Surviving together: Breast Cancer Update attracts hundreds


Michele Ferrier with Christiana Care Breast Center talks with a quest during the Breast Cancer Update 2018 at the Rollins Center on Tuesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — The fight against breast cancer is a moving target that affects hundreds of new “survivors” who receive positive diagnoses each year.

That’s among the biggest reasons that the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition (DBCC) hosts an annual Breast Cancer Update — to get as much information out to as many people that need it, including doctors and patients.

This year’s 21st annual Breast Cancer Update, titled “Survive, Revive and Thrive,” took place at the Rollins Center at the Dover Downs Hotel on Tuesday and attracted more than 325 visitors who were seeking the latest information regarding breast cancer.

“This is an event that brings together community members, members of the medical community and breast cancer survivors,” said Beth Krallis, communications director for the DBCC. “It’s at a medical level, but anyone can understand the information.

“We have doctors ranging anywhere from oncologists to radiologists, to psychologists … just all parts of the medical spectrum.”

And since breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among females in the United States and Delaware, there is plenty of interest in what can be done to both treat and prevent it.

Panelist Kim Furtado, ND, Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine speaks about Dealing with the Side Effects of Breast Cancer treatment during the Breast Cancer Update 2018 at the Rollins Center on Tuesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“It’s definitely widely attended,” added Ms. Krallis. “It’s very successful in terms of people coming back. For many, they came last year and had a good time, so they come back and learn new things.”

This year’s free symposium featured leading medical experts and other speakers who discussed the most current topics in breast cancer diagnosis, treatment, detection and survivorship. It was co-chaired by Nanci Mayer-Mihalski and Marilyn Hyte.

The event helped identify recent trends and changes to breast cancer treatment; provided an overview of the newly released American Joint Committee on Cancer staging criteria and impact for patients; described advances in breast cancer radiation modality, options and techniques; outlined the role of a nurse navigator and identified common side effects and a holistic approach to enhance patient recovery.

Jennifer Iplenski, of Dover, said attending the annual event is something that is quite personal to her.

“I am a healthcare professional and I also have a friends’ sister who is a breast cancer survivor, so that’s my whole thing,” said Ms. Iplenski. “This is my fourth year attending this event and I get a lot of information about treatments and things like that.”

The program at Dover Downs on Tuesday was broken down into four segments and lasted from 7:45 in the morning until 2:15 in the afternoon. There were also dozens of vendors on-site promoting their services.

Dr. Kevin Fox, director of Penn’s Rena Rowan Breast Cancer Center in Philadelphia, served as the keynote speaker and discussed advances in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer in Segment I.

He also fielded questions from the audience.

“Part of [Tuesday morning’s] theme was about the advances that we have made in treating early stage breast cancer,” Dr. Fox said. “They have been small advances, but they’re small advances in a group of women most of whom do very well to begin with.

“So, we’re making good things better. The hard part for us is when is better good enough? Is it ever good enough? And that’s a good problem to have.”

Session II was a panel that discussed advances and techniques in radiation therapy, while Session III talked about the role of the nurse navigator and Session IV was a panel that discussed dealing with the side effects of breast cancer treatment.

“This year we had a panel specifically dedicated to how a nurse navigator can help you through your breast cancer journey, so we heard from the perspective of the nurses who are on the ground helping people coordinate (patients’) care,” Ms. Krallis said. “That’s something that breast cancer survivors can utilize to a greater extent and it might help them through their treatment.”

Mary McLaughlin served as the moderator during the question and answer session with Dr. Fox.

“There were a lot of very interesting questions and I was amazed at some of the complexity of the questions coming from what was essentially a ‘lay audience,’ she said. “It was a very knowledgeable group.”

Dr. Fox was equally impressed at the turnout and the depth of the questions that he received while he was standing at the podium.

“It always amazes me that this particular event draws hundreds and hundreds of people,” he said. “I know Delaware is not a large state, but the turnout for this event has consistently been robust and enthusiastic.

“You can tell from the patients’ questions that they are very well-informed and very insightful and are greatly knowledgeable when it comes to self-education about breast cancer.”

It is events such as the DBCC’s annual Breast Cancer Update that help to increase and spread that knowledge, which is so important to so many.


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