What Is Breast Cancer 'Awareness' to Me?

04/27/2015 11:03 am ET | Updated Jun 27, 2015


As a two-time breast cancer survivor who is reaching a seven-year anniversary of no new cancer, I do understand that this does not mean that my cancer might not come back. But I also remember that when I was newly diagnosed with breast cancer, there was a very limited amount of information that I could find that would help me to know about what treatments were to be expected, what options I might have and/or how to know whether how I was being treated was the best course for my particular situation. As a result, the websites that I have created were established in order to provide information about the newest research, testing, findings, clinical trials, etc. that are happening in the world of cancer.

The reason for this work is twofold. First, the more information that we have that we can share with our doctors about the options that are available, the better our chances are of receiving the best course of treatment possible; and two, when we can see the work that is being done with new news on a daily basis, we are given hope for a future where breast cancer is no longer life-threatening and we are given inspiration to do everything possible in the present to deal with this disease until it no longer wields a deadly threat over our heads.

I would like to clarify that my websites are my own. Every aspect of my work is strictly a volunteer effort on my part and is supported by the technical expertise of my husband. Therefore, it does not matter to me whether the information that I am finding is the result of pharmaceutical company research, findings generated by grants to colleges and universities by other organizations, the private funding to major medical centers or any other source. The bottom line is in the information and results from this research and the breast cancer treatments that are being submitted for testing and/or have received approval to go to market.

I also have another goal in mind with regard to the work that I am doing. I am not fond of statistics being the determining factor in any action that is taken especially when it is used to determine a person's course of treatment. However, I do look at statistics in order to determine what underlying circumstances might be creating them. As an example, I was particularly interested in learning why the mortality rate from advanced breast cancer was so much higher among African-American women in my area than that of the national average. What I discovered is that one of the major underlying factors seems to be that we rely on people being aware of the choices and options and services available to them because of the expansive amount of information on the Internet. However, we fail to understand that there are many people who have no digital devices available to them, not even so much as a cell phone. Therefore, they are not aware of the help that might already exist.

In other cases, there are many who are not able to avail themselves of services that are in existence in their communities because of a whole host of reasons such as, but not limited to, no transportation to a facility or not able to take time away from work to get screened or receive follow-up care or not having the money available to keep up their households if they are not able to work and take care of their families because of treatments. This, to me, is what breast cancer awareness is really all about and if we can understand these situations and conditions, we may better be able to understand the funds that organizations are contributing to programs to help those in these situations.

It is my hope that as we expand our awareness of the scope and range of breast cancer, we will better be able to understand that the vast amounts of money being spent on early detection does not only focus on getting women to get screenings but also to provide the knowledge and accessibility to programs to aid those not currently included. It also means that we need to be aware that there is also a large number of women who have been treated who are not receiving the follow-up care and treatments and screenings that they need. Perhaps they don't have the funds to pay for chemotherapy and/or radiation because they are not insured. Perhaps they live in a rural area where a treatment center is so far away that they can't travel there to get regular treatments or don't have a means of transportation to get there. When a woman is asked to make a decision whether the money she has will be spent on rent and food for her family or for cancer treatment, you have a pretty good idea of what her choice will be.

There will always be a cry for more money to fund research and programs for every aspect of breast cancer screenings, treatments, research, etc. All you have to do is look at every non-profit organization that exists. These organizations were created to answer a specific need and/or to provide services that someone found to be lacking in their particular communities. Each of them is doing everything possible to find the funding to advance the programs that they represent in a world of what may appear to be limited resources. Perhaps as we expand our awareness of what truly needs to be done in order to eliminate advanced breast cancer from killing women we will understand that the larger issue should include those who are currently being underserved because they are not able to access the information of those programs that already exist. After all, the day may come when there is a vaccine to combat breast cancer but of what value would it be to those who don't know that such a vaccine exists.