Moving Forward: How Black Women CAN Survive Breast Cancer

A black woman standing in front of a mammography deviceHow can the Moving Forward breast cancer program help black women live longer?

Although breast cancer (BC) survival has steadily improved for European American (EA) women over the past few decades, similar improvements have not been observed for African American (AA) women. In 2006, 32 BC deaths were reported nationally for every 100,000 women-years among AA compared to only 23 among EA.

In Chicago, this disparity grew over the past decade and is even higher than that observed nationally. During 1999-2003 the BC mortality rate was 49% higher for AA women than for EA women. This disparity increased to 68% in 2003 and 116% in 2005 and remains even after controlling for age, SES, tumor stage and histology, hormone receptor status, and menopausal status. Not only are AA women with breast cancer more likely than EA women to die from their cancer, they are also more likely to die from co-morbid conditions including diabetes and hypertension. Poor diet, lack of physical activity, and obesity contribute to breast cancer progression, as well as the development and exacerbation of many co-morbid conditions. Efforts to reduce the high mortality rates observed in AA women with breast cancer are critically needed, and addressing poor diet, lack of physical activity, and high rates of obesity may provide the best near-term opportunity to decrease breast cancer and all-cause mortality among AA BC survivors.

In response to this battle one researcher from a major university in Chicago created Moving Forward.

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Moving Forward is a 6-month long research-based weight loss and nutrition program that was developed with and for African-American breast cancer survivors to address their interest in making important lifestyle changes after their breast cancer treatment. For many women, the end of breast cancer treatments is both a relief and a worry. Although the women are glad to be done with treatment, they also worry about what they need to do now to keep themselves healthy and to gain back their energy. Plus, since most women gain weight as a result of their breast cancer treatment, many are looking for support to eat healthier, exercise more and lose some weight.

In partnership with the Chicago Park District, this program will be available to women in several communities throughout the Chicago land area. Currently classes are being conducted at Palmer Park in the Pullman area and Don Nash Community Center in South Shore and will be coming to Columbus Park in Austin this spring. Dr. Melinda Stolley of UIC is the program director at UIC and her main focus of the research program is to explore which of two approaches is more effective: a guided weight loss program that involves twice weekly meetings at the park district OR a self-guided weight loss program where women receive all program materials and proceed through the program at their own pace without having to attend twice weekly meetings.

“Moving Forward will serve as a national model for addressing the breast cancer survivorship health disparities that are ever present in AA communities across the country” says Dr. Stolley. “I have seen the eagerness that many of the past participants of the program have expressed and to know that they are maintaining healthy lives after their participation in the program speaks volumes” according to one staff member of the team.

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To be eligible women need to be 18 years old, have been diagnosed with Stage I, II or III breast cancer and be at least 6 months post treatment (surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation). Women participating in ongoing endocrine treatments such as tamoxifen, femora or aromatase inhibitors are welcomed. All women who participate will receive payment for their time and effort and a free gym membership for one after the program is over.

Members of the Moving Forward Team will always be available to answer questions and provide additional information.

Additional information can be found at: 312-996-6880 OR [email protected]

Infertility Myths…Debunked

pregnant-belly-stethoscopeWhat really causes infertility? Infertility affects 7.3 million people in the U.S. The disease also affects 1 in 8 couples in the U.S., and having difficulty conceiving can be an emotional and confusing time for partners.

There are several factors that can cause fertility issues, such as age, endometriosis, irregular periods, issues with a man’s sperm, etc. so it’s important that people understand their bodies to take charge of their fertility health. Unfortunately, for most couples, there are no warning signs for infertility until they begin trying to get pregnant. Here are some common myths about infertility debunked courtesy of First Response spokesperson Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, clinical professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Yale University School of Medicine.
MYTH #1: Fertility problems only occur after age 35.

FACT: According to Dr. Minkin, while age is definitely a factor in a woman’s chances of getting pregnant, it’s not the only one. Endometriosis, irregular periods and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome may also limit the chances of becoming pregnant. Fertility is complex. Women under 35 years of age who have been trying to get pregnant for over 12 months, or women 35 years of age or older who have been trying to get pregnant for 6 months should consult a physician.

MYTH #2: Having sex as much as possible will increase chances of conception.

FACT: Chances of conception are highest during the time of the woman’s ovulation. To ensure you know the two days of your cycle when you’re most fertile and more likely to conceive, track your cycle with a product such as the FIRST RESPONSE™ Digital Ovulation Test. This test remembers your body’s hormone level to detect your personal LH surge and the 24-36 hours when you are most likely to conceive.

MYTH #3: Getting pregnant will happen right away once you stop taking the pill.

FACT: Your body needs time to adjust to new hormone levels and return to your natural cycle. Dr. Minkin informs that you can get pregnant quickly; however your body will most likely need a period of readjustment.

MYTH #4: Worrying decreases changes of conception.

FACT: There’s no research of clinical evidence to support that “worrying” hinders conception. Extreme stress can affect your ability to ovulate in very rare cases. “Worrying about it,” on the other hand can be useful if it moves you to action in the form of determining your ovulation and then timing intercourse to coincide with your most fertile time.

If you are thinking about starting a family, try an at-home test like the FIRST RESPONSETM Fertility Test For Women , which gauges a women’s ability to get pregnant by assessing her ovarian reserve. It is a great first step for any women to take before trying to conceive, and can be done in the privacy of her own home – no medical appointment required. Visit for more information about family planning.