Local researchers, healthcare workers paving the way for future generations

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Voluntary cheerful women wearing pink for breast cancer on white background


Did you know that breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women, except for skin cancers? The American Cancer Society offers the following estimates regarding breast cancer in the United States for 2013:


The approximate percentage of American women who will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime.


The approximate number of new cases of invasive breast cancer that will be diagnosed in women


The approximate number of new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) will be diagnosed (CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer)


the approximate number of women will die from breast cancer

1 in 36

the chance that breast cancer will be responsible for a woman’s death (about 3 percent).

Over 2.8 million

The estimated number of breast cancer survivors in the United States. This includes women still being treated and those who have completed treatment.

The American Cancer Society

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Breast cancer, aside from skin cancer, is the most common form of cancer in women; it’s vital to be prepared and well informed because if detected early, it may be successfully treated.

“Early detection of cancer saves lives and in recent years cancer survival rates have increased because of early detection,” said Joan Filipowski, RN, MSN oncology nurse navigator for Franciscan Alliance St. Anthony Crown Point. “Our Breast Care Center, which is designated as a Breast Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology, focuses on women’s wellness with an emphasis on comprehensive diagnostic procedures such as full-field digital mammography, breast ultrasound, stereotactic biopsy, mammotome breast biopsy and breast MRI with biopsy capabilities.”

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) is an annual health campaign, founded in 1985 as a joint venture between the American Cancer Society and Imperial Chemical Industries’ pharmaceutical division. NBCAM partners with several charities to raise funds and awareness every October (and throughout the year). Research, prevention, treatment, and support to those directly affected by breast cancer are the paramount functions of NBCAM and mammograms as an early detection measure has been promoted since inception.

Franciscan Alliance St. Anthony, which serves Indiana and Illinois, offers follow-up treatment as well as support groups led by a licensed counselor, massage therapy, lymph edema services, bone density exams and educational programs.

What if you can’t afford a mammogram or breast exam? Aunt Martha’s Health Center in the south suburbs, offers free or reduced cost mammograms and breast exams to select women, even those with an existing cancer diagnosis, through the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (IBCCP). Aunt Martha’s Health Centers offers health care to everyone, regardless of ability to pay.

Local research

An organization that packs a punch is The Lynn Sage Foundation, founded in honor of Lynn Sage, a native Chicagoan who died from breast cancer at the age of 39. Directed by sisters, Laura and Halee Sage, the foundation is dedicated to finding a cure by raising funds for exclusively Chicago-based researchers.

The Lynn Sage Foundation has partnered with the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, funding scholarship awards of $100,000 per year, for a maximum of two years to capable and dedicated researchers, which aids in the longevity of work for these physicians in the field of breast cancer research.

“We are very excited about the novel approach Dr. Sarika Jain, our newest Lynn Sage Scholar, is focusing on,” said Laura Sage, co-founder and president of The Lynn Sage Foundation. “Dr. Jain is investigating the role of immunotherapy as a complementary approach to eliminating breast cancer. Specifically, she is injecting a bacterial vaccine into metastatic tumors and she predicts this will eliminate the tumor and eliminate disseminated tumors throughout the body. Long-term consequences of her research could be groundbreaking in the fields of cancer prevention and treatment.”

The Lynn Sage Foundation has raised $15 million for breast cancer research at Northwestern Memorial.

“In October, the Lynn Sage Cancer Research Foundation is partnering with more than 160 Chicago buildings to ‘Light the Way to Find a Cure,’ lighting the city pink to promote breast cancer awareness,” said Kara Spak, Senior Media Relations Associate, Northwestern Memorial Hospital. From Noon to 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 6, the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University is hosting the Lynn Sage Breast Cancer Town Hall, a free discussion with Lurie Cancer Center experts. Topics include managing anxiety, understanding genetics and new breast cancer therapies and surgical techniques, Spak said.

For more information or to register, visit cancer.northwestern.edu/townhall.

“In the area of latest news in treatment for breast cancer there is a new type of targeted drug being studied specifically for treating people with advanced hereditary breast cancer due to a BRCA mutation,” said Sue Friedman, executive director of Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE), an organization that offers peer support, resources and credible information about risk, early detection, prevention, and treatment of hereditary cancer. FORCE operates throughout the Chicagoland area and hosts meetings and events in Northbrook, Crystal Lake, Geneva, Chicago, Northwest Indiana, and other areas.

Women with a BRCA mutation face the highest known lifetime risk for breast cancer of any population, according to Friedman. Almost one million men and women in the United States may carry a BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 mutation, which could be passed onto sons and daughters.

“The name of the new agents are called PARP inhibitors and there are clinical trials open across the United States,” Friedman said. “One of the studies known as the BROCADE Study is open in three sites in the Chicagoland area. It is important that we find women with advance breast cancer who have the mutation to fill these studies so that we can have better treatment options for ourselves and future generations.”

Friedman goes on to say that people faced with BRCA mutations have distinctive needs and interventions can be life-changing as well as life-saving. Their programs are designed to meet the needs of this specific population.

“In women the mutations increase the lifetime risk for breast cancer up to about 85 percent,” Friedman said. “People who are concerned that they may have hereditary cancer should seek out a medical expert known as a genetic counselor.”

To find a physician participating in the BROCADE Study, visit https://www.brocadestudy.com/Find-Physician.aspx?t=state.