Volume 1, Number 2

December 2000


Imperial Valley Chapter

New Attitudes

A newsletter dedicated to understanding and preventing breast cancer.

Angels and Bolters: A Field Guide to the Wildlife of Cancer

By Karen Ritchie, M.D.

When you are diagnosed with cancer, strange things happen to other people. Cancer will probably change you, but it also changes people around you, people you thought you knew.

People behave in unexpected ways. Some you thought were friends disappear. Others hang around. And of those who keep coming around, you will be glad to see some, and less glad to see others.

You will find out who your friends are, as the saying goes. As if that's a good thing. As if anyone ever really wants to find out who can be counted on and who can't. Someone you rarely saw and didn't feel particularly close to may turn out to be the person who is most supportive, who most understands what you are going through.

Although each person's cancer experience is unique, there are some commonalities. The following is a guide to the creatures you may encounter.


Preachers are anxious to give you advice and information. They are convinced that they know what is best for you, and they go out of their way to share their answers. They bring you books and tapes, herbs and pills, or they know where you can send money _ usually a lot of money _ to obtain a product that is guaranteed to cure you. This guarantee, on closer examination, turns out to be more like a strong opinion.

So they will assure you that vegetarians don't get cancer, or meditators don't get cancer, or those who think happy thoughts. None of which is true. They bring you tofu and sprouts when you really want a pizza, and then you feel guilty for eating pizza at all. They insist that you think positive, at a time when you are bald and nauseated and have a temperature of 104 and a major body part is missing.

Preachers are usually well-meaning and sincerely

concerned for your welfare, so they are hard to ignore. They are convinced that the one thing they promote is the thing that will cure your cancer, if you only do it correctly. This last part is the kicker _ if it doesn't work, you must not be doing it right.


Angels know what to do, and they know what you need. They drop by with a bag of groceries or they offer to walk the dog. They will listen when you need to talk, or they can just sit next to you and be there without having to do anything or say anything. They know that just being there is doing something. Angels tread lightly because they have no agenda of their own.

They treat you like the person you always were. They know that, despite the cancer, you are still you. Sometimes angels just know what you need, and sometimes they need to ask. An angel knows how to listen to the answer, how to listen to what you say and to what you're not saying. You can cry with angels and you can laugh with them, sometimes both at the same time. Some are born angels. Others have to learn, which takes time and may be awkward at first.


For fellow travelers, your cancer journey is their journey. Family members become fellow travelers out of necessity. Others stick with you by choice.

When you have cancer, they have it, too. And, in some ways, their journey is harder _ a time of frustration and powerlessness. While you can fight the cancer, they can only observe.

Fellow travelers want to be supportive, although at first they may not know how. They can become angels, but it will take time. Most of us are not good lis

continued inside

Angels and Bolters . . . (continued)

This information may ease some of the anxiety that a woman feels when she is called back for further testing, Christiansen noted.

"Most women are likely to have a false-positive, and if women know that at some point in time they are likely to be called back for further testing, they shouldn't worry excessively," coauthor Mary B. Barton said in an interview with Reuters Health. (Source: Reuters Health, New York, October 17, 2000 via http://www.healthcentral.com)-

teners, and it takes a while to learn. You can help by being patient and by asking for what you need.

The clueless are right about one thing _ there are good things about having cancer. The best is the opportunity for a closer relationship with those who care about you. And, of course, you learn who your friends are. (Source: http://www.cancerlynx.com)-

Director of the Comadre Program - Elizabeth Arispe

Elizabeth Arispe has been a breast cancer survivor for six years. Liz is proud of her survivorship and happy to be a member of the Between Women Y-Me Board. Liz has a strong desire to teach and share vital information about early detection of breast cancer. The Comadre Program is where Liz feels she can help share information as well as her personal experience of breast cancer.

Liz is married to Herbert Arispe and has four children. She was diagnosed with breast cancer November 11, 1994. Liz is also a Registered Nurse and is employed at El Centro Regional Medical Center, working in surgery. Although she has a very good knowledge of breast cancer with her background in nursing, there were still many questions left unanswered. Her journey of finding the right doctors to meet her needs has been successful. Liz is a fighter and believes there isn't a question that should be left unanswered.

