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Here’s to Your Health

Joan Jacobson

I had the opportunity a few days ago to hear Dr. Marisa Weiss, founder of breastcancer.org, speak about the work she is doing to spread the word to the world about breast cancer. She is a moving speaker — dedicated and committed to the cause of telling all of us about the dread disease that affects so many women. In the United States, there are about 150 million women and girls; about 19 million will be diagnosed with breast cancer. In the world of 3 billion women, 400 million women will develop breast cancer over a lifetime.

Breast cancer.org offers 2,500 pages of medically reviewed, all-original content that covers risk reduction, symptoms and diagnosis, treatment, research news, expert conferences, recovery, renewal, and support online. Top-notch medical experts, writers and editors are dedicated to presenting cutting-edge, complex medical information in a compassionate tone and easy-to-understand language. Dr. Weiss began the Web site about five years ago. She began in her own living room with one assistant. Now, she has a staff of 12 and a place outside her home where she works three days a week at the Web site offering easy-to-understand information for the woman who needs to know what an estrogen receptor or arm lymphedema is and how to deal with the diagnosis. She practices medicine on the other two days.

Dr. Weiss explains that the Web site is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to provide information to women who want to know the faces and how to prevent and treat breast cancer. The site identifies not smoking and participating in physical fitness activities to maintain good health. She has appeared on the Today Show, CNN, ABC, CBS, and is profiled in People magazine, and a host of other magazines and newspapers around the nation. A $4 billion budget is required to support the non-profit Web site. Last year there were at least 61 million hits on breastcancer.org.

The information provided includes the actual stages of breast cancer, genetic and family connections to the disease, illustrations and pictures of the tumors and surgical intervention results. It is said that "one picture is worth 1,000 words."

Furthermore, the Web site is a safe place for women and their families to visit on their own and to see what breast cancer really is and its implications for you and your loved ones. There are also 24,000 chat rooms with no cost to any of the participants. Because medical jargon is often confusing and complicated, celebrities such as Whoopie Goldberg often narrate some of the information. It is presented so anyone can understand the issues.

Breastcancer.org is also a venue where women can chat with each other about their diagnoses, stages, and what worked for them. Breastcancer.org asks, "What can we do to help?" They will provide services to those who have difficulty understanding English. There are, for example, Spanish speakers who will interpret for them.

I was struck by the fact that the site reaches out to family members as well. Most important are the young girls whose mothers may be afflicted with the disease. These children need to be reassured and told not to be afraid to be a woman, and how to protect themselves from developing the disease themselves and what to do in the event of a diagnosis. Again, this is a safe place; the information is state-of-the-art and invaluable for all women and their families. Dr. Weiss also believes women and their doctors need to connect, and to this end, sensitivity and humanistic training is becoming the norm for medical students. Weiss says, "There’s a huge need that exists outside of the hospital walls."

It is indeed an honor to have met such an amazing woman and a true pioneer committed to helping women through an extremely devastating time in their lives. Try to connect with breastcancer.org. It will provide tips on prevention, symptoms, treatment, research, recovery and renewal and support, if necessary.


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