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2017 Women’s Health Conference - In case you missed it….


Women's Health Conference

November 14, 2017

Overview of the day's presentations

Genomics today: What the Research Tells Us

Douglas Conklin, PhD

SUNY Cancer Research Center

Our 7th annual Women’s Health Conference began with an engaging lecture by Dr. Douglas Conklin of the SUNY Cancer Research Center. Dr. Conklin explained that there are four molecular subtypes of breast cancer tumors-luminal A, luminal B, Basal-like and HER2ex, all caused by different DNA mutations in breast cells that can happen over time. He then went on to introduce biochemist Dr. Otto Warburg who hypothesized that cancer growth is caused by cells that use glucose for energy through fermentation, instead of using oxygen through respiration, which occurs in normal body cells. In other words, sugar is a major source of nutrients for cancer cells. This hypothesis has led to the creation of new anti-cancer therapies, which revolve around inhibiting cell intake of glucose, thus interrupting and slowing cancer metabolism. This research also supports the idea that standard recommendations such as maintaining a healthy weight, regulating sugar and alcohol intake, exercising and not smoking have an even bigger impact on preventing cancer or recurrence - great news for many of the survivors in the room!

Advances in the Local Treatment of Breast Cancer

Duncan Savage, MD

Radiation Oncologist at St. Peter’s Hospital, SPHP

Our second speaker was board certified radiation oncologist Dr. Duncan Savage, of St. Peter’s Hospital. Dr. Savage spoke to our audience about the many advances that have occurred in the localized treatment of breast cancer, including radiation therapy, lumpectomy, Oncotype Dx testing, and targeted therapy based on the molecular subtype of breast cancer. We have learned that in many cases of breast cancer, a total mastectomy may not be needed. Instead hormonal therapy, a lumpectomy with a course of radiation, or just radiation could be equally effective in eliminating the cancer and preventing recurrence. In addition, advances in radiation have made it easier to administer effective doses without damaging internal organs, such as the heart. All in all it was a fascinating talk that reminds us of the wealth of treatment options available for breast cancer patients AND how important it is to make shared medical decisions with your oncologist regarding treatment.

Breast Surgery: Then and Now & Breast Cancer Staging

B. Marie Ward, M.D., F.A.C.S.

Division of Breast Surgery, Albany Medical Center

Our third talk of the day was given by Dr. B. Marie Ward, Director of Breast Surgery at Albany Medical Center. Dr. Ward began by taking the audience through a brief history of breast surgery and all of the progress we have made towards localized treatment. In the 21st century, surgeons have adopted a breast conservation approach, which has resulted in the near extinction of radical mastectomies and has increased the instances of lumpectomies, followed by a course of radiation. In addition, oncologists have discovered that chemotherapy is not right for everyone. Oncotype DX testing can tell us a patient’s risk for recurrence and overall survival, as well as the magnitude of chemotherapy response. If a tumor is not likely to respond effectively to chemotherapy than an oncologist can easily spare that patient the process of having to go through chemo. Dr. Ward also touched on the new 8th edition AJCC Breast Cancer Staging system which reflects the many advances made in breast cancer research. The new staging system will still include the old TNM staging (tumor size, lymph node involvement, metastasis), but will also incorporate a tumor’s biological markers, such as whether it is hormone positive or negative.


Break Out Sessions

When Legal Problems Become Health Issues

Alexis Kutski, Esq

Legal Aid Society of Northeastern NY

Alexis Kutski is a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York who spoke to the audience about Legal Aid’s Medical Legal Partnership (MLP) program with St. Peter’s Health Partners and Albany Law School. Ms. Kutski explained that a MLP is defined as collaboration between legal and medical services to address health harming legal problems. Through Legal Aid’s MLP, Ms. Kutski provides free legal services to low-income patients concerning legal issues that relate to and affect the patient’s health. Some of the legal areas addressed through an MLP are housing, legal status, health insurance, disability benefits, personal and family stability, estate planning and power of attorney. The talk contained great information for both breast cancer patients, as well as clinical professionals who may be in need of Legal Aid’s services.


Psychological Issues in Breast Cancer

Edward S. Dick, LCSW

Psychotherapist

Edward S. Dick is a Clinical Social Worker Specialist in Cambridge, NY who has a wealth of experience helping cancer patients work through the psychological impacts of their diagnoses. In an intimate interview with an audience member, Mr. Dick was able to explain how a cancer diagnosis can often make patients feel alienated, due to the fact that patients each have their own, unique cancer journey that family members and friends may not understand. He also provided great insight into breast cancer diagnoses in particular- that many new breast cancer patients feel guilty, as if somehow they made a mistake or were careless in their health. This feeling is caused by a variety of different factors, such as forgetting to go to an annual mammogram, ignoring a lump, or simply “life getting in the way” of making a doctor’s appointment. Nevertheless, Mr. Dick assured audience members that it is never the patient’s fault and that cancer is often a random occurrence over which the patient has very little control. There are also ways in which patients can combat these feelings of alienation and guilt, such as attending support groups, keeping family and friends updated via email or letters, or writing in a gratitude journal.


Trauma Informed Breast Cancer Treatment and Care

Wendy Gapczynski

DVHRT/Communications Coordinator, YWCA Northeastern NY

Wendy Gapczynski is the Advocacy Coordinator at YWCA NENY, as well as a licensed EMT. She works with Domestic Violence programs and counseling with the YWCA. Through her professional experience working with domestic violence survivors, Wendy was able to explain to the group of clinical professionals how to recognize potential domestic violence cases. Often those suffering in a domestic violence situation may not outright tell you what is going on and it is important to listen carefully and if you suspect violence, ask the patient. In providing resources to a patient in a domestic violence situation it is important to allow him or her autonomy in decision making. As a clinical provider, you can never know exactly what is going on in the patient’s home and it is unwise to make decisions for him or her. Often listening, providing contacts to the nearest YWCA or domestic violence association in the area, and practicing confidentiality best practices are the best courses of action.


