American Cancer Society Changes Screening Guidelines: What Does this Mean for Young Women?

Today, the American Cancer Society (ACS) revised its guidelines on screening mammography and clinical breast exams (CBEs) in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). These new guidelines state that, in women of average breast cancer risk, annual screening mammography should start at age 45 and that CBEs should not be performed by physicians on women of any age. For women ages 40-44, the guidelines state that they should have the “opportunity” to begin annual mammography screening. Prior to this October publication, ACS recommended annual mammograms starting at age 40 and CBEs every three years for women in their 20s and 30s, with annual CBEs to begin at age 40.

As the leading voice for young women affected by breast cancer, Young Survival Coalition (YSC) has released a response on these new guidelines. We carefully reviewed all available research when taking a stance on these issues. We believe that better tools are urgently needed to screen, diagnose, detect and monitor for breast cancer in younger women. You can read our full response here.

Let’s break it down a bit further…


Radiology technician examens mammography test

Radiology technician examines a mammogram.

The mammography screening debate is complicated, and a more thorough discussion of the issues and research can be found in our response.

— Screening mammography is testing performed in a healthy population to examine for presence of disease.

— We have known for some time that screening mammography is not effective in women under age 40 because their dense breasts impede accurate results.[i]

— Screening mammography for women over 40 or 50 years of age does not directly impact the young breast cancer survivors served by YSC.

— We interpret the change in ACS’ guidelines as a public admission that there is also no benefit to screening mammography between the ages of 40-44. Not only is there no benefit, but the risks outweigh the benefits enough for a change in recommendation to be warranted.

— YSC concurs. We are not stating that screening mammography should be completely eliminated. We do believe, however, that women should be counseled about the risks and benefits of screening mammography, in consultation with their doctors, and make an individual decision that is best for them.

The above ACS recommendations address screening mammography only and do not impact the use of diagnostic mammography, a test performed because of a lump or other symptom that may suggest the presence of breast cancer. Diagnostic mammography is a vital tool. Women of any age with signs or symptoms of breast cancer should consult their doctors as soon as possible. In addition, screening mammography only addresses women at average risk of getting breast cancer in the general population. It is not for, and the research quoted does not address, screening in women at higher than average risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer (because of a BRCA 1 or 2 mutation, family history of breast cancer, or prior chest radiation), which includes screening residual breast tissue of breast cancer survivors of any age.

Clinical Breast Exams (CBEs):


Clinical Breast Exam (CBE), photo by the National Cancer Institute.

— The recommendation that a CBE, a physical exam to detect visible and palpable breast cancer by a medical professional, should not be performed was surprising.

— In young women with breast cancer, 80% find the breast abnormality themselves[ii], suggesting that the cancer was palpable.

— YSC has reviewed the data and did not find a strong basis for this recommendation. Therefore, YSC does not support this recommendation. When more clarifying evidence is received, we will review and reconsider the recommendation. We would welcome further explanation from ACS on their decision, as well as elucidation of the harms that could occur from CBEs and would outweigh the possible benefits.

Especially in populations without access to breast cancer screening, or who are too young to receive such screening, we are concerned about the recommendation to eliminate CBEs entirely. 

What now?

— Without other reliable screening options, we believe that CBEs should still be performed.

— We recommend that all women are familiar with their breasts and aware of the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.

— If you notice anything suspicious, you should see your primary care doctor or OB/GYN. It is important that you do not accept “You are too young for breast cancer” as an answer from a healthcare provider.

— If you are a young woman at high risk for breast cancer, you should speak with a doctor about when you should begin breast screenings and which ones are best for you.

Whenever new screening guidelines come out, it can be confusing. Remember that these are guidelines for the general population and not women who are at higher risk. You can educate and empower yourself by reading YSC’s, “Breast Health and You: A Young Woman’s Guide.”

We would love to hear from you. What do you think of these new screening guidelines?


[i] Checka CM, Chun JE, Schnabel FR, Lee J, Toth H.  The relationship of mammographic density and age: implications for breast cancer screening.  AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2012; 198(3): W292-95. Doi:10.2214/AJR.10.6049.

[ii] Ruddy, K. et al., “Presentation of breast cancer in young women,” Journal of Clinical Oncology 27:15S (2009).



