New developments in fight against breast cancer discussed at Dover forum

Dr. Maria Theodoulou, MD was the keynote speaker at Wednesday's 18th annual Breast Cancer Update held at Dover Downs Hotel and Casino

Dr. Maria Theodoulou, MD was the keynote speaker at Wednesday’s 18th annual Breast Cancer Update held at Dover Downs Hotel and Casino (Delaware State News photos by Dave Chambers)

DOVER — The Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition (DBCC) held its biggest Annual Breast Cancer Update Wednesday at Dover Downs with more than 430 attendees.

“This year is really exciting, not just for the turnout but because we have a lot of experts, not just from Delaware but all over the area,” said Beth Krallis, communications director for the DBCC.

Panelist Dr. Diana Dickson-Witmer, medical director of the Breast Center at the Christiana Care Helen Graham Cancer Center, said information provided at the update is valuable for everyone.

Breast cancer survivor Suzanne Murphy of Milford discusses her diagnosis and treatment during Wednesday's event.

Breast cancer survivor Suzanne Murphy of Milford discusses her diagnosis and treatment during Wednesday’s event.

“We can share research and show that there is help,” she said, “and things are getting better because of new developments that are allowing us to use less invasive methods to achieve the same results with similar success rates.”

“I think events like this are particularly important because it gives us clinicians and researchers the opportunity to speak with one voice and provide the message that we do have some control over our risks of breast cancer,” she added.

Factors that can reduce the risk of breast cancer include increased physical activity, a healthy diet and cessation of tobacco product use.

“Of course, there are many factors outside our control but we need to take responsibility for those things we can control and can change,” she said.

Jennifer Denham of Greenville was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 40 while living in Washington, D.C. She couldn’t find support services to suit her needs.

“The breast cancer journey definitely isn’t a one-size-fits-all-experience,” she said. “I was surprised that in a city like D.C. that I couldn’t find anything like the peer mentoring that the DBCC offers where you get paired with someone who went through a similar experience.”

Ms. Denham, now an eight-year survivor, was getting information for her own use at the update and also taking notes to share with the women she now mentors who were unable to attend.

Amanda Perdue, of Magnolia, was diagnosed when she was 30. She is now an 18-month survivor.

“The peer mentoring really makes such a difference, especially since I was diagnosed young. I was able to be paired with someone who had a similar experience rather than someone way older than me,” she said.

Ms. Perdue frequently attends DBCC social events but was asked to speak about her participation in Nurture with Nature, a program that gets patients and survivors outdoors and involved in activities.

“I would suggest for anyone touched by breast cancer to get involved in what the DBCC has to offer,” she said. “All the events and social gatherings really benefit everyone involved.”

Suzanne Murphy, of Milford, was diagnosed in the very early stages of breast cancer in August 2011. It was still early enough to surgically remove the tumor and perform targeted radiation.

“I’m a 3½-year survivor now and I was put in touch with the DBCC the day I was diagnosed and have been to every update since,” she said. “It’s a nice opportunity to get dressed up, meet some new people and others you haven’t seen in a while. You can come here to learn but also have a good interesting day, too.”

After 34 years in breast cancer research, Dr. Dickson-Witmer said the experience is valuable not only for the attendees but for the researchers and clinicians.

“At an event like this, we get to hear about different experiences and the questions and concerns patients and survivors come with so it gives us an improved perspective on what they want and need.”

A group of breast cancer survivors were pretty in pink as they enjoy Wednesday's Breast Cancer Update.

A group of breast cancer survivors were pretty in pink as they enjoy Wednesday’s Breast Cancer Update.

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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