Medical News: New blood test to detect cancer

Submitted by Vicky Tosh-Morelli, DBCC Director of Information Services

Recent news about a blood test to detect cancer created a lot of excitement on the evening news but the reality is clinical use of this test is still a ways off.  Scientists have known for years that tumor cells can break off from a tumor and circulate through the blood.  Research has long looked for tools to “capture” these cells and utilize them in understanding how cancers spread and how to improve patient care.
What is unique about this test is the ability to capture individual cancer cells and analyze them for certain characteristics that may lead to more targeted treatments.  Clinical trials of the test are being used in patients with cancer to assess the effectiveness of treatment and can respond more quickly to changes in tumor cell counts than they can in MRI or CT scans. 
Its use as a screening tool to identify cancer in people who are otherwise healthy is the biggest question to be answered.  As Dr. Susan Love commented in the ABC News report,

“We all have some cancer cells in our bodies that are dormant and not really causing any problem. What we have to be careful of, with this new technique, is over treating the dormant cells that were never going to give us any problem in our attempt to get every cancer cell that we see.”  

Some of these cancers will never harm us. So the question is: if you find them, how would you treat them? Would it make sense to treat a person with chemotherapy and radiation on the basis of a few circulating tumor cells?

Watch the video from ABC News

Volunteer Spotlight: Elsa Rodriguez-Trejo

Read a Q& A with DBCC Volunteer and Peer Mentor, Elsa Rodriguez-Trejo of Millsboro

How did you find out about DBCC?
Elsa (left) with her college friend Nilda from Argentina
I was a high school math teacher in Pennsylvania before I retired in June of 2008.  My husband and I moved to Millsboro, DE, immediately, but it was not until October of that year that we joined social groups at our church.  Through one of them, the Knights of Columbus, I met two special ladies, members of DBCC, who asked me if I was interested in becoming a mentor.  One woman gave me the Lewes’ office phone number, and [DBCC Program Manager] Cheryl Doucette invited me to participate in one of the Nurture with Nature programs.  I enjoyed that trip immensely.  It was great to be among so many breast cancer survivors with a positive attitude and ready to enjoy life.   I attended the Peer Mentor training with Kelli Meoli and Cheryl, and a couple of weeks after that I became a mentor. 
That’s wonderful that you are a peer mentor.  What made you decide to become one?
I was diagnosed in Pennsylvania on June 22, 2004, one day short of my 59th birthday.  What made my journey, not only easier, but deeply meaningful, was the love and support of the people in my life.

My husband, although very fearful, walked with me every step.  We made treatment decisions together, and shared joys and sorrows.  My five children came to help at the time of my surgery, one of my daughters from Texas.  The two that lived closer took me to the chemotherapy treatments….and my friends!!  So many of them had had breast cancer!  Some I knew, some I did not, and all of them were a fountain of information and support!  One of my friends shaved my head when I started to lose my hair.  I don’t know if I would have felt so well without her kindness and help.

Although chemotherapy was devastating, at the same time was the most blessed time in my life.  I knew then and there that the support from my family and friends is essential.  I gave it in Pennsylvania without belonging to any organization because four of my friends were diagnosed after I was.  In Delaware, I do it through DBCC’s Peer Mentor Support program.
What is a memorable moment you have had being a mentor to someone else through their breast cancer journey?
The most memorable moment was three or four weeks ago at Nanticoke Cancer Center.  I was called to meet a newly diagnosed patient that could not speak English.  At the end of this meeting, my new mentee shared that it was the first time that she didn’t cry from the moment she entered the hospital until she left.  She needed to know that someone understood her.
Anything else you would like to add about DBCC or yourself?
I am 65 now, a six and one-half year survivor and I live in the moment.  It is God’s love that has brought me this far and eventually will bring me home.

DBCC launches Clinical Trials Initiative

Clinical Trial Peer Mentors from left to right: DBCC Board 

Member Beth Selsor, Lorraine Gilson, Fa Field, and
DBCC Program Director Cathy Holloway.

The Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition (DBCC) recently launched its Clinical Trials Initiative as a continuation of the state-wide Peer Mentor program that was started at DBCC in 2006.  A Clinical Trial Peer Mentor Training Program was developed by Nanci Mayer-Mihalski, Chair of Research and Mentoring Committee and Board Member at DBCC, DBCC Program Director Cathy Holloway, and Kandie Dempsey, Director of Cancer Research at the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center.

In September of 2010, DBCC was presented with the prestigious Community Excellence Service Award as part of Christiana Care’s Helen F. Graham Cancer Center’s Annual Community Clinical Oncology Awards for its support of clinical trials in the community.
Clinical Trial Peer Mentors from left to right: Patti Rossi, DBCC

 Program Manager Lois Wilkinson, and Gail Lanouette.

Just two months later, DBCC trained its first group of Clinical Trial Peer Mentors which includes six survivors representing all three Delaware counties.  According to Cathy Holloway, the Clinical Trial Peer Mentor Training Program “is designed to dispel myths and misconceptions associated with research and clinical trials.  The goal of the program is not to tell breast cancer patients to say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to clinical trials but to educate them about clinical trials and give them more information so they can make informed decisions.”  Clinical Trial Peer Mentors are survivors who have attended peer mentor training, have participated in clinical trials, and have completed the comprehensive, in-depth Clinical Trial Peer Mentor Training.  As the program expands, DBCC hopes to have three to five Clinical Trial Peer Mentors trained in each county.

DBCC Board Member, Beth Selsor, attended the first Clinical Trial Peer Mentor training.  Beth was a participant in two clinical trials during her breast cancer treatment.  “I was fortunate to have good counseling and advice through my trials and wanted to be able to help other women after me.  I want to be able to answer questions for them and be a good resource,” she said.
DBCC Program Manager Lois Wilkinson and Kelli Meoli.

Clinical Trial Peer Mentors assist patients with deciphering details and complex paperwork associated with clinical trials, answer questions about how patients are protected and any other questions those considering clinical trials have.  Above all, they share their own clinical trial experience.  “I think one of the most important things people need to know is that a clinical trial is real medicine,” Beth explained.  “I know something I was worried about was that I’d be given a placebo, but this medicine is real and it is going to help them.  Health care professionals are just trying to figure out what the best treatment for people is.”

Researchers and the medical community recognize the need for trained advocates and their support role to the clinical trials process.  The Clinical Trials Initiative was started by DBCC to help increase patient awareness, understanding, and enrollment in clinical trials to advance breast cancer treatment and care. 
For more information about DBCC and clinical trials, please click here.  For more information about the Peer Mentor Support program, please click here.

Women’s Mobile Health Screening Van Update

The Women’s Mobile Health Screening (WMHS) Van, which provides screening mammograms for women of Delaware each year, is busy visiting communities throughout the state after its upgrade to digital mammography equipment.  According to WMHS Program Manager Laura Nadel, the van has screened 502 Delaware women since the van returned to the road in July of 2010.

The Women’s Mobile Health Screening Van
The WMHS Van was re-dedicated at Legislative Hall in Dover on October 4, 2010 and was attended by friends and volunteers of DBCC, legislators and members of the press.  The dedication included a presentation about how the van was recently retrofitted with new digital Hologic Selenia mammography equipment.  The dedication also featured a ribbon cutting ceremony and tours of the new digital equipment.  To read the press release about the dedication from the Delaware Health and Social Services office, please click here.
The van has been traveling the state visiting community centers, churches, libraries, senior centers and businesses.  Laura said that the WMHS Van recently visited the Korean Church in Hockessin, the Latina Conference in Wilmington, and Easter Seals in Georgetown to provide mammography screenings.
The van regularly visits pre-determined sites in the Wilmington, Newark, New Castle, Smyrna, Dover, Milford, Lewes, Georgetown, Seaford, and Frankford areas.  “In addition, WMHS screening has formed some excellent partnerships with Claymont Family Health and the Westside Health facilities and provides mammography services to their clients every month,” Laura explained. 
Read an article in the Delaware State News about the WMHS Van here.

