Online network offers vital info for state’s young breast cancer survivors
Published on Monday, October 1, 2018
By: Cynthia Wall
Note: This story appears in the October 2018 edition of CONSULT, the monthly e-newsletter published by the UMMC Division of Public Affairs that focuses on cutting-edge clinical advances, innovative educational programs and groundbreaking research occurring at UMMC. To receive CONSULT in your email, visit www.umc.edu/CONSULT to sign up.
Launching a new product always leaves questions.
Is there an audience for this? Will people use it? Will it help?
For SurviveMiss, part of a network to provide online resources, education and connections for young breast cancer survivors, the answer was a resounding, “Yes!”
Any doubts by Dr. Barbara Craft, who leads the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Interdisciplinary Breast Cancer Program, have been erased during the project’s three-year life.
“I feel like it gives patients a place to go for resources, for support groups,” said Craft, principal investigator of the grant that funds the Mississippi portion of the project and a UMMC associate professor of hematology and oncology. “There’s all kinds of information on there. They can find out where to get prosthetic breasts, wigs, resources offered by the Susan G. Komen Foundation, by the American Cancer Society.
“It’s a one-stop shop with accurate information.”
The site is possible through a Centers for Disease Control grant, “Increasing Awareness and Support for Young Women with Breast Cancer in the Gulf South,” and is intended to provide a type of online lounge where young breast cancer patients and survivors can get information and communicate with others walking their path.
The grant covers efforts to launch “Survive” sites in three states: Mississippi (“SurviveMiss”), Louisiana (“SurviveDAT,” a derivative of the New Orleans Saints cheer “Who Dat?”) and Alabama (“SurviveAL”).
For breast cancer survivor Jami Watson of Brandon, the site offers a family feel that some larger sites fail to provide.
As a member of the SurviveMiss advisory board and an ardent advocate of reaching out to other young women recently diagnosed with breast cancer, Watson said she finds it useful to refer others to the sites.
“There is a lot of good information there, and following the Facebook feed helps,” she said.
Four years after her second bout with the disease, Watson said she now follows the Facebook feed more than the website. The feed provides information pertinent to young survivors at any stage in their journey.
When Watson, a young mother of two, was initially diagnosed, she said, “I didn’t feel like I had any resources. Some sites were so big and so vague.”
The need for the digital service was immediately evident three years ago. According to Breanna Terrell, SurviveMiss coordinator, the three states met a collective five-year goal of 8,000 followers in the sites’ first three months. Each state offers information through a website, Facebook and Twitter accounts.
“Response continues to be consistent,” Terrell said. “People send us updates for the web pages and stories they think may be useful for social media.”
Statistically, breast cancer strikes one in eight women – and some men – usually when they’re older, after they’ve raised families, retired or established themselves in jobs and careers.
The issues younger survivors face are different. So the SurviveMiss mission has changed little: provide crucial information geared toward young breast cancer survivors. This includes primarily women who may be raising children, starting careers, dealing with fertility issues or more likely to have body image issues.
About 11 percent of breast cancer survivors are 45 or younger and a disproportionate share are African-American and live in the Gulf South states.
For more information about SurviveMiss, visit www.SurviveMiss.org; SurviveMiss on Facebook; or twitter.com/survivemiss.