I want Breast Cancer Research and Treatment Improvements for Christmas

PJ Hamel Health Guide
  • With the countdown to Christmas in full swing, I figured it was time to get my holiday wish list together. Admittedly, this will be a tough year for retailers; none of us feels quite comfortable spending money on gifts, considering the state of the world economy.

    Then again, I never have been much of a shopper. I prefer to make kitchen gifts for my friends, because I’ve yet to hear anyone say “It doesn’t fit” or “Where can I return it?” about a plate of peppermint brownies.

    Beyond cookies, there are a number of gifts I’d like to find under the tree this year, things that would make the breast cancer experience better for women everywhere. The following list is for you, Santa: how about it?

    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:

    1) Painless mammograms: Come on, don’t tell me they can’t figure out a less painful way to X-ray breasts. If men had to have their most sensitive parts flattened between two hard plates in an unforgiving machine every year, some ultra-tech solution absolutely would have been developed by now, right?

    2) An end to “drive-through mastectomies.” Oh, wait—already got that, thanks. Well…maybe. On September 25 of this year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the bipartisan Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act. This legislation will prohibit the long-decried insurance company practice of refusing to cover an overnight hospital stay for mastectomy surgery, thereby forcing sick, groggy, bleeding women to go home and suffer without medical care. One problem: the bill still must win approval in the Senate, which is preoccupied with other pressing matters at the moment. So drive-though mastectomies continue… how about it, Santa Senate, maybe by Christmas?

    3) No more ridiculously over-packaged pills. AstraZeneca: stand up! Your packaging for Arimidex has gone from a user friendly bottle…



    …to a triple-sealed…



    …difficult to understand…



    …impossible to open impediment to pill-taking.



    Hey, give a poor cancer survivor a break! Do you REALLY think this new package is going to improve women’s compliance with the daily regimen, which is the reason you ditched the simple screw-top bottle? Puh-leeze!

    4) More comfortable breast expanders. Now, I didn’t go the expander route when I had my reconstruction; I opted for a tram-flap. But I’ve heard and read from many ladies that those silicone expanders in your chest shift around, bunch up, make it hard to sleep on your stomach, and can be mighty difficult to put up with, while you wait to have your implants. File under “technological improvement needed.”

    5) An Obama administration that comes through on breast cancer-friendly initiatives put forth during the campaign. Prevention being the best medicine, let’s start with accessible mammograms for all. President-elect Obama has strongly supported the Medicaid Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program Reauthorization Act of 2007, designed to increase access to (and improve the quality of) breast and cervical cancer screening, with its particular target low-income, uninsured, or underinsured women. Women who qualify have access to mammograms, clinical breast exams, further diagnostic screening when there’s suspected cancer, surgical consultations, and referral to treatment—all free of charge. There’s no way this legislation will be passed by Christmas, but how about getting it done sometime in 2009, President Obama?

  • 6) ChemoRogaine. I tell you, it can be a LONG haul waiting for your hair to grow back after chemo…

    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:


    It took me 7 months to grow my hair this long after chemo!


    Wouldn’t it be nice to speed things up with the female equivalent of Rogaine, that stuff that supposedly makes hair grow on bald men’s scalps? For the record, there actually IS Rogaine for Women… but only for women who lose their hair in a certain way. According to Rogaine’s Web site, “If your hair loss is sudden or patchy… it’s important to talk to your doctor or dermatologist. While Women’s ROGAINE® may not be right for you, your healthcare professional may offer other options such as hair transplantation, wigs, or hair weaves.” Wigs? Been there, done that…

    7) Some expert agreement about lymphedema. Is it OK to lift heavy bags with your affected arm, or not? How about weightlifting—many reps with lighter weights, or fewer with heavier… or none of the above? Do you need to wear a sleeve when flying, or is that an old wives’ tale? And how about hot tubs—yes, or no? Hello—does anyone out there have definitive answers, or is lymphedema destined to be a permanently moving target?

    8) A better biopsy. The current needle and needle-core biopsies are fine for those of us who just have them once or twice, and that’s the end of it (because we no longer have a breast to biopsy, ha ha). But for women with dense and/or fibrocystic breasts, multiple incisional and excisional biopsies removing suspect lumps result in a breast that begins to look like a public golf course on Sunday afternoon: nothing but divots. Let’s find some way other than gradual destruction to deal with fibrocystic breast changes, OK?

    9) Much-needed education around breast cancer for all high school girls. The Biden Breast Health Initiative, founded in 1993 by Vice President-elect Joe Biden’s wife, Jill, is a not-for-profit organization designed “to empower young women through awareness and education to assume responsibility for their overall well-being with a strong emphasis on breast health.”

    The program teaches high school women about breast health; how/when/why to do breast self-exams (BSE); and how to make healthy lifestyle choices, pointing out the importance of each in a commitment to a healthy future.

    Considering the number of under-20 women who visit this site asking questions about breast cancer symptoms, this is a program that should be rolled out nationally—the sooner, the better.

    10) The Cure. My top wish always—first, last, and forever. Wouldn’t it be super if 2009 were to go down in history as The Year of the Cure?

Published On: November 10, 2008