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Let's talk cancer

Photos by Dan Bishop

October 2014

One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, but the sooner the disease is found, the more treatable it is. Kohlís Conversations for a Cure is all about getting women educated and screened.

This year, Kohlís Department Stores donated $710,000 to the southeast Wisconsin affiliate of Susan G. Komen to help retain the Conversations for the Cure program, which is now in its fifth year. "Through this program, we have talked with more than 7,000 women in southeast Wisconsin about breast health," says Amberlea Childs, the program coordinator for Conversations for a Cure at the Komen affiliate. "The real touchstone of our program are the dozens of women who serve as volunteers, going into homes, churches, businesses and nonprofit groups to talk openly about breast cancer and the potential effect it can have on their lives. The goal is to encourage health screenings."

Participants can discuss barriers that prevent women from getting breast exams, such as fear, financial concerns or not having enough time. Participants will also learn about the benefits of yearly screenings. At the end of the conversation, participants will have the tools to break down these barriers.

"We donít always hear the real-life stories of women who are helped by this program, but one woman took the time to write to us. She didnít have coverage for a mammogram and we helped her find funding. As a result of the mammogram, she had a biopsy. It turned out she did not have cancer, but she was so grateful for the help she received, she wanted to tell us about it," Childs says. "Our goal is to reach as many women as possible and empower them to be their own health advocates."

The mind matters in cancer treatment

A team approach to treating cancer can benefit patients by providing a more precise diagnosis and more comprehensive treatment recommendations. Typically, a team may include an oncologist, radiologist, nurse, nutritionist and others treating the physical symptoms of the disease. But now, psychologists and psychiatrists have joined the team, addressing patientsí emotional and mental well-being.

"As people are going along the road of treatment and recovery, we may screen them for emotional and stress problems," says Dr. Julie Bryson of the Multidisciplinary Care Team at Aurora Cancer Services. "What we do depends on the person. Someone might be in the midst of an already stressful life when they are diagnosed. It can be a time of great distress for people," she says.

The treatment plan varies depending on the patient, Bryson says. "We might recommend breathing and relaxation exercises to relieve stress. Or, if a patient lacks a strong support system, we may refer them to social services for help. Many times, patients feel like theyíre not in control of their life, unable to do the things they are used to doing. Thatís when we try to figure out what things they still are in control of. We want to help provide as good a quality of life as possible," she says.

Feedback from patients and families has been positive, and Bryson is appreciative of the patients. "Iím always impressed by the strength of people, even though they donít think of themselves as strong," she says.



This story ran in the October 2014 issue of: