#BrightNews: Mammograms – What the latest findings mean for YOU

At Bright Pink we believe that Being in The Know is Always in Style. Knowledge can play a powerful role in affecting our health behaviors, so we thought it would be Bright to help explain the recent coverage and implications for our Bright Pink community.

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine examined national data on mammograms from 1976 to 2008. The study found that during this time, twice as many cases of early-stage breast cancer were caught — but they estimate that 31% of those cancers were slow-growing and might never have made the woman sick. They therefore claim that Breast cancer was “overdiagnosed” in 1.3 million women over the past 30 years — 70,000 women in 2008 alone, according to the study.

The study has created some controversy. The American College of Radiology recently issued a statement saying the report was “deeply flawed and misleading.” The study’s thesis “depends on their suggestion that the incidence of breast cancer is much higher than would have been expected had screening not been initiated”

Dr. Carol Lee, a breast-imaging specialist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City who sits on the communications committee of the American College of Radiology, continues that the author of the study has a pre-existing bias. He is also the author of a pop-culture book called Overdiagnosed: Making People Sick in the Pursuit of Health.   But she also points out that some experts in the breast-imaging community have a pre-existing bias toward over testing.  Lee says, “The truth probably lies somewhere in between.”

Some experts believe that mammography screening could be done less frequently in women at lower risk of breast cancer, specifically those who have no family history or genetic predisposition to cancer.

So while the verdict may still be out regarding the best screening test and frequency of testing for low-risk women, if you are at a moderate to high risk, there is no question that mammogram is the best tool available to diagnose breast cancer early and potentially save lives. 

To help you determine if you should receive a mammogram, refer to the guidelines from the American Cancer Society. 

Please note that in response to this study Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, said that the findings “must be viewed with caution” and that the society stands by its recommendation for women to have annual screening mammograms beginning at age 40. “We find that the evidence supports the conclusion that mammography saves lives, and that the benefits of screening mammography outweigh the risks and harms.”

American Cancer Society Guidelines for the Early Detection of Cancer

Breast cancer

  • Yearly mammograms are recommended starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health
  • Clinical breast exam (CBE) about every 3 years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women 40 and over
  • Women should know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any breast change promptly to their health care provider. Breast self-exam (BSE) is an option for women starting in their 20s.

Some women – because of their family history, a genetic tendency, or certain other factors – should be screened with MRI in addition to mammograms. (The number of women who fall into this category is small: less than 2% of all the women in the US.) Talk with your doctor about your history and whether you should have additional tests at an earlier age.

Holidays As A Time of Gratitude & An Opportunity To Brighten Up!

Guest Post by Molly Haleblian

I think it is safe to say that it is officially the holiday season! With the conclusion ofOctober’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a beautiful pink Chicago skyline becomes a memory and outrageous Halloween costumes are put to rest (I cannot count how many Gangnam Style costumes were out there..), which means tryptophan comas and Mariah Carey’s holiday album are on their way.  It is also a time to reflect and be thankful for the little things in life.  For me, although it sounds cliché, I am extremely thankful for the health of myself and my family this year.

Let me lay it out for you as simply as I can.  When my mother was sixteen, she lost her mother to ovarian cancer.  My mother often wonders what her mother would be like today and what kind of relationship my siblings and I would have with her as a grandmother.  My mother never wanted my sisters and me to have those same thoughts or questions about her.  My grandmother did not get the opportunity to see my mother walk across the stage at her high school graduation, watch her six children fall in love and walk down the wedding aisle or hold my sister’s hand as she received chemotherapy for lymphoma.  All of these events, and many more, are the reasons my mother did not want to miss out on any of the successes and struggles our family have and will incur.

When I was in high school, my mother made the decision to go through genetic testing given the long line of ovarian and breast cancer in our family and after discovering that her cousin had tested positive for the BRCA 1 gene mutation.  My mother, at the age of 45, discovered that she was also a positive carrier.  Shortly after receiving this information, my mother proactively opted to follow through with a bilateral mastectomy and oophorectomy.  I remember coming home for lunch each day as a junior in high school following her surgeries and helping her tend to her war-like bandages.  Not once did my mother feel sorry for herself. Ever.  Her only complaint: the constant hot flashes.  This is what she needed to do in order to be our mother for years to come and to live without a ticking time bomb in her body.  In those moments, I knew I needed to find out if I was a positive carrier as well.