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Changing the Face of Breast Cancer Advocacy

When I joined the breast cancer community at age 36, I had no idea my diagnosis would take me into the world of advocacy and science around the disease that was trying to kill me. As I transitioned into my professional role as YSC’s third Chief Executive Officer, I also began my education and training to prepare myself to serve as a breast cancer advocate. It was empowering and something that has changed my life forever.

Within my first year as CEO, I traveled to San Antonio for my first San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS). This is the largest annual breast cancer event in the world, and it’s a place where doctors, researchers and advocates come together to share knowledge and work together to improve outcomes and survivorship for breast cancer patients.


While at this event in 2011, I was taken aback by how OLD everyone was. There were so few people my age that I met them all on the first night. How was this possible at an event with 7,500 people? I remember wondering how we could ensure that the voices of young women were heard if there were so few involved in the cause. I was troubled by this and made a commitment at that moment to do something about it.

Since then, we’ve created a strategy, formed partnerships and built up our staff, and YSC is now ready to address this issue.

YSC’s newest program is called RISE. It stands for Respected Influencers through Science and Education – but what it’s really about is the NEXT GENERATION of breast cancer advocates.


You see, I believe it is YSC’s responsibility to ensure that young women are included in every conversation about breast cancer. And that is no small feat. We need a small army of smart, educated, empowered, connected young women to make this happen. And we’ve figured out how to do it.

So what is RISE? Who can be part of this group? First, I’ll tell you what it is not. It is not a place for everyone. This will be a handpicked, elite group of the top breast cancer advocates who will represent the voices of all young breast cancer survivors.

hannah and sueann

YSC knows many smart, dedicated women who have already spent time, money and energy gaining the scientific knowledge necessary to fill this role – and many have been doing so for years. Those women will become the foundation for RISE. They will be the mentors and leaders of this important work.

But that is not enough. The other part of the program is the education of NEW young women who want the education and opportunity to join these critical discussions. YSC will take on the responsibility to train and teach ten of them every year.

My vision is that someday in the near future, I will be walking around SABCS and hear someone say “I can’t believe how many YOUNG women are here.”

YSC’s mission is to support ALL young women who have been affected by breast cancer in the U.S. – however, it is also to ensure young women are a part of the science and research efforts.

We ALL want a cure for breast cancer. Until that time, YSC is stepping up to invest in the next generation of breast cancer advocates to ensure the voices, needs and experiences of young women affected by breast cancer are a part of every conversation.

Check out YSC’s new RISE program and help spread the word. We are accepting applications through October 9, 2015.


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In Our Own Words: Young Survivors Share Real Stories and Advice

It’s almost October, and although that means it’s time to pull on a sweater, enjoy a spiced pumpkin latte and carve a pumpkin, it’s also Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It can sometimes be overwhelming with so many messages about breast cancer and seeing pink everywhere. This year we decided to enlist the help of the amazing women YSC serves to get real advice from someone who has been there – someone who gets it.

A huge THANK YOU to the fabulous women who took the time to submit a video offering advice on everything from fertility to recommendations on getting through chemotherapy. But above all, these lovely ladies offered words of hope, love and support with a message that YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Over the next month, we will be featuring eight of the videos received. We will release a new video every few days, so please remember to follow YSC on Facebook and Twitter for updates. While we could not feature all of them this month, you can find all of the great videos in the survivor stories section of our website.

We hope you will view the survivor stories and share your own story and/or advice to contribute to a growing searchable online library of guidance and encouragement from real survivors.

And here’s a preview of what’s to come…







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Categories: YSC SYNC - Survivors

YSC’s New ONLINE Support Groups


A “support group” means different things to different people. For some, it might represent your most sacred circle of friends. For others, it might generate thoughts of a trauma you have experienced.

I walked into my first YSC support group just two weeks after my breast cancer diagnosis at age 36, and I was terrified. I was more nervous about the support group than I was about meeting with my surgeon to plan my bilateral mastectomy. I never thought I needed a support group…. and I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I was lucky. I lived in a place with an established community of YSC young breast cancer survivors. There was infrastructure and scheduled meetings – all the things needed to ensure a safe environment where I could find the support I needed.

That YSC support group changed my life. I met the most amazing, strong, compassionate women I have ever met – and in many ways they saved me as I went through my journey with breast cancer.

Many other young women are not so lucky. We live in a BIG country and while YSC has groups in 128 locations (check out where) nationwide, it is far from everywhere. So what do the young women do when they’re diagnosed with breast cancer in locations where YSC doesn’t exist?