Women’s Mobile Health Screening provides programs to reach out to underserved women who otherwise may not have access to mammograms.  Since 2005, the van has been managed and operated by Women’s Mobile Health Screening, LLC, a subsidiary of the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition (DBCC), through a contract with Screening for Life, a program of Delaware’s Division of Public Health.  Mammograms are processed by Beebe Medical Imaging.
To schedule a screening mammogram on the WMHS Van, women need to obtain a prescription for a mammogram from their doctor, call the WMHS office to make an appointment at 1-888-672-9647 and discuss how to obtain a copy of their previous mammogram films for comparison.  WMHS accepts Medicaid, Medicare, most health insurance and self-pay clients.  For more information about how to get screened on the van, please click here.  A list of frequently asked questions can be found here.
Additional new screening sites are added every month.  “WMHS is always anxious to explore new partnerships and looks forward to screening at the Swahili Church and the Sussex County Latina conference this Spring,” Laura added.  For more information about how to bring the van to a location in your community, please call 1-888-672-9647.

Partnerships: "How Can I Help?"

Submitted by Priscilla Rakestraw, DBCC Development Director

Webster’s Dictionary defines “Partnership” as a valued relationship between individuals or groups that is characterized by mutual cooperation and responsibility, as for the achievement of a specified goal.
At DBCC, we are so very grateful when people ask us, “How can I help in the fight against breast cancer?”  We could not effectively fight breast cancer without the outstanding dedication and support of our partners.  These partners make possible our outreach and education programs, as well as our support and resources for those newly diagnosed with breast cancer or facing recurrence.  Our partners stand right beside us – making our work possible.
DBCC partners and partnerships are unique, creative, and varied, making use of individual and organizational resources, talents, networks and ideas to raise awareness, dollars and volunteers.
Our Partners Include:
  •  Large retail outlets, department stores and small boutique stores
  •  Restaurants, bars and entertainment groups
  • Large corporations and small businesses
  • Public and private schools (elementary to college)
  • Sports teams (high school, college, professional)
  • Hair and beauty salons
  • Car dealerships 
  • Creative special events and organizations (golf and fishing tournaments, horse races)
  • Service contractors and businesses
  •  Individuals who have dedicated special occasions (birthdays, anniversaries)
  • Hospitals, physicians and health care providers
These wonderful and generous people, businesses and organizations are truly leaders in the life-saving fight against breast cancer. We look forward to continuing and expanding these relationships and to creating new partnerships! We hope you will consider how you can become a partner with the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition! Please visit our website or contact the DBCC offices in Wilmington, Dover, or Lewes.

Photos of some of DBCC’s 2010 Partners
FruitFlowers – Treasure the Chest Yard Sale 2010
Everlasting Wellness and Nutrition
Photo from Unmask the Cure at the Duncan Center
Tanger Trees of Hope
Sisters Helping Sisters
For more photos of 2010 partnerships, please visit our Flickr album here.

DBCC helps struggling survivor through her breast cancer journey

When breast cancer survivor Betty Duncan, 46, came to the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition in the summer of 2010 she had just halted her breast cancer treatment after she found herself with little money and no place to live.  Now just a few months later, she is living in an apartment with her 15-year-old daughter, Whitney, and is a one-year breast cancer survivor.

