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Studies Seeks Young, Same-Sex Breast Cancer Survivors to address Quality of Life Issues

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Four new studies aimed at improving the quality of life for women breast cancer survivors are currently seeking participants in the United States and Canada.

Each study's goal is to promote a greater understanding of unmet needs in two underserved populations — young breast cancer survivors, and lesbian and bisexual breast cancer survivors — and will serve as catalysts to design programs and services to address quality of lifestyle issues and to reduce health disparities.

Dr. Patricia Ganz, director of cancer prevention and control research at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, is conducting a leading-edge program that seeks to enhance outcomes for Los Angeles County young breast cancer survivors, ages 20-45.

The three-year study will focus on developing resources and strategies to improve life after breast cancer for young women by better meeting their needs during and after treatment. The program will ultimately serve as a model for other organizations across the country.

This young breast cancer survivor study is funded by a $700,000 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant and is being conducted in collaboration with the Jonsson Cancer Center, the UCLA-LIVESTRONG Survivorship Center of Excellence and the Simms/Mann – UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology.

Services will be offered to study participants through the UCLA Health System and with collaborators at Torrance Memorial Medical Center and the South Bay Cancer Survivorship Consortium, as well as the Olive View-UCLA Medical Center, a public hospital in northern Los Angeles County which treats mostly minority women who are underinsured or who have no insurance.

In a second study, Dr. Ganz has also received a grant from the Susan G. Komen Foundation to test the practice of mindful awareness, a form of meditation, as a way to combat stress and anxiety in younger breast cancer patients.

Dr. Ganz believes reducing anxiety is critical for young breast cancer survivors. Pre-clinical studies have shown that stress can promote cancer growth and spread in animal models. In this study, published in 2010 in Cancer Research,chronic stress acted as a sort of fertilizer that fed breast cancer progression, significantly accelerating the spread of disease.

A third study, dubbed B-43, is comparing the affects of adding the drug Herceptin (traztuzumab) to breast radiation therapy for HER2-positive Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS). This study is seeking women from the United States and Canada to participate.

In a review of 28 previous published studies that focused on overall quality of life, Dr. Ganz found mental issues faced by younger breast cancer survivors were more serious than the physical impacts compared to a general age-matched population of women who didn’t have cancer, and those more than 50 years old who did. The review is published in the Jan. 23, 2012 online edition of the peer-reviewed Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Younger breast cancer survivors also face different challenges than their older counterparts, she said, from severe psychological distress, to infertility, premature menopause, and a decrease in physical activity and weight gain.

A fourth study, conducted by Dr. Ulrike Boehmer, PhD, at the Boston University School of Public Health in collaboration with Brown University, seeks to develop culturally appropriate programs for lesbian and bisexual women who have metastatic disease, recurrent disease, or an additional invasive cancer diagnosis, or are currently undergoing cancer treatment. The Love/Avon Army of Women, a program of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, is helping to recruit participants for this study.

Research shows breast cancer diagnosis can have far-reaching social and emotional effects on women, but how a diagnosis impacts the well-being and quality of life of lesbian and bisexual women is far less understood.

Historically, the medical community has historically underserved the same sex population. “Little research has been done to assess their health and well being as women with breast cancer,” Dr. Boehmer says.

Study participants in the Health Needs of Breast Cancer Survivors Study will be U.S. women who self-identify as lesbian, bisexual, or as a women who partner with women and were diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lives. Participants will be asked survey questions including health, medical history, demographics, and sexual orientation. They will be asked to help researchers identify unique needs and develop culturally appropriate programs for this population.

For more information or to participate in the Army of Women study, call (866) 569-0388, extension 27, or email [email protected].

More information on UCLA programs for young breast cancer survivors is available at www.cancer.ucla.edu/survivorshipcenter or their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/YBCSprogram.

For more information about B-43 or the mindfulness studies, contact Barbara Kahn at (310) 825-2520.

An overview of these and many other current breast cancer studies are available at http://researchers.armyofwomen.org/projects_coming_soon

Lynette Summerill, an award-winning writer and scuba enthusiast lives in San Diego, CA with her husband and two beach loving dogs. In addition to writing about cancer-related issues for EmpowHER, her work has been seen in newspapers and magazines around the world.


UCLA Media Release (Kim Irwin) and interview with Patricia Ganz, 25 January, 2012

Quality of Life, Fertility Concerns, and Behavioral Health Outcomes in Younger Breast Cancer Survivors: A Systematic Review. Jessica Howard-Anderson, Patricia A. Ganz, Julienne E. Bower, and Annette L. StantonJNCI J Natl Cancer Inst (2011) 103 (3): 196-199. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djq542 First published online: 23 January 25, 2012 at

Health Needs of Beast Cancer Study overview, Jenna Johnson. 24 January 2012. Access online at: http://researchers.armyofwomen.org/projects_coming_soon

Reviewed January 26, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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