With conversations still fresh in the air about Angelina Jolie’s decision to remove her healthy breasts as a protective measure against a high probability of cancer, Susan Love, MD, cancer survivor and author of the best-selling book on breast cancer, couldn’t have been a more apt keynote speaker at the fourth annual Stanford Women’s Health Forum yesterday. She gave a forward-looking talk titled “A Future Without Breast Cancer: Where Are We and What Can We Do."
We don’t understand the normal breast… If we’re really going to prevent breast cancer, we have to understand it
The forum was an event focused broadly on women's health issues, but breast cancer and cancer survivorship were major topics - with many of the 400 attendees also hearing from Mark Pegram, MD, director of Stanford’s breast cancer program, and Allison Kurian, MD, an assistant professor of oncology at Stanford whose research is focused on hereditary breast cancer. (Kurian, in fact, had spent much of her day Tuesday answering questions from the press about Jolie.)
Love, who told the New York Times yesterday that she wants people to understand that "we really don’t have good prevention for breast cancer," described to the audience how the state of knowledge about the breast and breast cancer is far from adequate. She said:
We don’t understand the normal breast... You’d think we’d know, but we really don’t. That’s a whole area that’s been ignored and it’s another thing we have to push people to do - to not just look at the disease. If we’re really going to prevent it, we have to understand how it works, to figure out what the early changes are. Isn’t it a shame that the only thing Angelina has to do, knowing she has the (mutant) gene, is to have a normal body part cut off - because we don’t know how to prevent breast cancer?
We’ve got awareness. We don’t have to work on that; we have to go beyond that to be part of finding the solution, to demand better research and to be part of it. I think we can be the generation that ends breast cancer.
Videos of this and other talks will be posted soon on the Stanford Center for Health Research on Women and Sex Differences in Medicine (WSDM) website.
Previously: Breast cancer advocate Susan Love to deliver keynote at Stanford Women’s Health Forum, Stanford’s Mark Pegram discusses breast cancer in the genomic age, Helping inform tough cancer-related decisions, BRCA patients use Stanford-developed online tool to better understand treatment options and A closer look at preventive breast cancer surgery