in such a short time? But the following year John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth. And on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin planted a flag on the moon.
Today, Fran Visco, president of National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC), says we need a similarly bold goal to end breast cancer—not in some distant future for our daughter’s daughters, but by the year 2020. “The Apollo Project looked at where technology was at the time, and simply asked, ‘How can we apply this to getting on the moon?’ NBCC is doing the same thing,” she explains.
Two Octobers ago, LHJ ran an interview with Visco (right) to mark the launch of NBCC’s deadline. (Click here to read that interview to get a primer on Visco and NBCC.) Recently, we caught up with her to chat about the progress so far.
LHJ: The last time you talked with us, NBCC had just announced its ambitious goal to end breast cancer by 2020. What’s the latest?
FV: The scientists we’re working with have made progress in identifying targets for a preventive vaccine against breast cancer, and we’re on track to be in Phase 1 clinical trials with it in three years. We’re also making progress in our work on stopping metastasis.
We’ve been able to change the conversation among the research community, which is huge. To give you an example, recently I was invited to speak to an auditorium full of clinicians and researchers at a major cancer center. When I asked the organizers why they wanted me to speak, they said the researchers talk about the deadline campaign a lot among themselves when they talk about their work. That’s exciting because no one even thought this was a possibility when we started, and now there’s enthusiasm and momentum. Instead of asking us, “How on earth are you going to end breast cancer?,” researchers and doctors are now asking us, “How can I help you end breast cancer?” That’s a big deal because the National Breast Cancer Coalition isn’t going to do this alone.
LHJ: What drove your decision to focus on those two areas—metastasis and developing a vaccine?
FV: What we want to do is move away from toxic drugs. If you were diagnosed with breast cancer today, you would be treated with drugs and possibly radiation, both of which can have life-threatening side effects. One of my dear friends, Carolina Hinestrosa, who was the executive vice president of NBCC, died in 2009 of a cancer caused by the radiation treatment she got for her breast cancer. That’s why we’re focusing on developing a safe preventive vaccine—so women don’t have to go through that in the first place.
For the most part, women do not die from a breast tumor. Metastasis is responsible for 90 percent of all breast cancer deaths. If we could stop that process, so that if you do get breast cancer you won’t die from it, that would be enormous. Most recently we put together a think tank of 17 scientists and advocates to look at the issue of tumor dormancy. Why does cancer stay dormant for months or years in some women? Can we learn how to keep it that way? I recall reading several years ago about a group of engineers who were talking about filters for blood flow to “catch” cancer cells. I have no idea if that is even possible but that is the kind of innovative thinking we want to encourage. We still lose too many women to this disease, and unfortunately, early detection is not the answer.
LHJ: Do you think the major focus on early detection has actually slowed progress?
FV: The problem is early detection can only do so much. We’ve spent way too much energy, attention and resources on early detection and it hasn’t gotten us very far. This year, an estimated 108 women will die of breast cancer every day. In 1991, just a few years after I was diagnosed, that number was 119.
The world has raised billions of dollars for breast cancer research, but the mortality rates haven’t changed very much. So it’s not that we’re not catching breast cancer early enough or that we haven’t raised enough money, it’s that we’re not focusing our efforts on the right things. That’s why we want NBCC to have an oversight role, which means we want to set priorities and oversee how the money is being spent.
LHJ: You are also lobbying Congress to pass the Accelerating the End of Breast Cancer Act. What would the bill accomplish? And we have to ask, has the current political climate in Washington gotten in the way?
FV: It is definitely slowing things down because Congress is dealing with other pressing issues, but I hope it won’t be a barrier to getting it done.
What we are trying to do with the bill is create a systematic way to leverage the investments we’ve already made in research. We’re not asking for more money, we’re asking to create an entity that can bring people together to collaborate. We have a lot of tools, technology and knowledge already, but none of this stuff is being translated into things that actually help people. That’s exactly how this is like the Apollo project. Let’s look at where the science is and figure out how to accomplish the goal, rather than just making another drug or another tool. I truly believe that now is the time to do that. Let’s take all this awareness, all this funding and work together to end breast cancer for good.
To learn more about NBCC’s work and how you can help, head to breastcancerdeadline2020.org.