And what about those who are lucky enough to live in a location where YSC exists, but aren’t feeling well enough to travel for the meeting? What if treatment is kicking your butt and you physically can’t make a meeting – isn’t this a time when you need support the most?

YSC has decided to do something about these challenges. Our number one goal is to serve EVERY young woman affected by breast cancer (YWABC) in the U.S. and to accomplish that, we have to do things differently.

I am pleased to announce that YSC is launching online support groups!

Woman in a sofa with laptopWe created this program so that YWABC anywhere in the U.S. have access to support. We invested in this program to ensure that if a young woman affected by breast cancer is not feeling well enough to travel, she can still get the support she needs from the comfort of her home.

So whether you are newly diagnosed or living with metastatic breast cancer, and no matter where you are, YSC is here for you. You can participate via your smart phone, tablet or computer! Three groups are available now and keep an eye out as we continue to expand the program.

Needing support is not a sign of weakness – it is actually a sign of your commitment to your personal pursuit of resiliency, which we at YSC believe is a sign of strength.


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Categories: YSC SYNC - Survivors

What do Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and Adam Levine have in common?

The answer is…YSC!  No, I am not kidding!

We Can Survive Performers

From left to right: Katy Perry, Adam Levine and Taylor Swift.

Three years ago, CBS Radio created a charity benefit concert called “We Can Survive” and they chose YSC as the beneficiary of their generosity. I am thrilled to announce that they are doing it again this year! Over the past two years, CBS Radio has generously donated $150,000 in proceeds from the concert to support young women affected by breast cancer.

YSC Chief Development Officer, Jenna Glazer, Katy Perry and YSC CEO Jennifer Merschdorf at the 2013 concert.

YSC Chief Development Officer, Jenna Glazer, Katy Perry and YSC CEO Jennifer Merschdorf at the 2013 concert.

In 2013, YSC young survivors stood on the stage before Katy Perry performed to help raise awareness that young women can and do get breast cancer. Katy was joined by Sara Bareilles, Ellie Goulding, Tegan & Sara and Kacey Musgraves.

In 2014, YSC applauded performers Taylor Swift, Pharrel, Iggy Azalea, Airana Grande, Lady Antebellum, Paramore, Sia and Gwen Stefani for their commitment to YSC and all young breast cancer survivors

And in 2015… well, you will have to wait and see! The concert is October 24 at the historic Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.

YSC State Leader Amanda Nixon, Pharrell and YSC CEO, Jennifer Merschdorf at the 2014 concert.

YSC State Leader Amanda Nixon, Pharrell and YSC CEO, Jennifer Merschdorf at the 2014 concert.


Wanna go? You have a chance to win an all-expenses paid trip! Thanks to Oakley, YSC is having a contest for two free VIP tickets, roundtrip airfare and hotel for a young breast cancer survivor and her guest. How cool is that?

Enter to win and PASS IT ON!! Make sure you register before October 7, 2015. We’ll notify the contest winner on October 9, 2015.

Here is the FULL LINE UP for the 2015 concert: 5 Second of Summer, Calvin Harris, Demi Lovato, Maroon 5, Nick Jonas, Sam Smith, and The Weeknd…. What?!?!?!?! Awesome. Ticket sales open to the general public through Ticketmaster on Friday, Sept. 25 at 10:00AM, PT.


Check out the official concert site!  YSC is honored to be a part of this amazing event, and we thank CBS Radio for their continued dedication to raising awareness that young women can and do get breast cancer! See you in Hollywood!





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Categories: YSC SYNC - Survivors

Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer as a Young Woman

A diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer (MBC) was the last thing I expected. I was a busy wife and dedicated mother to my seven-year-old daughter. I was the family breadwinner, working as a network engineer in Seattle’s fast-paced technology industry in 2006.

At age 36, breast cancer wasn’t on my radar. I discovered a lump, but physicians assured me I was too young to have breast cancer and it was likely an infection. Months later, following a biopsy, I was shocked to be diagnosed with MBC.

While in chemotherapy, I heard about Young Survival Coalition (YSC) from my oncology nurses. I was hesitant to attend a YSC support group, for fear I might frighten other early-stage members, but they welcomed me with open arms and I soon discovered it was equally important for early-stage survivors to see us MBC girls living and thriving with chronic illness.


YSC’s Metastatic Navigator offer critical resources and support to young women living with metastatic breast cancer.

