The fight against breast cancer
How Susan G. Komen and its CEO Paula Schneider are working to battle the disease on all fronts.
In the U.S. alone, it’s estimated there will be 287,850 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 43,250 breast cancer deaths in 2022. Chances are, you know someone who has been affected by the disease.
And everyone is at risk. The biggest risk factors are being born female (although men can also get the disease) and getting older (the median age at diagnosis for women in the U.S. is 63).
We sat down with Paula Schneider, CEO of Susan G. Komen, to understand how we can get involved in supporting the fight against breast cancer and why it means so much to her.
Walk the walk
“There’re many, many ways you can get involved – and get involved with Komen specifically,” Paula told us. “There’s always the opportunity to participate in runs and walks, and we have about 60 of them throughout the country. And if you’re not in an area that has runs and walks, we’ve created virtual options.”
Komen is known for its walks and peer-to-peer fundraising, but they also offer corporate partnerships, legacy gifts and other ways to raise money, like fraternity fundraisers, sports challenges and requests for donations in lieu birthday gifts. Komen supporters have learned to get creative to help fund the groundbreaking research and patient care resources the organization provides.
“This is so much more important than just me. This is about my girls, my girls’ daughters and everyone else’s daughters.”
For Paula, it’s personal. About 15 years ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. “I’m a breast cancer survivor,” she said. “My mom died of breast cancer. My husband carries the BRCA gene mutation. We have two daughters. Enough said.”
She was at a point in her career, after decades running leading fashion brands, where she was seeking more meaning from her daily work. When the opportunity to join the Komen organization came knocking, she knew it was the perfect fit. Paula moved across the country – from Los Angeles to Texas – and got to work. That was five years ago, and there’s no stopping her.
“It’s been the best opportunity, the best job in the world for me,” she said. “This is so much more important than just me. This is about my girls, my girls’ daughters and everyone else’s daughters.”
Komen takes a 360-degree approach to battling breast cancer – from funding and driving research to providing care for those with the disease. A big part of the mission is to take action and unify communities, including effecting policy change to remove barriers to access to care for patients and offering support to family members and caregivers of those with breast cancer.
“Komen has had fingerprints on almost every major breakthrough in cancer research that has happened over the past 40 years,” Paula said. “We’ve invested more than $1 billion in breast cancer research since our founding; we’re second only to the U.S. government.”
Patient care services are just as important. When Paula was diagnosed, her patient navigator was her saving grace. She remembers saying, “I have no idea what I’m in for.” And while she can’t recall the names of all the doctors she came across, she certainly remembers Susan’s.
“Our navigators and patient care services provide direct support to anyone in the United States and includes financial assistance through our helpline if you can’t afford treatment,” Paula said.
This is now Paula’s life’s work.
“For me, the exit strategy is being able to close-up shop – there’s a cure and nobody has to worry about this again,” she said.
And she encourages you to get involved too. She recognizes not everyone has the opportunity to make philanthropy their main vocation but encourages everyone to incorporate it into what they do in some manner.
“You can make an impact in so many different ways, whether it’s in an organized way, like joining and participating with Komen or anything you care about – just do something for the greater good. I think it’s an obligation to step up and try to help. You have so much power, and you should use your power for good,” she said. “Because that’s going to have a ripple effect and make your life much more enriched. Mine has been in spades.”
Reminder: Get your mammogram
During the early stages of the pandemic, there was a drastic drop in breast cancer screenings and mammograms. This led to fewer early-stage and more late-stage breast cancer diagnoses in 2020 than in 2019, according to a recently published research study. “For all of you ladies out there who are reading this right now who did not get your mammogram because of COVID-19 or whatever you put it off for, now’s the time to go get your mammograms. At the end of the day, that is what will save your life. You will have much better outcomes if you have early detection,” Paula said. “Go do it!”
By the numbers
BREAST CANCER’S INFLUENCE
- 1 in 8S. women will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime
- 287,850 new cases of invasive breast cancer are estimated in 2022
- 43,250 breast cancer deaths are estimated in 2022
- 63 is the median age of diagnosis for women in the U.S.
- 4% of breast cancers occur in women younger than 40
SUSAN G. KOMEN’S IMPACT
- More than $1 billion invested in breast cancer research since 1982
- 220,000+ patients have received financial assistance and support
- 100,000 advocates have mobilized to support patient rights
- 60+ annual fundraising runs and walks
- 260+ active research grants
This piece was featured in Aspire Magazine, a biannual publication from the Women Financial Advisors Network. View the latest.
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