October 10, 2013 at 6:15 pm , by Amelia Harnish
Back in 2004, on the same day the Democratic ticket lost the bid for the White House, Elizabeth Edwards was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had been campaigning tirelessly with her husband Sen. John Edwards, the Democratic nominee for Vice President. You’d think a lost election and a breast cancer diagnosis would slow someone down, but it wasn’t so for Elizabeth.
Over the next two years, while she was being treated and monitored for her disease, she became a tireless advocate for women’s health, published a best-selling book and started back on the campaign trail with John when he ran for President.
Her oldest daughter, Cate (right), remembers how at first, her mom thought of her cancer as something she’d have to deal with for a while but ultimately would conquer. Then in 2007, after she’d been in remission for a while, Elizabeth learned that her cancer had spread. It sunk in that she’d be living with breast cancer for the rest of her life. “It was a big change in how my whole family thought about the disease,” Cate explains.
If you’re one of the thousands of women living with advanced breast cancer, or caring for a loved one with the disease, you’re probably very familiar with the change Cate is talking about.
This year about 230,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. New treatments and greater awareness have lead to better outcomes for early stage disease. But about 30 percent of those women may have their cancer return and metastasize, which is called advanced breast cancer. These women and their families face specific challenges and a lot of uncertainty—issues that aren’t a major focus in the “bigger pink movement,” Cate says.
“I had this notion in my head of breast cancer patients falling into two categories: you either become a survivor or you become someone who ‘lost their battle,’” she says. “And that’s just not true. There are so many people living with cancer.” That’s why Cate has joined forces with the Count Us, Know Us, Join Us campaign, a new effort sponsored by Novartis Oncology to raise awareness and connect advanced breast cancer patients to resources and foster community.
Elizabeth passed away in 2010, but not before making the most of her time left. She continued on the campaign trail with John, even amid rumors of his affair. She became President Obama’s adviser on health-care issues during his first campaign, and she published another best-selling book. She and John eventually separated after one of the ugliest public breakups in history. But she remained an inspiration, writing on her Facebook page the day before she died: “I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful.”
“She didn’t know how long she had, but she recognized that none of us do,” Cate says. “By watching her go through everything, I learned how to be strong, but also gentle and supportive in times of difficulty. Her mantra was to live every day with purpose, and she exemplified that.”
To learn more about the campaign, head to advancedbreastcancercommunity.org. You’ll find resources from advocacy groups like breastcancer.org and The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, as well as info on navigating treatment and forums for connecting with other patients.
October 3, 2013 at 4:54 pm , by Bethany Cianciolo
Everyone has memories of their first love—the moment you first made eye contact with your high-school sweetheart in the hall, or when he finally leaned in for that first kiss. Remember how it made your heart race, and it felt like you might burst from excitement?
Of course you do. But you probably haven’t given much thought to how your heartbeat actually works, or how important your heart’s powerful electrical system is to the rest of your health. After all, you don’t have to ask your heart to beat. It just does it.
Here’s how it works: Your pulse starts in a node in the right atrium of your heart, causing it to contract. Then, through a pathway of fibers that acts like a wire, the pulse spreads to the bottom chambers of your heart, which prompts the left ventricle to contract and send oxygen-rich blood throughout your body, explains cardiologist Hugh Calkins, M.D., president of the Heart Rhythm Society.
It’s normal for your heartbeat to change during exercise, as you sleep or in the presence of a special someone, of course. But there are times when a change in your heartbeat can mean something’s wrong. Last week we sat down with Dr. Calkins to get the scoop on some heart-rhythm problems you should know about.
Falling For It
If you’ve ever passed out before, you know how scary it can be. Fainting happens when your heartbeat slows down too much, making it hard for blood to reach your brain. It can be triggered by intense emotions or fear (that’s why seeing blood can make you pass out), but dehydration or getting too hot can also do it. Women are much more prone to fainting than men, and it tends to run in families. While most of the time passing out is harmless, it’s important to talk to your doctor about it because it can be a sign of other serious heart troubles, says Dr. Calkins. Plus, your doctor can give you strategies to recognize when an episode is coming on so you can try to prevent it.