Betty and Whitney with Lois at Cole Haan
“I found out I had breast cancer on Christmas Eve in 2009,” Betty said.  “At that time, I was having all kinds of problems with money and places to live and someone told me about DBCC.”
As Betty found herself homeless during her treatment, DBCC gave her the support she needed so that she could continue it.  Lois Wilkinson, DBCC Program Manager at the Dover Office, put her in touch with an oncologist to continue her treatment and DBCC was able to provide her with phone cards to keep in contact with her doctors.
Lois Wilkinson along with Connie Holdridge, a DBCC Program Manager at the Sussex Office, worked to find a safe place for Betty and her daughter to stay.  They put Betty in touch with People’s Place and the organization was able to place her temporarily in a shelter in Dover before moving her to a hotel.  After being on a waiting list for two years, Betty was finally given her own subsidized apartment for her and her daughter to call home.
Betty and Whitney (front) with Cole Haan Staff and DBCC Volunteers
Once moved into the apartment, Betty and Whitney were without many appliances and little furniture.  At that time, Cheryl Doucette, a DBCC Program Manager at the Sussex office, got a call from Cathy Gass, General Store Manager at the Cole Haan Outlet at Tanger.  Cathy had just attended a manger’s meeting at the Tanger Outlets where Priscilla Rakestraw, DBCC Development Director, spoke to thank all of the stores that participated in this year’s “Tanger Style of PINK” promotion, which raised over $105,000 for DBCC.  Cathy was inspired by Priscilla’s speech and felt that she and the Cole Haan store could do more for DBCC.
Cathy Gass proposed to Cheryl that Cole Haan could “Adopt-a-family” for the holidays and buy gifts for a family of a breast cancer survivor in need.  With that, Cheryl knew just who could use that support and called Betty.  Cole Haan employees were enthusiastic and ready to help!  They collected furniture and appliances for Betty’s apartment from local businesses and friends and also bought Betty and Whitney some Christmas gifts.  They also gave Betty a turkey and food for Christmas and donated a Christmas tree for her new apartment.  Cole Haan employees surely helped Betty and her daughter feel right at home in their new place and gave them a wonderful Christmas. 
Betty and Whitney with their Christmas tree
Cole Haan also held a special event, “A Night of Giving,” on December 12, 2010 which collected gifts for men, women, and children and were distributed by DBCC to families of breast cancer survivors in need.  Cole Haan certainly helped make the holidays a little brighter for DBCC survivor families.
Today, Betty has a DBCC peer mentor and is working on herself.  “Being a wife and a mother, you put worrying about yourself off.  After this disease, I’m looking to work on myself and be the best I can be,” Betty said.  Betty is planning to go back to school to complete a Bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science.  She plans to enroll at Wilmington University in the summer.  “I want to go into counseling so I can help others,” she said.  “I want to be able to put myself out there so others can hear my story so they know not to let this disease beat them down.”
To help Betty and her daughter get back on their feet, many people joined in to help.  DBCC staff members, local businesses and volunteers all made this possible for the Duncan family and to help a wonderful woman through her breast cancer journey.

Survivor Programs: The Nurture with Nature Series

The Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition is proud to hold the Nurture with Nature program a series that allows breast cancer survivors to come together and experience nature by hiking, kayaking, biking, horseback riding, astronomy, or simply walking through a forest or along a beach.  These outings occur approximately once a month throughout the state.

Kayaking on the Assawomen Bay in Fenwick

DBCC Program Manager, Lois Wilkinson, helped start the program along with former DBCC board member and survivor, Deloris Donnelly.  “There was just a need for this program…one that gives survivors camaraderie with other survivors and lets them know that they have others who they can talk to,” Lois explained.
Unique from the traditional support group, Nurture with Nature takes women out of meeting rooms in hospitals and office buildings and brings them to the great outdoors.  “I know there is a lot of value in traditional support groups, which cannot be unstated,” Nurture with Nature participant Betty Lou Chiffon said.  “However, I found that the Nurture with Nature program that DBCC offers is one of the best prescriptions for me personally.”
Canoeing on Abbotts Mill Pond

The Nurture with Nature series takes breast cancer survivors to historical sites, beaches, lakes, state parks and more.  Rosemary Engle first attended a Peer Mentor training before a Nurture with Nature excursion was recommended to her.  “It was the first time I went kayaking and I was very nervous…I thought ‘Oh my God, can I do this?’” Rosemary said.  She explained that she didn’t know anyone at that first trip and now has made a lot of good friends through the Nurture with Nature program.  “You start getting to know everyone.  All survivors have this common ground and you really make some great friends.”

Kayak Trip at Slaughter Beach

Perhaps the most important part of the Nurture with Nature program is for women to forget about the stress in their lives.  “For those 3 hours or so, these women can forget about their cancer and have a good time,” she said.  Betty Lou agrees.  “Nature can be very nurturing especially when shared with friends…The experience is life-giving and the benefits are truly therapeutic.”

