Q&A: What Does the Breast Cancer Community Need?

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A person living with a breast cancer diagnosis at any stage may feel overwhelmed and concerned about what their health journey will entail. At Healthline Media, we’re committed to being a voice for our audience and help marketers guide their decisions with insights. What do we know? The breast cancer community has complex needs that require emotional and mental support, a dedicated care team, and a positive outlook for a hopeful future. 

Thanks to our partnership with our friends at Breastcancer.org, we connected with Rita Lusen, the site’s vice president of partnerships and development, to learn more about the complex health journey experienced by people living with breast cancer. A 13-year survivor herself, Rita also has the personal insight to pull in her own experiences into this conversation.

Here’s what she had to share:

Q: A breast cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming and may motivate people to conduct their own research on their options and what to expect. Since the Breastcancer.org mission is to help people make sense of their breast cancer journey, can you identify what this community needs the most? 

A cancer diagnosis places you in a world filled with new terms and time-sensitive decisions. There is so much new and complicated information shared about your diagnosis and about the treatment options that it can be emotional, and most people don’t even know what they need to know. Breastcancer.org’s mission is to provide information and support in a simple-to-understand way so people can make the most informed decisions about their care.

Q: Thanks to the great accessibility of digital resources, people at any stage of their breast cancer journey can find answers and community. What matters the most to these individuals when they are searching for information? 

Most of the medical terminology is new to those who’ve just received a breast cancer diagnosis. Searching on the internet can be helpful but also daunting and confusing. Trust is key when gathering information online. Going to trusted websites that are known for credible, reliable, and trustworthy information is extremely important. Also important is the way in which the information is presented — are the medical terms and explanations easy to understand and presented in a way that makes sense to people at a very emotionally charged time?

Q: Breast cancer treatment can be complex. How are people getting the right information so that they’re able to make informed decisions about their care? 

They are mostly relying on their medical team, but they are increasingly using resources like Breastcancer.org, Healthline.com, and MedicalNewsToday.com to gather information about their diagnosis and care options. An informed patient is able to be a part of the treatment decision-making along with their medical team and ensure that they get the best care possible that meets their own individual needs.

Q: COVID-19 presents challenges for those living with breast cancer. What are the major needs and concerns for this community? And how are you encouraging this community to continue their treatment while we’re still navigating the pandemic?

Safety is a major concern - making sure that all precautions are taken to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19, especially for those in active treatment and for those living with metastatic breast cancer. There are also questions about the vaccine and the need to understand the differences between the vaccine options being offered.

Mental health and staying well is also a major concern for the breast cancer community. Managing day-to-day life after a breast cancer diagnosis can be difficult under normal circumstances — and the COVID-19 pandemic has added its own set of challenges, making it even harder to balance breast cancer treatment and self-care along with everyday responsibilities.

We know that at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, most hospitals and other healthcare screening centers delayed or canceled screening mammograms. This decision was made to help protect people from the increased risk of contracting the virus that causes COVID-19 and to make sure healthcare professionals had the resources they needed to treat people who had the virus. As screening centers have implemented stricter safety practices to reduce the risk of exposing people to COVID-19, screening mammograms and other elective procedure are being offered in a safe setting 

Q: Thanks to scientific and medical advancements in breast cancer treatment, is there a drug or a treatment regimen that you anticipate as the most promising? 

Immunotherapy treatment advances and also treatment for triple-negative breast cancer. Plus, because of the pandemic, the healthcare system was forced to become innovative in its care for patients by offering telemedicine, virtual appointments, and digital monitoring options. Many of these solutions are proving to be effective and beneficial to the patient and may stay as a part of care options.

Q: Breastcancer.org has a widely used community platform for those living with breast cancer that allows them to connect with others who understand what they’re experiencing. How important is peer support from others dealing with similar circumstances? Can you share what types of discussions are happening in the community? 

Community support, also known as peer-to-peer support, is incredibly important. The exchange of information and conversations with others who are going through the same experiences can be invaluable to many people. Connecting with others with the same type of breast cancer diagnosis and similar treatment paths allows for learning and support in a way that they are not able to get from their medical team. People can find strength in the inspirational stories from other community members. 

Discussion topics are literally in the thousands. Breastcancer.org currently has 83 different forums ranging from “Not Diagnosed, But Concerned” to “Connecting With Others Who Have a Similar Diagnosis” to “Metastatic Breast Cancer” to “Moving On & Finding Inspiration for Life After Breast Cancer.” We have over 200,000 members, including those who have recently joined and members who have built online relationships over many, many years. 

I encourage all of you to watch a video and hear directly from some of our community members and learn more about the breast cancer experience. 

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Interested in learning more about the breast cancer experience and how your brand can be part of this discussion? Reach out to your Healthline Media representative or contact us here for more information.

Source: Healthline Media Medical Affairs Network, 2021; Breastcancer.org internal data

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