Newswise — At a time when young women are usually preparing for family and career some have their life course forever altered by breast cancer. The inaugural Young Breast Cancer Survivors Workshop, an initiative of the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing, in February brought together more than 140 young breast cancer survivors, the spouses and support people, and their children, to learn coping skills, exercise do’s and don’ts, how to help loved ones though diagnosis and treatment and activities to help children understand what is happening and how to express themselves.
“This is huge,” said Kristen Noles, a 36-year-old nurse diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 while working on her master’s degree. “Because of my age, I felt like an outlier dealing with things like a new baby, school and work. And I was still nursing at the time I was diagnosed.”
The workshop is part of the Young Breast Cancer Survivorship Network which aims to improve the quality of life for young breast-cancer survivors like Noles and their loved ones through education, personal support, distance learning and networking. The initiative is financially supported by the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham.
“Young breast cancer survivors have different needs than women who are diagnosed later in life,” said UAB School of Nursing Professor and Associate Dean for Research Karen Meneses, R.N., Ph.D., FAAN, the project’s principal investigator. “A breast cancer diagnosis is devastating for anyone but it can especially be so for a young woman and her family. There are fertility, early menopause and pregnancy after diagnosis issues, concerns about sexuality and intimacy, and concerns over work and finances, not often faced by older women.”
Meneses and her team not only host the workshop, they also work with support groups at the American Cancer Society and other organizations that provide support services for women diagnosed before age 55 and their loved ones. Much of the program is web-based which allows greater flexibility for young women with busy schedules. The project also provides support for children of survivors through a partnership with Birmingham’s Oasis Counseling for Women and Children.
“In 2011, there were more than 240,000 people in the U.S. diagnosed with breast cancer, and one out of every 210 women diagnosed was under 40. Through this network we not only want to educate our survivors, we want everyone to understand that a survivor’s overall health needs and quality of life issues don’t end after diagnosis and treatment, they continue to need support through follow-up care and throughout their life,” Meneses said. “Our ultimate goal is to improve the quality of life for these women who are young breast cancer survivors as well as for their loved ones.”
About the UAB School of Nursing The UAB School of Nursing is ranked 21st in overall graduate programs—among the top 5 percent of nursing schools nationwide—by U.S. News and World Report. It offers innovative bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs, including the state’s only Ph.D. in nursing, a joint doctor of nursing practice degree and an accelerated master’s in nursing pathway program for students who already have one degree. The school is a leading research center with funded studies in the areas of oncology, pediatrics, minority health, international nursing, HIV/AIDS care, occupational health and aging and palliative care. Through the school’s Pan American World Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for International Nursing and the Sparkman Center for Global Health, students and faculty are exposed to interdisciplinary clinical and research opportunities on our health-science campus and across the globe. Find more information at www.uab.edu/nursing.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is a separate, independent institution from the University of Alabama, which is located in Tuscaloosa. Please use University of Alabama at Birmingham on first reference and UAB on all consecutive references.