I became an active volunteer for YSC and was honored to review and provide feedback on their new Metastatic Navigator: A Young Woman’s Guide to Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer. This is the guide I wish was available when I was first diagnosed 10 years ago, because it’s full of important information for those living with MBC. It’s designed to empower young women to be their own best health advocates, while connecting them to a network of support.

The comprehensive guide contains the most up-to-date information on metastatic breast
cancer including: treatment options; quality of life issues; communicating with healthcare providers, family and friends about the disease; questions to ask or consider; and resources available for additional assistance. Other topics include: hospice; palliative care; the decision to end treatment; legal decisions and other information for end-of-life planning; legacy projects; speaking to children about metastatic breast cancer; complementary and alternative medicine; adoption and fertility.

Today, my focus has shifted to finding balance and sustainability for myself and my loved ones as I seek to pace myself through long-term treatment. While we ultimately need a cure for MBC, there is good news on the horizon and remarkable advances being made in treatments that are changing the landscape of our prognosis. We are starting to use words like “chronic disease” instead of “terminal disease,” and we are seeing many women, myself included, who are far outliving our initial dire prognosis and rapidly changing the outcome of future statistics.

If you are not already a part of the YSC community, I encourage you to consider it. We are committed in heart and soul to making your journey as comfortable as possible, while helping you navigate through the many questions and fears you’re experiencing. We come together in communal support to share our experiences and lean on each other through periods of grief and loss, as well as celebrate moments of thriving in optimistic possibility. Your fellow survivors are your sisters and we understand the uniqueness of your situation like no one else can.

You are not alone.

In harmony,

Katie Hogan, living with MBC since 2006

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Angelina Jolie Pitt Takes Control of Her Health and You Can, Too


Dr. Corinne Menn, board-certified gynecologist and young breast cancer survivor.

All of us have heard the news about Angelina Jolie Pitt choosing to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed as a means of preventing ovarian cancer.

Angelina Jolie’s message was “choose what’s right for you,” and the experts agree. She says, “It is not easy to make these decisions. But it is possible to take control and tackle head-on any health issue. You can seek advice, learn about the options and make choices that are right for you. Knowledge is power.”

I couldn’t agree more. YSC strongly believes and encourages young women to know their bodies, advocate for their own health and persist in asking questions if something doesn’t seem right. It is critical that young women make decisions based on the most current, evidence-based information available; ask questions and feel empowered to get a second opinion!

I applaud Angelina’s frankness and honesty in sparking a discussion in the media that must continue to spread around the world…young women CAN and DO get breast cancer!

Something else I appreciated was that Angelina highlighted the importance and impact of this experience on her co-survivor, Brad Pitt. This truly acknowledges the importance of co-survivors in our journeys! My favorite quote from the Op-ed is, “The beautiful thing about such moments in life is that there is so much clarity. You know what you live for and what matters. It is polarizing, and it is peaceful.” Every young woman diagnosed with breast cancer and her co-survivor knows EXACTLY what she means.

To gain a deeper and more personal perspective than mine, YSC spoke with Dr. Corinne Menn. Dr. Menn is a board-certified gynecologist and a young breast cancer survivor. She was diagnosed at age 28, only six weeks after losing her mother to ovarian cancer.

Although Dr. Menn’s initial test came back negative for BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 mutations, she chose to undergo a bilateral mastectomy to prevent the future recurrence of breast cancer. Several years later, she had a prophylactic bilateral salpingo-oophrectomy (BSO) – the same procedure Angelina underwent – to prevent ovarian cancer.

YSC: Tell us your thoughts after reading the Op-ed by Angelina Jolie Pitt and subsequent news coverage.  Is this procedure “news” and do you think it should cause concern for healthy young women?

Dr. Menn: I’m glad to see that Angelina brings light to this women’s health issue. I particularly like that she notes that “health choices are a part of life not to be feared.” It’s important for patients to be aware of their health choices and not to be afraid of them.

Those who are at-risk are afraid to know whether they are BRCA positive or not, even if they are breast cancer survivors.  The main fear I hear is about the physical implications of knowing. The belief that, “if I’m BRCA positive, I must have surgery,” is false.  There are many choices that come along with being high risk. You must weigh your options and make the choice that is right for you and your family. The more information you have, the more empowered you will be.

YSC: How do women know if they should or shouldn’t be tested for BRCA?