All Revved Up
A super-fast heartbeat that comes on suddenly (when you’re not in a Zumba class or something) can be a heart-rhythm problem called paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia or PSVT. There are different types of PSVT, but for most people it happens because they have an extra pathway for electricity to travel between the two nodes, which allows the pulse to circle back and make the heart beat faster than normal. “It’s basically a short-circuit,” says Dr. Calkins. Almost two-thirds of people with PSVT are women, and it’s often misdiagnosed as an anxiety attack at first. Sometimes exercise or bending over triggers it, but just as often your heart starts racing for no reason at all. Unless you have another heart condition, you may not need treatment, but you should see your doctor or a cardiologist for a full checkup.
Getting Mixed Signals
Atrial fibrillation is the most common heart-rhythm disorder, and one of the most serious because it increases your risk for stroke. It’s caused by faulty signaling in the nodes in your heart, which leads to an irregular and rapid heartbeat. This makes the upper chambers of your heart quiver rapidly, which can make you feel light-headed or cause shortness of breath. Risk factors include a family history of A-fib, obesity and high blood pressure. While A-fib is more common in men, your risk increases as you age. Tell your doctor about any weird changes in your heartbeat. Symptoms can come and go, but A-fib is much easier to treat with medication if you catch it early.
Image copyright Roobcio, Shutterstock
Categories: Health, Ladies' Lounge | Tags: A fib, atrial fibrillation, Dr. Hugh Calkins, exercise, fainting, featured, heart disease, heart health, Heart Rhythm Society, High Blood Pressure, PSVT, women's heart health | 1 Comment
September 26, 2013 at 1:51 pm , by Amelia Harnish
Ovarian cancer isn’t pretty. Known as the “silent killer” because of its tricky symptoms, this cancer is too often diagnosed in the advanced stages when it is hardest to treat. The numbers are heartbreaking: only 15 percent of ovarian cancers are diagnosed in the early stage when it’s most treatable, according to the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance. (The five-year survival rate is 93 percent for early stage disease, but so far there is no reliable screening test
“When my sister was diagnosed, I was shocked to learn that only a fraction of women in advanced stages of the disease survive,” says Claudia Poccia, CEO of Gurwitch Products (the parent company of the Laura Mercier brand) and co-founder of the Laura Mercier Ovarian Cancer Fund. Poccia lost her younger sister to the disease in 2011. That’s why she joined forces with Mercier to raise money for research, education and support for women with ovarian cancer. When you buy any of the three products pictured above, 100 percent of the proceeds will go toward research grants and awareness projects. You can purchase all three here.
But don’t stop there. The best thing you can do to help is learn about the subtle symptoms and spread the word:
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
- Feeling like you have to pee urgently and often
These symptoms are common and could easily be something else—so don’t freak out! But if you experience any of these for longer than two weeks or more than 12 days in the course of a month, talk to your gynecologist, especially if you have a family history. Up to 15 percent of all ovarian cancers are hereditary.
Categories: Beauty, Health, Ladies' Lounge | Tags: Bonne Mine Healthy Glow for Face & Cheeks Creme Colour Palette, Claudia Poccia, featured, Gurwitch Products, Kiss of Hope Lip Glace, Laura Mercier Matte Radiance Healthy Glow Powder & Mini Face Brush, Laura Mercier Ovarian Cancer Fund, ovarian cancer, silent killer | 1 Comment
July 31, 2013 at 5:54 pm , by Allison Pohle
I still remember the pit of dread in my stomach when I lined up to run the required timed mile for my high-school gym class. Although I was active, I never considered myself a runner, and the last thing I wanted to do was be evaluated on how fast I could struggle around the track on a muggy spring afternoon.
It took me a long time to learn that running doesn’t have to be a terrible timed experience. In fact, I’m still learning that running can be fun. Events such as The Color Run, Diva Dash and Mudathlon are convincing reluctant athletes like me that running a mile, or even the 3.1 miles that make up a 5k, is completely doable. After all, it’s much easier to forget the burn in your legs and your lungs when you’re crawling through a mud pit in a tutu or being splashed with a rainbow of powdered color.
After talking to some experts, I learned the best tips for 5k training, whether it be a traditional road race or a wacky trail filled with obstacles like a 50-foot bubble tunnel.
- Begin training at least two to three months in advance. Training for a fall race in the summer will make the autumn event easier, says David Alm, communications director of NYCRUNS. The drop in temperature will give you a boost and makes running easier than it is in oppressive summer humidity.
