Breast Cancer Awareness: Interview with Dr. Beth Y. Karlan

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The pink party® was established by Elyse Walker in honor of her mother, Barbara Feder, who discovered her cancer when she had Stage 4 Ovarian Cancer. 

She didn’t have the benefit of the treatments available today, but thanks to pink party®, Dr. Beth Y. Karlan, MD, and the Cedars-Sinai Women’s Cancer Program at the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute have received over $6 million dollars in funding for treatment and research.

We were lucky enough to get Dr. Karlan’s perspective on how helpful and inspiring the event is:

“Since the first pink party® in 2005, we have been able to expand our research by hiring additional scientists and research staff,” she said. “We have also purchased equipment such as microscopes and biorepository freezers that have built our capacity to conduct even more research.  As a translational research program, all of our scientific effort is focused on bringing the best possible treatment and screening modalities to our patients.”

One of the goals of pink party® is to raise awareness and encourage women to seek out early detection for their own health issues.  Ignoring symptoms won’t make them go away, so make sure you are doing a self-breast exam once a month, as well as regular clinical breast exams.  Karlan also emphasizes the importance of getting a yearly mammogram starting at age 40.

“Family history is also a very important component of breast health and can help your physician assess your risk for breast cancer,” she added.  “Eating healthy, regular exercise, and drinking alcohol in moderation can all help improve your breast health.  And if you smoke, you should stop immediately to lower your risk for cancer.”

But breast cancer isn’t the only cancer that affects women. It’s also important to raise awareness for cervical and ovarian cancers. “Ovarian cancer is the most deadly, and one of the hardest for a woman to recognize as there is no screening test and many of the symptoms are vague and not always gynecologic.”

There are still steps women can take to catch ovarian cancer in its early stages, though.  “Any woman who experiences new or unusual pain in the abdomen or pelvis, a swollen or bloated abdomen, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, urinary concerns such as urgency or frequency, or a change in bowel habits.  Unexplained vaginal bleeding can be a symptom of uterine cancer.  If any of these symptoms are unusual for you and/or persist for more than 2 weeks – should see a qualified health provider immediately. “

What should you do if you know someone who has been diagnosed or treated for cancer? The best thing is to simply be there for them.  Having a strong support system, says Karlan, is just as important a part of a cancer patient’s experience.

Because the pink party® allows Dr. Karlan and her research team to look more carefully at treatment opportunities, we were curious if there were any promising concepts on the horizon.  Karlan told us, “We are on the cusp of some important improvements in cancer screening and detection that will help us diagnose gynecologic cancers earlier.  We are also at the beginning of a new era of ‘personalized medicine’ that matches care and treatment with specific cancers, improving the overall outcome of the disease.”

Want to support this great cause? You can purchase exclusive pink party® items (proceeds benefit Cedars-Sinai and their research) at Elyse Walker’s store in Pacific Palisades and online at forwardbyelysewalker.com

To show your support, take our pledge to get a breast exam!

Love yourself, love your health and get checked.

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