Dr. Menn: There are excellent guidelines and risk assessment questionnaires that help clinicians decide who should receive BRCA testing. In the past, the threshold was higher and testing wasn’t routinely discussed or offered to patients. Doctors shouldn’t test everyone, but everyone should have a conversation about their family history with their doctors at least every few years, or as their family history changes. One thing to note is that if patients had the test before 2012, it may not have been screened for a mutation in a large rearrangement of the gene, also know as the (BART) test, which accounts for a small percentage of mutation problems in BRCA-positive patients.

My mother died of ovarian cancer at 54, only six weeks before I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  After my chemotherapy treatments were done, I was tested for BRCA. I was negative, but it didn’t sit right with me, given my family history. I decided to pursue a bilateral mastectomy and treat myself as being BRCA positive.

Through my practice, I became more knowledgeable about BRCA and asked to add the BART sequence as a part of my testing. Guess what? It turns out I am BRCA 2 positive. Not only am I positive, but my brother, maternal aunt, and cousin are all BRCA 2 positive, too. It is amazing how this one piece of information has impacted my family.

I hear stories all the time from patients who were either not offered the test or were tested prior to 2012, when the comprehensive gene analysis became standard. I have made it my practice to ask women when they were tested and to follow up on the BART test if it was not included.

YSC: Please share with us what considerations and options you had to think about before choosing to undergo the BSO procedure at age 34.

Dr. Menn: It was a hard and emotional decision because it means closing the door on becoming pregnant and because, particularly as a gynecologist, I knew what early menopause meant for me.  On the other hand, I had survived cancer once and experienced the untimely death of my mother. I wanted to be there for my children and husband, and ultimately the benefits of protecting myself from the recurrence of breast cancer and ovarian cancer outweighed the downside of early menopause and everything that comes along with it. Even if you are not BRCA positive, it is very likely insurance will cover the BSO procedure, if it is being done appropriately based on genetic factors and risk factors.

YSC: What are some things to consider concerning family planning when deciding if/when to have the procedure? Should someone be BRCA positive or be high risk due to their family history?

Dr. Menn: Many people don’t know this, but emerging studies show that with the BRCA 1 gene, your risk of ovarian cancer comes at an earlier age. We recommend that if you are deciding to undergo the BSO procedure and you’re BRCA 1 positive, that you have it done once you are done childbearing or before the age of 35, whichever comes first.

For those testing positive for BRCA 2, the risk of ovarian cancer comes later in life and you could wait until the age of 40 to undergo a BSO.  There is also emerging evidence that ovarian cancer starts in the fallopian tubes.  Therefore, some patients are choosing to do their BSO in a two-step process by removing their fallopian tubes first and keeping their ovaries until fertility is not an issue.

There are many options to consider, and women don’t need to make a decision right away. Once a woman decides to have the surgery, there are many health risks to consider. Make sure to push the clinicians to give the appropriate options and treatments that must be considered when removing one’s ovaries, namely for treating early menopause.

YSC: Could you tell us more about the side effects of early menopause? Is there anything breast cancer survivors can do to alleviate them?

Dr. Menn: Immediate surgical menopause comes with many side effects. I see many patients who are not aware of treatments for menopause. Patients need to ask their doctors about how they will manage the side effects before having any procedure done. Often, doctors will tell their patients to “just deal with it; it’s menopause,” which is totally unacceptable.

Some side effects include insomnia, weight gain, sexual dysfunction, vaginal dryness and mood changes.  The approach to menopause varies widely, but there are many non-hormonal things like lifestyle changes and holistic options that can work. It depends on the patient, but I recommend many non-hormonal treatments for breast cancer survivors.

Valerian root is really helpful in treating insomnia. There are great herbal formulations available for hot flashes.  I recommend a local vaginal estrogen, even in breast cancer survivors, to help with vaginal dryness and sexual dysfunction. Coconut oil is also a great natural option. For those who have never been diagnosed with breast cancer, there are many options such as the estrogen patch, progestin IUD and oral progesterone.

YSC: As a young breast cancer survivor, please share your experiences with YSC.

Dr. Menn: I found Young Survival Coalition (YSC) when I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 28 and it was my absolute lifeline. YSC gave me hope and made me feel like I was not alone. YSC immediately connected me with other survivors who had already gone through treatment, and their support was invaluable.