I’ve never been one to sit back and let things happen.  I needed to take control and gain as much knowledge as possible.  At the age of eighteen, and my sister sixteen, we both urged our mother to allow us to go through genetic testing.  Although she was hesitant, my mother took us to Northwestern Memorial Hospital to meet with a genetic counselor to begin the process.  Unfortunately and fortunately, both my sister and I tested BRCA 1 positive.  I say fortunately because I am grateful that I have been able to share this experience with my best friend, my sister.  Our genetic counselor informed my sister and I of a new organization for high-risk young women called Bright Pink.  Luckily for me, I was about to embark on my college career at DePaul University, located in Chicago, and quickly reached out to Lindsay Avner.  Knowing that there was at least one other young, successful woman in the same city as I who understood what I was going through gave me hope and relief.  Now, as a PinkPal, I am inspired and comforted by the women that I am able to connect with across the nation who are beginning their genetic journeys.  I see their strengths, their fears and their hope to live a long and healthy life given their genetic mutations.  At twenty-two years old, I still have those feelings, but being proactive and having conversations with women who understand only reaffirms the fact that I have an extremely supportive network with Bright Pink for many years to come.

With the holidays quickly approaching (where did the year go!?), I challenge each of you to use this opportunity of togetherness speak with your family members and gather your family’s cancer history. Journey through BrightPink.org to gain knowledge, take action, receive support, or lend yourself to the cause. Make your new year’s resolution to brighten up and schedule that doctor’s appointment you have been putting off.  Sign up to receive Bright Pink’s Underwire Alerts via texting PINK to 59227 to remind you to partake in a monthly self-breast exam, or if you’re at high risk, sign up for one-on-one support with the Pink Pal program to speak with another high-risk woman. With Bright Pink’s tools, it’s easy to be proactive.

No matter what point you are at in your life, knowledge is always power. Most importantly, remember that you are not alone. The Bright Pink Family is here to help you digest the facts and develop a plan that’s best for you. The holidays are a time for us to come together and support one another.  We are a team and we are in this together!

Vest with us in Chicago at Vest Fest 11.17.12 Proceeds Benefit Bright Pink

Guest Post by Justin Pawlak of Vest Fest

Vesting, [vest-ing] (noun): the act of getting awesome with 500 of your closest Vest Friends all in the name of charity and goodwill.

For the past 8 years we have had many people ask us what is Vest Fest? While words can barely describe the most epic sleeveless event in history, we can start by saying, “it’s probably the Vest time of your life.” And by the “Vest time of your life”, we mean that it is the nation’s premier sleeveless event where rocking a Vest and getting super-awesome is required. An event where your insides are not only warmed by your toasty Vest, but by our Vesters’ continued generosity and support for our local charity/nonprofit partners.  

Vest Fest Events is an Illinois registered General Not For Profit (102.10) formed by vest enthusiasts. The organization promotes and hosts events (Vest Fests) that raise money and awareness for selected local nonprofits and charities in Chicago, Denver, and soon, DC and beyond. 

When we started looking for charity/nonprofit partners, we wanted to find an organization whose mission and values were similar to ours. We wanted a nonprofit partner who worked hard to promote their cause and who had a super awesome time in process. We wanted a national nonprofit partner whose organization touches us all…and whose demographics and interests are similar to our organization. And most importantly, we wanted an organization whose mission is to improve the lives of women and empower them with the education, tools, and resources to prevent cancer. Cancer sucks. Bright Pink rocks. Vest Fest and Bright Pink rocks even more. We are super stoked to support this amazing organization here in Chicago, Denver, and going forward, in DC and beyond.  

This Saturday’s Vest Fest to benefit Bright Pink is lining up to be our largest and most successful to date. We cannot thank our Chicago Vesters enough for their awesome support and participation in this epic sleeveless tradition. We also have to thank everyone at Bright Pink for their support and for spreading the love of the Vest here in Chicago and across the country… 

See you at the Vestivities! 

Vest Fest – 11.17.12  |  3–7pm at Zella, 1983 North Clybourn Avenue, Chicago, IL

Apres-Vest Party: 8 – 10pm at Mahoney’s, 551 North Ogden Avenue, Chicago, IL

Buy tickets online at http://vestfest.eventbrite.com/

on the web: www.vestfest.org  |  on facebook: Vest Fest  |  on twitter: @vestfest

Bright Perspective – What It Takes to Make it As an Entrpreneur

Learn about what it’s like to run one of the nation’s fastest growing non-profits from Bright Pink’s Founder herself. Documentary camera crews followed Lindsay Avner around for a  week to get a taste of her daily life; the hustle, grind, and pay-off of starting and running a non-profit that impacts hundreds of thousands of young women nationwide with vital education and support programs focused on prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancer. Many of us are familiar with the story of what led Lindsay to start Bright Pink, but this series provides a unique look into the daily commitment, into what it took to get Bright Pink off the ground, and what continues to drive the organization’s small staff to make meaningful change.


Best and Brightest,