Judy Zwillenberg: Insights from an LBBC Intern – Part 1 of a 3 Part Series

The staff here at Living Beyond Breast Cancer is excited to have many new faces and strong minds in the office, with a special appreciation going out to our interns. During her stay here at the LBBC office, intern Judy Zwillenberg will share what it’s like to be a part of the team as she works on the Young Women‘s Initiative.

I began my work at LBBC when I volunteered in the spring of 2010 for my high school senior project. This summer, I am interning in the Education Department on the Young Women’s Initiative. I have worked on a number of projects, but for this blog post, I want to focus on my research on young women diagnosed with breast cancer.

The articles I read addressed two different aspects of breast cancer treatments for young women. First, they discussed the biological and medical sides of a breast cancer diagnosis. These included treatment options, recurrence, and the effects of obesity on breast cancer. Many breast cancer specialists seem to devote a lot of time to these topics, especially those which apply to a broad range of breast cancer stages, ages, and races. However, fertility after breast cancer, an area I found particularly interesting,  is an issue faced predominantly by young women and receives much less attention. In addition to the initial shock of being diagnosed with breast cancer and facing treatment, young women must also think ahead and family-plan. Many do not receive adequate guidance and do not know how long to wait after treatments to conceive (2 to 3 years), or how chemotherapy affects fertility (it may lead to premature menopause). The article made it very clear that counseling about these questions must be available to women who still want children after their treatments.

The other informative part of the articles I read was the discussion regarding planning programs and events for survivors. Many of the articles outlined effective programming as a way to address young women’s needs during and after breast cancer treatment. Treatment is not simply mastectomy versus breast conserving therapies, or chemotherapy compared to radiation. To women diagnosed with breast cancer, support groups and programs are also vital to their recovery and quality of life during and after breast cancer. In a study conducted by Komen, women of different ages and races convened in focus groups to discuss the disease. An overwhelming majority of the women wished that, at their time of diagnosis, they were given information about support groups. Also, they felt that many of the materials they received did not focus on their specific age bracket, race, or breast cancer stage, but rather on a larger and vague idea of “breast cancer.”

Although the topics of the articles varied, in my opinion, they all stressed the need for organizations such as Living Beyond Breast Cancer. LBBC is a truly unique breast cancer non-profit: it combines up-to-date medical news and educational and social programming to provide women with breast cancer with essential resources. Not only does it make information about diagnoses and treatment options available through pamphlets, events and teleconference, but it also dedicates an extensive amount of time and energy to educational programming devoted to specific groups of women. Young women, for example, can receive information specifically pertaining to them and their needs, or attend conferences focused solely on their demographic, such as C4YW: The Conference for Young Women Affected by Breast Cancer. In general, there is a dearth of programs out there which focus on specific age brackets, races, or breast cancer stages, but LBBC tries to fill in some of the gaps through their programming.

Judy is a rising sophomore at Cornell University as a Biology and Society major.You can find more information about the Young Women’s Initiative at the Living Beyond Breast Cancer website. Come back next month for another peek into Judy’s work here at LBBC.

2 thoughts on “Judy Zwillenberg: Insights from an LBBC Intern – Part 1 of a 3 Part Series

  1. Great post, Judy. Young women diagnosed and dealing with breast cancer most certainly have their own issues (I would know, I was one of them!) – you hit the nail on the head regarding fertility. It’s a difficult choice, even when offered embryo or egg freezing before treatment . . . with these estrogen receptive cancers, we don’t really have that ‘before’ option. And afterwards our fertility, if we are still fertile, suddenly become this ticking menopause time bomb (and minute, the doctors say, we could be infertile.)

    Good luck with your internship. Sounds as though you’re on a good path forward!


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