I remember going in to receive chemo and being the only young person in the waiting room. I felt like everyone was looking at me and feeling sorry for me. It was very isolating.  When I found YSC, I no longer felt alone. I have met so many wonderful young women as a result, some of whom are now lifelong friends.

The silver lining to breast cancer has been my involvement in YSC— from riding the Tour de Pink, to attending In Living Pink, to now leading the Westchester County Face 2 Face group. Breast cancer and being BRCA positive has led me to dedicate much of my practice to helping other survivors deal with their unique female health issues.

Thank you so much for sharing, Dr. Menn.  I am certain many women out there will benefit from your story and expertise.

Find out more information on the BRCA gene.

If you or someone you know is at high risk for breast or ovarian cancer but has not been diagnosed with it, learn more from our partner, Bright Pink.

You may also wish to learn more about Dr. Menn.

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Categories: YSC SYNC - Survivors

Living Our Best Life

2015 is a milestone year for me. Twenty years ago, I first heard the words: ‘You have breast cancer.” I was 27. Ten years ago, I heard those words again. When I made it five years cancer-free after that second diagnosis, my family and I did a quiet backyard celebration (nothing like a pile of leaves and kids!). But that’s not all that happened after my second diagnosis. I found YSC. No one “gets it” like someone who has “lived it.” YSC gave me a sisterhood of support unlike any other in the world.

Northeast Regional Field Manger, Medha, celebrating life with her family.

Northeast Regional Field Manger, Medha Sutliff, celebrating life with her family.

Every year of life with breast cancer is a milestone. But this year, I get to celebrate my two decade milestones in one of the BEST ways possible―with 200+ of my YSC sisters and their co-survivors at the first Northeast YSC Regional Symposium, June 6 in Washington D.C. I am so excited we are kicking off this series in the Northeast region!

This one-day event will focus on the
individual pursuit of resiliency and survivorship for young women affected by breast cancer AND their co-survivors (spouses, partners, siblings, parents, friends―anyone who supports you). No matter where you are in your breast cancer journey, there will be something for you. The event will include educational and inspirational speakers and workshops, as well as the opportunity to connect with survivors and co-survivors in YSC’s Northeast Region. Last but not least, it will be topped off YSC-style, with an evening celebration for all!

For young survivors:
• Nurturing your whole self
• Sex and intimacy
• Communicating after breast cancer

For co-survivors:
• Supporting your loved one
• Meeting in the Man Cave: communication, sex and intimacy
• Learning to take care of yourself, too

YSC recognizes the financial burden cancer can place on a young survivor. Thanks to some great fundraising work, YSC is excited to be able to offer complimentary hotel accommodations to all attendees traveling from outside of the Washington, D.C. metro area. What are you waiting for? Please don’t delay registering; space is limited and the buzz is spreading!

We can’t change the facts about our diagnosis, but we can choose how to live life moving forward. Join me in living OUR best life after a cancer diagnosis. Can’t wait to meet you with a milestone hug on June 6.


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Dude, Where’s My Wife?

Jeffrey Gannon and wife, Jennifer Merschdorf. CEO of Young Survival Coalition.

Jeffrey Gannon and wife, Jennifer Merschdorf. CEO of Young Survival Coalition.

The marketing world feels that it has guys figured out: Silly potty-humor movies, beer ads with scantily clad women, video games, bigger and better tools, you know what I am talking about.

There is no shortage of efforts to communicate with guys about the things they love: sports, cars, video games, you name it.  They even tell us about the stuff we don’t love: get your heart checked, have other private parts poked at that we don’t want to talk about, “just in case.”

But for many of us whose wives have been diagnosed with breast cancer, there is no column or fantasy football league to figure out what to do. Our loved ones are whisked off into surgeries, chemo sessions and we husbands are told what is happening, but are often left out in the waiting room with kids, parents and friends- feeling somewhat helpless, frightened or angry. Our world was turned upside down when my wife, Jennifer, was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 36.

And as many a husband or partner can attest, that initial diagnosis is just the beginning of a long journey, often changing their wife’s moods, appearance, and demeanor. We love our wives and help the best we can through these horrible experiences. But after a year or so, we look in the mirror and say, “Geez what happened to me? I look like hell.  I’m not the one with cancer.”

But cancer takes its toll on us as well.

No matter if you are the macho or sensitive type, husbands/boyfriends and partners are trained by society or instinct (or both) to standby, be strong and offer whatever help we can as our wives go through their battles with breast cancer. We can empathize, sympathize — whatever you want to call it — but we will never know exactly what she is going through. I mean, how could we?

