On October 21st, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset, an RWJBarnabas Health facility, hosted their annual Breast Cancer Awareness Month Event. Because of COVID, this year’s themed event, “Breast Cancer Clusters: Blown out of the Water,” turned virtual with famed activist Erin Brockovich as the headliner. I attended the event from my laptop and clicked on to learn about breast cancer risks, environmental causes, and the latest and most innovative treatment options for breast cancer patients.
Dr. Deborah Lue, MD, breast surgeon and Director of Breast Cancer Services at RWJUH Somerset’s Steeplechase Cancer Center, was the first speaker. She started by saying that breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide and accounts for 1 in 4 cancers in women. She then talked about the modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors, preventative measures, and the new initiatives for early breast cancer detection and treatment. One of the more recent initiatives that Dr. Lue highlighted is the 3D-guided breast biopsy. This state-of-the-art technology, a new advancement at the Steeplechase Center, helps target tumors that may be challenging to detect with traditional 2D imaging. This technology is a game-changer and estimated to have a 35-40% greater detection rate than 2D imaging. Advancements like this are vital to promoting earlier detection and treatment of cancer.
Dr. Lue’s presentation was chock full of information, and a highlight was the examination of risk factors. RWJBarnabas Somerset provides a comprehensive high-risk screening that can examine a person’s risk for breast cancer based on genetic factors and personal lifestyle. While breast density, BRCA mutations, and genetics are leading non-modifiable risk factors, many lifestyle modifications can significantly lower women’s risk. The age you have children, whether or not you breastfeed, obesity, diet, and lack of exercise are all modifiable risk factors—33% of all cancer can be prevented by lifestyle changes alone.
I loved how Dr. Lue examined the importance of diet and exercise. She asserted the healing power of green, leafy vegetables (colorful foods = cancer-fighting nutrients) and how important it is for women to stay active, particularly after a breast cancer diagnosis. She noted that studies say cancer patients who remain active will see a 34% increase in their survival. We often hear that diet and exercise are imperative to one’s health, but Dr. Lue truly inspired this NJMOM to eat a whole-food and plant-based diet and to dedicate time to exercise, aside from chasing my toddler around.
Erin Brockovich was the guest speaker for the evening. A commanding presence even on screen, Brockovich was instrumental in building a case against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company for contaminated drinking water. Her successful lawsuit settled in 1996 for $333 million, the largest settlement in US history of direct-action cases. This lawsuit was the basis for the Oscar-winning movie about her starring Julia Roberts.
Brockovich talked about her activism background and her heightened awareness of the environment, a passion she garnered early in life. A highlight for me was the endearment with which she spoke of her father. She recalled nature walks they would take and how they would see ‘frogs with two heads.’ The discussions she had with him that followed sightings such as this helped shape and propel her into the woman she is today.
Brockovich, a grandmother of 4, applauded NJ for finalizing regulations in June 2020 to get two harmful chemicals linked to cancer (PFOA and PFOS) out of drinking water. As an NJMOM who has always been reluctant to drink NJ tap water (primarily out of the habit of buying bottled water), I learned a lot. It was interesting to hear the breakdown of harmful chemicals and what is being done to filter them out of our drinking water.
Most people aren’t as lucky to have access to bottled, aquifer, and fully filtrated water, so there’s still work to be done. Brockovich communicated that you can advocate for clean water by joining your community, showing up at meetings, and asking the city council questions.
Thank you, NJMOM, for allowing me to sit in on an informative evening of dynamic speakers that emphasized and taught me the importance of prevention. So my takeaway is this—don’t delay your mammograms, eat a healthy diet and exercise, and investigate your risk factors and the environment to help prevent breast cancer. For more information on breast cancer, prevention and treatment, visit RWJBarnabas Health and RWJUH Somerset.
This post is sponsored by RWJBarnabas Health to help every NJMOM and their family be their healthiest.