Rosemary explained that the excursions are educational as well and that she has learned some pretty unique things, like the function of the horseshoe crab.  “I’ve just learned so much through this program.  Deloris is a walking encyclopedia on nature and it’s always so interesting.”
Sailing on Kalmar Nyckel

Aside from being outside in nature, the program promotes physical activity too. “With all of the dialogue about how exercise and good nutrition can lower your chances of having breast cancer, the Nurture with Nature series is a chance for these survivors to exercise outdoors.”  Lois explained that some participants try a new activity like hiking or canoeing and return to the sites on their own with friends and family.
Betty Lou sums the program up well.  “We are all a small group of women, breast cancer survivors enjoying thrivership, endeavoring to connect and cultivate positive relationships by enjoying an activity and engaging with nature.” 
To learn more about Nurture with Nature, please click here or call Lois Wilkinson at 302-672-6435.

2010 Recap

In 2010, the Nurture with Nature series held the following programs:
  • Horseshoe Crab Count  at Slaughter Beach
  • Canoeing Abbotts Mill Pond at Abbotts Mill Nature Center in Milford
  • Tour of Peterson Nature Center in Wilmington
  • Kayaking at Killens Pond in Felton
  • Sailing on Kalmar Nyckel out of Lewes on Delaware Bay
  • Kayaking On Assawomen Bay in Fenwick
  • Amish Hay Ride and Bon Fire
Plans for 2011
In 2011, the Nuture with Nature series hopes to plan more kayaking excursions, an astronomy night at Abbotts Mill Nature Center, a small overnight camping retreat at Killen’s Pond, horseback riding, biking thru Bombay Hook Wildlife Refuge, sea glass lecture and beach combing for sea glass.  All of these activities are tentative so please check back on DBCC’s event listing for confirmed outings in the spring!

Great Stuff: Volunteer Spotlight

Volunteers Roseanne DeFino (left) and Maryanne
Geraghty are wearing items from Great Stuff!

A love of fashion combined with a desire to give back is what brought breast cancer survivors Maryanne Geraghty and Roseanne DeFino to volunteer at DBCC’s Great Stuff.  Both have volunteered previously with DBCC and thought Great Stuff to be a new and exciting place to volunteer.

Maryanne, a retired school teacher, served as a DBCC volunteer by speaking at events in schools and businesses to educate people about breast health and breast cancer.  Roseanne has been volunteering with DBCC since her own breast cancer diagnosis 14 years ago.

Volunteers, like Maryanne and Roseanne, can be found behind the scenes tagging clothes and prepping them for the racks and in the front of the store putting together beautiful displays and offering fashion tips to customers.  Volunteers always make each person that walks into Great Stuff feel welcomed and comfortable by providing excellent customer service.

“Great Stuff is just a wonderful venture.  It’s something good for the community and for the coalition,” Roseanne said.  Both women agreed that the people at Great Stuff are great—both the customers and the volunteers.

“I’ve learned so much from the customers,” Roseanne said.  “So many women that come in are breast cancer survivors and are so willing to share their story.”

Great Stuff customers are always overjoyed when they discover that the profits are going directly to DBCC to support programs and services.  “They are so happy because everyone has been touched by breast cancer,” Maryanne said.  “A customer came in and said ‘I like to shop here because I know it’s going to a great cause and not at the mall where it’s going to make someone rich.’”

Aside from the money going to a great cause, Great Stuff also offers one-of-a-kind merchandise that cannot be found in mall department stores.  “I like the diversity of the store,” Roseanne said.  “It’s not just clothes but also décor. Everything is very unique in its own way.”

Maryanne agreed that she loved to see all of the donations that come into the store.  “I like seeing what items intrigue people and how everyone finds their treasure,” she said.

“The atmosphere is great and customers are so eager to make purchases because of that,” Roseanne said.  “There’s just such a positive energy.”  Volunteers are always seen in the store holding conversations with customers and complimenting them when they emerge from the dressing room.  In a feminine, pink store staffed with breast cancer survivors and kind volunteers, it certainly has a great atmosphere full of hope, support and of course, great stuff.

For more information on volunteering at Great Stuff, visit the website.