- Find a plan that works for you. Many new runners have had success with Couch to 5k plans and apps for their phones. These workouts will give you daily combinations of walking and running for your skill level that will help prepare you for the big race. You should also plan on exercising at the same time each day to get yourself into a routine.
- Grab a buddy (or two!). If it’s a little too humid or you aren’t feeling motivated, a running buddy will help get you up and moving. That’s why Jim Halsch, president of the Greensboro, North Carolina, Running Club, calls running partners “accountability buddies.” Your ideal partner is someone with a similar skill level and goals. He also recommends having two running partners if possible: “A dog can count as one, but a dog can’t call 9-1-1 if you’re injured.”
- Find the perfect shoes for you. There are a lot of expensive running shoes available that promise to deliver the best results. However, a new study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that for many people, ordinary sneakers work just as well as the high-tech lace-ups. Make sure they fit well and don’t rub or irritate.
- Start slow and stay consistent. It’s perfectly okay to do a combination of walking and running until you build up the stamina to run the whole stretch, Halsch says. Our bodies take time to build up connective tissue and lean muscle, so becoming a marathon (or even 5k) runner doesn’t happen overnight. Also, Alm says that before you try to run faster, you should be able to maintain a conversation at your current pace.
- Don’t overindulge. It’s easy to negate all of the hard work you’re doing with extra treats. Alm warns against thinking that you deserve an extra slice of pizza or scoop of ice cream because you got in your daily dose of sweat. “With running, we’re creating a perfectly tuned machine that will recognize that maybe you shouldn’t eat that extra waffle because you’ll feel too heavy afterwards,” he says.
- Have a blast. Get down and dirty at Mudderella or bring out your inner fighter in a Warrior Dash. These runs aren’t as intimidating as they sound because most aren’t timed and are filled with amateur athletes. In fact, 60 percent of The Color Run participants are running their first-ever 5K race. Pretty Muddy was designed specifically for women to enjoy an athletic event without feeling intimidated by male competitors. Just remember that these 5ks use more muscle groups than traditional runs, so you might be a little more sore afterward if you’re used to road races. To train for these events you might incorporate more strength training into your workouts. But then again, no one has quite perfected the art of training for a mud crawl or bubble tunnel run just yet.
Categories: Health, Ladies' Lounge | Tags: 5k, 5k training, Couch to 5k, Diva Dash, featured, Greensboro Running Club, Mudathlon, Mudderella, NYCRuns, Pretty Muddy, running shoes, The Color Run, Warrior Dash | 1 Comment
July 15, 2013 at 11:23 am , by Allison Pohle
What do I have in common with Leonardo DiCaprio? Sadly, not much. I’m not a famous Hollywood heartthrob and I’ve never been nominated for an Oscar. But Leo and I share one common interest: bicycling. In fact, we’ve both participated in New York City’s new bike share program by hopping on Citi bikes and pedaling around the Big Apple.
Leo and I aren’t the only ones. Since New York’s bike share program launched a little more than a month ago, New Yorkers have pedaled more than 1.28 million miles, which is enough to bike to the moon 5.3 times. Similar programs are catching on in other cities, too. Chicago’s bike share program launched in June, San Francisco’s program will debut in August and Portland will add a program next spring. There are currently more than 12 established bike shares nationwide.
Convenience is the main reason these programs are catching on, says Susi Wunsch, founder of the bicycling website Velojoy.com. The bikes are available year-round at all hours of the day, and customers can pay to rent a bike for a short period of time, or they can buy a weekly or monthly pass.
Although urban cycling is a healthy, eco-friendly and economical alternative to public transportation, there are some risks involved. Most accidents happen when bikers slam into a car door that someone is opening, says orthopedic surgeon James N. Gladstone, M.D., co-chief of sports medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. (A good reminder to look first before you open one!) Another is when drivers make illegal right turns from the left lane. When these accidents happen, bikers risk road burn, kneecap bruising, fractures of the collarbone and wrists—and sometimes worse injuries.
Before you test your pedaling prowess on busy streets, Susi suggests you practice on roads with less car traffic and always ride at your own pace. Once you do gear up to cycle next to traffic, be sure to follow these tips to stay safe and get the most out of your spin:
1. Ride in a straight line. It’s tempting to cheat traffic lights or cut close corners, but Gladstone warns against swerving or zig-zagging through traffic. You never know when someone in a car will suddenly change lanes without signaling or rush through a light. You should also ride in the same direction of traffic, not against it.
