University researchers and doctors, as well as cancer survivors, emphasized the importance of early diagnosis on Saturday as nearly 500 people gathered for the third annual Breast Cancer Summit.
Held at the North Campus Research Complex, the event was sponsored by the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Breast Oncology and Community Outreach programs.
Martha Laatsch, the event’s organizer and community outreach program director at the center, said the event allows both women and men to educate themselves about cancer prevention, detection and treatment options — even if they haven’t been affected by cancer.
“It’s an opportunity to learn about breast health and the latest advancements in detecting breast cancer early as well as types of breast cancer that are genetically passed on from one family member to another,” Laatsch said.
Rep. Debbie Dingell (D–Mich.) delivered the summit’s opening remarks and emphasized the importance of continued efforts to fight breast cancer.
“Because of the talent like we have at the University of Michigan, we are going to kill this disease and make sure it stops killing people, God willing, within the lifetime of many of you in this room,” she said. “The University of Michigan, we thank you for creating this coalition of people to come together to learn, to educate, to advocate, to take care of yourself, your friends and family and make sure that this is a community that takes breast cancer on and tries to eliminate it forever.”
A panel of University oncologists also gave a presentation explaining how doctors detect and treat breast cancer. They focused on a case study from cancer survivor and former Cancer Center patient Melonie Mitchell, who also spoke during the event.
The panel talked extensively about the treatment options available to patients, including surgery, radiation, counseling, breast reconstruction, supportive care and drug therapy.
After the panel presentation, Mitchell thanked the University for playing a role in her treatment and recovery from breast cancer.
“I’m thankful for U of M and to have been here, all of the wonderful research and all of the wonderful practitioners and providers,“ Mitchell said.
In another presentation, Radiation Oncology Prof. Lori Pierce, the University’s vice provost for academic and faculty affairs, said it’s vital for the community to understand the modern techniques doctors are using to fight breast cancer.
“It’s very important to know what goes on behind the scenes,” Pierce said. “There has been a lot of work that has gone into the planning of these treatments before patients come in. We want to make sure we optimize the treatment for our patients by giving them the best possible chance of cure.”
The summit’s afternoon session, titled “Continuing to Thrive,” turned the focus from cancer treatment to a discussion of healthy living habits designed to benefit all types of people — including patients, survivors and those without cancer.
Katherine Goldberg, a culinary specialist with the University’s MHealthy Health and Well-Being Services, discussed the role a balanced, organic diet plays in good health and cancer prevention.
“By eating well, you don’t just reduce your risk of cancer but so many other types of diseases like obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, macular degeneration and diabetes,” Goldberg said.
Public Health Prof. Vic Strecher closed the event with a talk about the process of finding purpose, happiness and comfort.
“Very importantly, in the cancer field, we’re starting to give meaning-centered therapy or purpose-in-life therapy to patients who have cancer and have been finding really super promising outcomes on well-being,” Strecher said. “So my own purpose is to help other people find a purpose.”
Ann Arbor resident Jennifer Wrisbrod, who is a cancer survivor, said the event was the perfect opportunity to familiarize herself with the new research available in the field.
“I live with the possibility of a recurrence,” said Wrisbrod. “It’s not behind me. It’s with me everyday and I learned here what’s in the future, which provides more hope and helps me live every day a little better.”