Liz believes no one should face breast cancer alone. The Comadre Program has evolved as a result of a Latina Conference last spring in Redondo Beach. At the conference she heard a speaker, Dr. Marlana Vega, tell her story about her mother and grandmother, who were diagnosed with breast cancer when Dr. Vega was only 15 years old. This news was devastating. Dr. Vega wanted to help Latina women by equipping them with information about breast cancer. Today Dr. Vega is sharing information about support groups in Latina homes with their family members as well as neighbors.

After the conference, Liz expressed her desire to start such a program in the Valley. Liz is Hispanic and speaks Spanish fluently. In the fall of 2000, Between Women Y-Me implemented the Comadre Program. The program, which is primarily designed to educate Latina women, is in a home setting with close friends and family members to teach as well as share personal victories. A video presentation and breast models are used for proper and accurate information on breast cancer and breast self-examination. This program has been very effective in getting appropriate information into the Latina community and has been very well received. Liz is excited to help in our Valley with knowledge about breast cancer as well as early detection. If you or someone you know would like to have a Comadre Program (Party) in your

Many Mammograms Have False-Positive Outcomes

Women who start having mammograms once per year at the age of 50 could have as many as three false-positive readings in their lifetime, researchers report.

Dr. Cindy L. Christiansen of the Boston University School of Public Health in Massachusetts and colleagues set out to identify which women are more likely to receive a false-positive mammogram _ one which seems to show the presence of cancer or precancerous cells when in reality there are none. In addition, the investigators examined the ways in which mammograms are conducted to see how that might contribute to a false-positive result.

The team examined the outcomes of nearly 10,000 mammograms conducted on 2,227 women who were aged 40 to 69.

Overall, "6.5 percent were false-positive; 23.8 percent of women experienced at least one false-positive result. After nine mammograms, the risk of a false-positive mammogram was 43.1 percent," the report indicates.

The researchers discovered that four characteristics that were specifically related to the individual patient led to more false-positive results. "Younger women, women using estrogen, women that had a previous biopsy performed and women who had a family history of breast cancer all had an increased chance for a false-positive," Christiansen told Reuters Health.

Other factors also contributed to the likelihood of a false-positive outcome. For instance, the more time that passed between mammograms increased a woman's risk of a false-positive result, as did the practice of not comparing mammograms to previous mammograms, according to Christiansen.

The research team hopes that focusing on some of these risk factors may lead women to be more informed about the process.

"For instance, women who do not have a mammogram to compare to the new one are 75 percent more likely to have a false-positive," Christiansen explained. "So if it's possible, we would recommend that women try and obtain previous results to aid the process." Likewise, "women who were taking estrogen had a 29 percent chance of having a false-positive."

home, call 351-1774 or 344-5019. We look forward to serving our community by equipping you with great tools. (Source: http://www.betweenwomen.net)-

tries, including the definition of cancer.

The 20-volume dictionary currently defines cancer as "a malignant growth or tumor in different parts of the body that tends to spread indefinitely and to reproduce itself . . . and generally ends in death."

According to Nicholas Young, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Relief, a British charity, the OED's entry fails to take into account improved survival rates and the fact that several cancers are now curable. Besides, being "factually incorrect," he believes that the current definition "mislead(s) the public in general and cancer patients in particular." Young alerted the editors this past summer to the need for a change.

"This definition was written in the 1880s," said John Simpson, chief editor of the OED. "As the dictionary has not been systematically revised until now, it has not been possible to update definitions of this type." Cancer is just one of the many words under review, Simpson added. (Source: MAMM Magazine, February 2000)-

New Technique Could Replace Surgery for Breast Cancer

By Suzanne Rostler

A noninvasive procedure that cooks cancer cells to death might one day replace surgery as a first-line treatment for breast cancer, preliminary study findings suggest.

