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U receives $100,000 for breast cancer research

From eNews, October 13, 2005

Breast cancer is a leading cause of cancer deaths among women in the United States. Each year, more than 180,000 new cases are diagnosed. In Minnesota, the disease accounts for almost one out of three new cancer cases, and about one in five cancer deaths among women.

Last month, the Twin Cities-based Hope Chest for Breast Cancer gave the University of Minnesota Cancer Center $100,000 to expand its breast cancer education and treatment programs for recent immigrants and lower-income women in the Twin Cities metro area.

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is a disease in which malignant cells form in the breast tissue. It's rare among men, but from 1996 to 2000, about 20 men were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer each year in Minnesota, compared to more than 3,400 women. The most common type of breast cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute, is ductal carcinoma, which begins in the duct cells. Lobular carcinoma, which begins in the lobes or lobules, is more often found in both breasts.

While white women in Minnesota are at the greatest risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer, African American women are at the greatest risk of dying from the disease, reports the center, which is home to some of the top researchers in the field of breast cancer. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, African American and American Indian women diagnosed with breast cancer are as much as 30 percent more likely to die from it than white women in Minnesota.

"Our goals in making this donation are to help assure that all women in our community know about breast cancer and their risks, and to remove some of the barriers they may face for getting the required screening and treatment," says Barbara Hensley, founder and board chair of Hope Chest for Breast Cancer. Hensley lost her mother to lung cancer and two sisters to breast cancer.

"Nearly two thirds of the donation will be used to reach immigrant and lower-income women with health disparities in our community," says Marva Bohen, director of education and outreach for the Cancer Center. "We intend to work with the Minnesota Outreach Coalition and local health agencies to determine the best ways to communicate with women in the various ethnic groups, and then sponsor awareness programs and produce educational materials that are in languages most used by the women and are sensitive to their cultural values."

Breast cancer prevention

The American Cancer Society recommends: * Monthly breast self-exams beginning at age 20
* A clinical breast exam every three years for women ages 20 to 39, and every year for women 40 and older
*An annual mammography for women over 40

For high-risk women (those with a family history of breast cancer), mammograms and clinical examinations should begin at an earlier age.

To learn more about genetic testing to determine if you or someone you know has inherited a high risk of breast and other types of cancers, visit the University of Minnesota Familial Cancer Clinic or see the National Cancer Institute's online assessment tool.

The educational programs and materials will include information about breast cancer, screening recommendations, and community resources available to lower-income women, such as the state-funded Sage program for breast and cervical cancer screening and treatment (formerly the Minnesota Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program).

"[The remainder of the donation will be used] to help underserved women who are undergoing breast cancer treatment and need assistance with expenses, such as groceries, utilities, rent, medication costs, and day care," says Susan Pappas-Varco, coordinator of the Breast Cancer Program at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview.

"Living After Cancer, Part II"

The Cancer Center is hosting a free program on Saturday, October 22, from 9 to 11 a.m. at the McNamara Alumni Center on the Twin Cities campus in Minneapolis that will feature a panel of cancer survivors discussing the challenges they have encountered and the choices they have made in their life after cancer. For more information or to register, visit the Cancer Center or e-mail

Researchers in the Breast Cancer Program come from six departments within the U's Academic Health Center, as well as departments in the College of Human Ecology and the College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences. They share a common objective: applying the knowledge gained in the laboratory to either prevent breast cancer or improve the lives of people who have the disease.

To learn more about breast cancer and breast cancer research at the U, see the Breast Cancer Program.

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