2. Use hand signals when changing directions. They might look a little silly, but they’re important to ensure that other cyclists and drivers know which way you’re turning. Refresh your memory on the standard hand signals here.
3. Avoid the “door zone.” Ride at least four feet away from parked vehicles or cabs to avoid car doors that open unexpectedly.
4. Don’t ride distracted. “Sure, having your earbuds in makes for a nice ride, but it’s not smart in the city streets,” Gladstone says. And, of course, don’t text and bike.
5. Ring the bell. They aren’t just for kids! Use a bell to warn other cyclists, drivers and pedestrians of your approach.
6. Get a helmet that fits. The best helmets sit level on your head about two finger-widths above your eyebrows. And only two fingers should fit beneath the chinstrap. Bike share programs don’t provide helmets, so you’ll need to bring your own.
7. Look up and look ahead. Don’t just look down! Gladstone says a lot of bikers keep their eyes on the road, but instead need to be aware of traffic lights, doors of parked cars and potholes.
8. Stay visible. Wear bright colors, or even a fluorescent neon vest if you feel so inclined. You want to be sure that everyone you share the road with can see you (even if you’re not Leonardo DiCaprio).
Categories: Health, Ladies' Lounge | Tags: bike helmets, bikes, chicago, citi bikes, city cycling, cycling, featured, leonardo dicaprio, New York City, portland, safe biking, safe biking tips, san francisco | 7 Comments
June 19, 2013 at 3:37 pm , by Allison Pohle
Each morning, when I step into the jam-packed subway car to get to my job as the newest Ladies’ Home Journal editorial intern, I learn something new by watching my fellow commuters. The woman who almost pulled out the top row of her eyelashes with her eyelash curler taught me that makeup should always be applied at home. And the aspiring opera singer busking at the 6 train entrance showed me that a screeching soprano isn’t pleasant if you’ve missed your morning coffee. But perhaps the most notable thing I’ve learned is to pack a change of shoes. The women who pair their polished pencil skirts with sneakers aren’t unfashionable. They’re smart.
After tackling escalators and uneven pavement in heels, I learned the hard way that I should follow their lead. I now know I should wear what’s comfortable and wait to change into cute summer shoes at the office, but my feet are already covered in blisters. That’s why my first assignment—to cover the 125th anniversary of first-aid kits—was not only a cool opportunity but also a fitting reminder to always have Band-Aids and other supplies handy!
While at the event, I picked up a few tips from the pros at Johnson & Johnson on how to assemble a first-aid kit. Oh, and I got to meet actress Maggie Gyllenhaal (that’s her, in white, with me), who served as a celebrity spokesmom on behalf of being prepared for emergencies.
1. Start with the essentials: Every first-aid kit should include plenty of bandages in different sizes, surgical or nonlatex gloves in case you want to protect your hands from blood, gauze pads, a thermometer, scissors, antiseptic wipes, pain-relief medication and tubes of antibiotic and hydrocortisone ointments.
2. Now personalize: Whether you’re an athlete, gardener, fashionista or mom (or even all of the above), be sure to include items that will help heal potential injuries specific to you. If you spend a lot of time in the yard gardening, for example, you might include aloe for sunburns and ibuprofen for back pain, while a strappy sandal enthusiast (like me) might throw in a friction block stick and moleskin to soothe blisters.
3. Keep allergies in mind: If a family member has seasonal allergies, keep a supply of over-the-counter meds like loratadine. For skin rashes or hives, stash some calamine lotion, hydrocortisone cream and diphenhydramine antihistamine pills.
4. Create a list of contents: It’s easy to throw health-care supplies inside a container, but labeling every item and creating an inventory will help you find the essentials when you really need them. Tape the list on the inside of the lid and keep it updated as you replenish supplies. You should also include the phone numbers of your doctor and specialists so anyone who uses the kit can reach help if needed.
5. Have more than one: Assemble one first-aid kit for the home and think about doing a smaller, portable one to take in your purse or keep in your car—especially if you have active, accident-prone kids. (Aren’t they all?) You’ll feel more confident if you’re prepared, says Gyllenhaal. “Having a bag ready and filled with supplies makes me a more chill mom when things come up.”