A trial is under way at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, to evaluate the technique. Fifteen women will undergo the procedure, known as magnetic resonance guided focused ultrasound therapy. Then, doctors will remove the tumor surgically and examine tissue under a microscope to make sure all malignant cells have been killed.

"If we can show that the technique works . . . it will save women from having surgery for breast cancer," study leader Dr. Marc Fenstermacher told Reuters Health. "The biggest advantage is that it is totally noninvasive _ there are no incisions, probes or needles."

However, use of the procedure as a standard way to treat breast cancer is still several years away, he added.

The technique relies on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to locate the tumor and outline the area to be treated. Then, ultrasound waves are delivered to a tiny focal spot on the tumor at 10-second intervals.

In the meantime, the MRI is measuring the temperature change in the cancerous area to make sure the correct area is receiving heat. Temperatures above 80 degrees Celsius (176 degrees Fahrenheit) will kill cancerous tissue by causing proteins in cells to break apart and blood vessels to clot.

The procedure takes about 2 hours, but Fenstermacher said improvements in the machinery could eventually shorten treatment length.

Early results suggest that the procedure is effective with minimal side effects, which have included mild tenderness.

The procedure might someday be used to treat other types of cancer. Studies are being planned to investigate how well it destroys tumors of the uterus and soft tissue sarcomas. (Source: Reuters Health, New York, October 12, 2000)-

Coming to Terms

Oxford English Dictionary to update cancer definition

By Angela Starita

With the advent of widespread screening and new treatments, the definition of cancer is changing _ literally. The editors of the 116-year-old Oxford English Dictionary (OED) are in the throes of a 15-year plan to revise antiquated en

Spirit Lifters

Greet the sunrise • talk to God • read the Bible • bake some cookies • rest in the sunset • take a walk • listen to the birds • plant some flowers in the garden • fly a kite with a grandchild • play gin rummy • have a massage • take a nap • paint a picture • listen to music • visit a friend • enjoy a chocolate sundae • hug someone • call a long-distance friend • read a funny book • laugh out loud • join a choir • take a Sunday drive • write a letter • enjoy a cup of hot tea • take a bubble bath.

Nurse Types

Doctor's Wife*Pet*Traditionalist*Student

Radical*Martyr*Traveler*Substance Abuse

Super*Busybody*Male Nurse*Part-Timer

Lifer*Burn-Out*Dead Wood*Whiner

Future Experiences . . .

•Between Women has partnered with the Public Health Department, A Place of Angels, Pioneers Health Centers and the American Cancer Society to present a Cancer Awareness Presentation to the churches in the Imperial Valley. Look for the dates for these presentations in the Imperial Valley Press and your bulletins at church. We all feel this will equip church groups to deal with their members suffering with cancer as well as educating the church about cancer and early detection. If your church would like to have this type of presentation, please contact us at 344-5019.

•Between Women now has an office in Brawley. We are asking for donated items to complete the office. These items can also be on "loan." We need a computer monitor and a fax machine. We also need a couch, a coffee table and silk plants. Please call 344-5019 to donate these items.

New Attitudes

306 West Trail, Brawley, CA 92227

Phone (760) 344-5019, Fax (760) 344-8952

E-Mail: betweenwomen@yahoo.com

www.betweenwomen.org • www.betweenwomen.net

Between Women is an IRS.501(e)3 nonprofit organization.

New Attitudes, a free educational publication made available to all interested residents of the Imperial Valley, is scheduled to be published and circulated four times a year _ in March, June, September and December. Direct all questions and/or comments about this newsletter to Editor Melissa Greer.


Are you a breast cancer survivor? Do you know someone or have a loved one who is a breast cancer survivor? breast cancer survivors need and want to be in contact with you or with them! Call Linda Cady at 344-5019 with names and addresses to receive a free copy of New Attitudes.

The goal of New Attitudes is to provide Imperial Valley women with vital information on the prevention and successful treatment of breast cancer.





Imperial Valley Chapter

New Attitudes

306 West Trail

Brawley, CA 92227