Breast cancer survivors invited to help others

Rethink Breast Cancer is asking breast cancer survivors nationwide to complete a survey to help in the potential treatment and support of other women diagnosed.

The premise of the charity is that they are looking at breast cancer as no longer being an ‘older woman’s’ disease as it has become more prevalent in younger women.

“We think it’s important that there be a place and an organization that is for young women. We want them to know they are also at risk and it’s important to know the signs and symptoms,” said MJ DeCoteau, Rethink’s executive director.

Rethink is a national volunteer-driven charity concerned with helping, not necessarily curing, young women. Even the web site, explained DeCoteau, is geared towards a younger audience.

“It’s not all pink and pretty, but we do try to gear it towards a younger audience. We ask ourselves how someone under 40, instead of over 50, would like to receive their breast health information.”

The national survey that is being conducted currently is to gather information about the treatment process and the cancer experiences women in the country have had.

“Breast cancer is no fun at any age, but at 65 it’s a little better understood whereas at 30 it’s harder to grasp because they can’t find someone who can relate to them.”

Some of the issues, said DeCoteau, are fertility concerns at 30, concerns about hair loss and the possibility of a mastectomy.

Breast cancer survivor Shawna Whiteside said the hardest thing was finding people who knew what she was going through when she was diagnosed at just 36.

“A friend suggested the breast cancer support group that works with Rethink, and I was introduced to younger women who were going through what I was,” said Whiteside.

By completing this survey, Rethink hopes to find out more about the experiences of younger women with breast cancer in contrast to an older woman’s perspective.

DeCoteau pointed out that one of the huge differences in the experiences is the diagnosis timeline. “It may just be coincidence, but younger women seem to take longer to be diagnosed. Whether it’s doctors saying it’s not possible for them to have breast cancer at their age or their own hesitancy to get checked.”

The survey will ask in-depth questions regarding why younger women took longer to be diagnosed as well as what their treatment cycle was like.

“We feel after 10 years of Rethink being around it is time for a comprehensive national survey to give us some statistical information. Until now, a lot of what we have done has been intuitive or based on one-on-one information.”

DeCoteau said Rethink wants to reach out and find out what the experiences have been like across the country so they can evaluate and plan for what the needs are for the younger group of women dealing with breast cancer in the future.

“There has been this decade of rapid change so we want to look at things like whether women would like an actual support group or maybe an online initiative.”

The survey takes about 30 minutes to complete. DeCoteau said it would be ideal for women who have been diagnosed in the last five years to participate.

To take part in the survey or for more information visit