Research in Lymphedema Diagnosis & Treatment

Geraldine Pfeiffer, PT CLT-LANA

Geraldine Pfeiffer provided an informative and well researched talk on lymphedema. She began by outlining and defining the stages of lymphedema, focusing on the subtle signs that can lead to an early diagnosis and emphasizing the importance of having baseline measurements for later reference. Further into the talk, Geraldine reviewed known risk factors and steps that can be taken by the patient to reduce incidence and severity of the condition.


Understanding Clinical Trials

Amy Zuchelkowski, RN, MS Clinical Research Manager

New York Oncology Hematology

With feedback from previous Conference participants, we have received numerous requests to present on the topic of clinical trials. Amy Zuchelkowski, the Clinical Research Manager for New York Oncology Hematology is an excellent local resource for information related to ongoing clinical trials. Her talk started out by addressing the four phases of clinical trials, offering a detailed overview of the process from the perspective of the research sponsor. Then Amy addressed patient concerns; prior to starting in the trial and during the trial, then a detailed review of patient risks/benefits and protections.


Radical Remission

Debra Nozik

Discussion of the book Radical Remission – The Nine Key Factors That Can Make A Real Difference, by Dr. Kelly Turner

The book is based on Dr. Turner’s 10 years of research analyzing 1,500 cases of radical remission and looking for commonalities. This led to her doctoral dissertation, a peer-reviewed scientific journal article and then the New York Time’s best-selling book, Radical Remission, which is now in 20 languages.

Dr. Kelly uncovered 75 healing factors – 9 of which were common among all her research subjects. These 9 healing factors uncovered in the research are HYPOTHESES only. There is no guarantee that following these 9 factors will heal cancer. However, separate scientific studies have shown these factors significantly strengthen the immune system. The one factor that should be practiced under the guidance of a health care professional to ensure safety is “Taking Herbs and Supplements”.

Volunteer Spotlight:Joanne Riddett


Joanne riddett headshot bw

Every day we marvel at the good work of countless volunteers here at To Life! We have committed space in each newsletter so we can share the backstory of some of them. Joanne Riddet has served on our "A Toast To Life!" committee since 2010 and has co-chaired since 2012 and we think you should get to know her. 

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I’m So Glad You Asked That Question!- Boutique Q & A’s


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In this edition of I'm So Glad You Asked That Question!, we answer questions from the To Life! Boutique Mailbox. If you have had or may have a mastectomy or lumpectomy or are starting chemotherapy these answers are very informative and will explain how To Life!'s mastectomy boutique and wig boutique can help you on your cancer journey.

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Palliative Care for Chronic Illnesses


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In this informative article, our Director of Education, Martha McCormick discusses new research on Palliative Care and how it can help many struggling with chronic illness.

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I’m So Glad You Asked That Question!- Boutique Q & A’s


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In this edition of I'm So Glad You Asked That Question!, we answer questions from the To Life! Mastectomy Boutique Mailbox. If you have had or may have a mastectomy, these answers are very informative and will explain how To Life!'s mastectomy boutique can help you on your cancer journey.

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Can I Stay Emotionally Healthy During Cancer Treatment?


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In this informative and fascinating article, our director of education, Martha McCormick, explains how positive psychology can help patients stay emotionally healthy during cancer treatment. Using research from the University of Pennsylvania, Martha helps identify specific characteristics that are found in people who are "thriving," and how these characteristics can help us to stay positive in the face of great trial.

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Volunteer Spotlight: Shirley Anderson


Shirley head shot

Shirley Andersen is one of our wonderful volunteers. As a survivor, co-chair of our spring gala, A Toast To Life!,  and a member of the To Life! support group, Shirley truly is a shining example of the very heartbeat of our organization. Read this informative interview with Shirley about her cancer journey and her involvement in To Life!

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Volunteer Spotlight: Susan Kugler



Faces of To Life! - Susan Kugler

Every day we marvel at the good work of countless volunteers here at To Life! We have committed space in each newsletter so we can share the backstory of some of them. Susan Kugler has served on our Gala committee as Chair of the Silent Auction and we think you should get to know her.

How did you first hear of To Life! and what made you want to be involved?A board member thought I would enjoy a challenge in retirement. He was right! Working on the silent auction is right up my alley - a big project to be organized, directed, and implemented. Keeping track of a lot in my head is one of the things I do best.

(Published in To Life! Fall 2016 Newsletter)

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Free Cancer Screening Series!


Free Cancer Screening Series!

Sponsored by Cancer Services Center and St. Peter's Health Partners.

Call to make your appointment today! (518) 525-8680.

Volunteer Spotlight: Catherine Zampier


You’re a longtime To Life! volunteer - What does To Life! mean to you? To Life! was the first outside organization I contacted after my diagnosis - and telling my family of course. I wasn’t sure where to start. I was quickly given a contact who was a breast cancer survivor. I called her right away and felt good about having a heart-to heart conversation with her. She understood exactly what I was going through and could answer my questions. At To Life!, I’ve attended one of the support groups, utilized their wig and mastectomy boutiques and I’ve enjoyed massages there also. Eileen, the Executive Director, has been a good friend of mine since high school and I enjoy working with her.

(Published in To Life! Spring 2016 Newsletter)

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