And your friends only have so much time to hear about your situation.  We know they care, but the game is back on, it’s your turn to buy a round, throw the ball already. You know how guys are.

So where do we husbands/boyfriends and partners of survivors turn?  It’s a good question. I for one have not found an organized group of other guys who are “co-survivors,” but my wife has asked me to attend the 2015 YSC Survivor’s Summit in March, which will feature several sessions just for “co-survivors.” Full disclosure #1: my wife is the CEO of YSC.

Full disclosure #2: I thought Co-Survivor was a tribute group for the famous 80s band until I was told that it was a term for spouses, partners, loved ones and boyfriends of cancer survivors. Yikes, some education is definitely in order.

So I’ve decided to give it a shot and head down to Houston for the YSC Summit in March to check it out.  I know there will be several sessions dedicated to co-survivors. Hopefully, I will see some of you guys down there.  And during our down time, we can always go out and try to find some band playing “Eye of the Tiger,” and talk about our favorite college teams.



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I’m excited! Join me for our new YSC Summit for young women affected by breast cancer.

final summit home page banner

When a young woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, she has many questions and feelings of uncertainty. When I was diagnosed in 2010 at the age of 36, I felt so alone. Yes, I had support from my husband, family and friends, but I longed to meet other young women who understood what I was going through physically and emotionally. That’s exactly what I found at YSC: a safe place to connect with other young breast cancer survivors and gain strength from each other.

I am super excited to tell you about our new YSC Summit, which is the only national conference of its kind dedicated to the unique needs of young women affected by breast cancer and their co-survivors! Imagine yourself among hundreds of young women and co-survivors coming together for three days, March 6-8, 2015, in Houston, Texas. It is going to be awesome!

Over the last 16 years, YSC has created a strong sisterhood of young breast cancer survivors nationwide (and even internationally). We understand the importance of connecting young women diagnosed with breast cancer and their co-survivors. We also know how important it is to be educated and empowered. And that’s why YSC is excited to offer our new conference.

Whether you are newly diagnosed, living with metastatic disease or several years out from diagnosis, the YSC Summit is for you! It will be inspiring, educational and fun. And there is nothing like meeting another young survivor Face 2 Face.

At YSC’s Summit, you will learn about:
•    The latest medical information
•    Sex and intimacy after diagnosis (because it does change!)
•    What survivorship looks like (newly diagnosed, in treatment, post treatment, metastatic and long term)
•    Quality-of-life issues (‘cause we all have them!)
•    How to cope with the side effects and long-term implications of treatment
•    Ways to implement healthy lifestyle changes (diet, physical activities)
•    Special workshops for young women living with metastatic breast cancer
•    Plus so much more – see the full schedule here!

You’ll hear from the leading experts like Drs. Susan Love, Don Dizon and Banu Arun. Plus, you’ll be inspired by other survivor speakers. Check out the full line-up of speakers and their bios here.

Co-survivors will find support and information, too.

Co-survivors will find support and information, too.

Another great aspect of the 2015 YSC Summit is that we are focusing on co-survivors. I like to describe them as the people who went through hell with you when you were diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age. It could be a spouse, a partner, a parent, sibling or even a best friend.

I’m bringing my husband because he has been one of my rocks through this crazy journey! At the Summit, co-survivors will learn about how to take care of themselves and how to support us. They will walk away feeling empowered, knowing they are an important part of our breast cancer journey.

Worried about the cost of getting to Houston? We get it! YSC has come up with a variety of easy ways to help offset the cost. There are needs-based travel grants, fee waiversa fundraising option and airline discounts to help you get to there!

While I understand that March seems like a long time away, you do not want to lose your opportunity to attend. So register now, before the event sells out, and join us for three inspiring days.

Also – feel free to share the information about the YSC Summit with other young survivors and your healthcare providers, and encourage them to attend. We will be using #YSC2015 for the event to help begin a powerful conversation among young survivors, doctors and co-survivors.

I know that if you attend the YSC Summit, you will feel empowered, inspired, encouraged, more knowledgeable, fearless…and thankful for the new friends you’ve made. You will know for sure that you are not alone. YSC and an entire network of young survivors and supporters are here for you!

I can’t wait to see y’all in Houston!

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Categories: YSC SYNC - Survivors