October 2020

Breast Cancer & Awareness: four Perspectives

Multiple Authors

Breast Cancer Awareness Month began in 1985 with the goal of educating women about breast cancer and early detection. There have been numerous advancements in research, treatment and survivorship over the last 35 years, but there’s still much to do. Juzo honors those whose lives have been impacted by breast cancer, as well as the medical professionals making strides in treatment and care. This post provides four perspectives on the disease, challenges and opportunities – a breast surgeon, plastic surgeon, survivor and therapist. Thanks to Drs. DuPree and Fripp, Ruth and Cheri for sharing their thoughts and advice, as well as advocating for others.


Breast Surgeon Beth DuPree, MD, FACS, ABOIM, brings more than 30 years of expertise and passion to Cancer Centers of Northern Arizona where she serves as Medical Director and is developing a fully-integrative breast cancer program. She is the author of “The Healing Consciousness: A Doctor’s Journey to Healing,” a Reiki Master, international physician educator, inspirational speaker, pilot, philanthropist and wellness enthusiast. Follow Dr. DuPree on Instagram: @drbethdupree.

What is your go-to breast health tip women should be aware of, as it relates to breast cancer?
Modify your lifestyle to reduce your risk of recurrence. Long lasting changes can make a huge difference.

What groups do you support that help breast cancer patients/survivors?
The Healing Consciousness Foundation because we support patients’ healing journeys.

Suggested book for health education or encouragement:
ViverHealth.com – pocket health guides that help you reduce the risk of chronic disease by integrating healthy food choices with good daily habits

Favorite inspirational quote:
"Be the change you wish to see in the world." – Gandhi

What do you find most promising right now about breast cancer treatment and/or research?
Target therapy and the use of tumor genomics to personalize patients’ treatment.

How can others best support a patient or survivor?
LISTEN and do not judge.

Board Certified Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon and women’s health advocate, Vikisha Fripp, MD, FACS, practices at the University of Maryland Capital Health Region and is the Medical Director of Radiance Day Spa in Washington, DC. She is a founding member of Artemis Medical Society, which was created by a group of African American female physicians to encourage minority girls to pursue careers in STEAM. She is also a women’s health advocate and frequent lecturer encouraging women to prioritize their health. Follow Dr. Fripp on Instagram: @drv.fripp.

What is your go-to breast health tip for women?
Know your breasts. You don’t see your doctor often enough for them to remember how your breasts feel, look or if anything is different.

What are some common misconceptions patients have about lymphedema?
Patients believe there is nothing that can be done for their lymphedema. They have no information about management or treatment.

Why do you recommend compression to help patients manage lymphedema?
I recommend compression because it improves function and gives patients an opportunity to come out of the stigma of lymphedema. With compression they can manage the lymphedema and show a bit of their personality with the designs.

What groups do you support that help breast cancer patients/survivors?
I support our local breast cancer support group for survivors and supporters. I also recommend individual psychological counseling for patients at some point during their recovery. Patients are also encouraged to participate in the local and national walks and races to show them how strong they are and find comfort in the company of fellow survivors.

Favorite inspirational quote:
Each day is another chance to be epic! Don’t waste a moment.

Why is breast cancer awareness month important?
It gives patients a time to celebrate. Celebrate the life they have, the process they are going through or have completed and the gift that is every day.

What do you find most promising right now about breast cancer treatment and/or research?
I like the reduced morbidity of the microvascular reconstructive. Research that identifies the specific genetic mutations that cause breast cancer and will change our testing and lead to prevention. I know we are close!

How can others best support a patient or survivor?
Listen. Be a sounding board without judgment or criticism.

Ruth Davila was diagnosed with stage 2B breast cancer in August 2016 at the age of 44. The busy mother of two underwent a long treatment program and multiple surgeries. She developed lymphedema in February 2018. She’s healthier than ever and will celebrate her 49th birthday in November. She is an active member of the Lymphie Strong community on Facebook.

Tell us a little about you.
I am a pretty busy person, always on the go. I live in Chandler, Arizona and have two kids, 12 and 15 years old. I also have two jobs – a preschool teacher for 2 year old’s and an assistant to visual merchandising projects at local malls. Both are physical in a different way. At the preschool, I spend a lot of time on the floor, picking kids up and dancing. For my second job, I am on my feet, use tools and climb ladders. I am also a 200-hour yoga teacher. I teach kids yoga at my preschool and practice as a student. I am still looking for people who will take a yoga class where I lead the practice, ha!

How did you learn about the benefits of compression to help manage your lymphedema?
I learned about lymphedema when I was diagnosed in February 2018, almost a year after I finished my treatment (chemo, surgery, radiation). I had been to the lymphedema clinic at MD Anderson Cancer Center (where I got my treatment) before surgery and they took measurements, just in case I developed lymphedema, which I did. Not fun. I wore bandages, pretty much 24/7, for three weeks and then I got compression sleeves – Juzo Dynamic. I soon learned that I could not be without compression, as my arm hurts if I don’t wear it.

When selecting a compression garment, what is most important to you?
I like comfort and easy application. I am so used to wearing compression that it has become part of who I am.

What events do you support that help breast cancer survivors?
I do not support or participate in any because I do not want to associate myself with anything that reminds me that I had cancer. I survived and keep it to myself. Lymphedema reminds me every day that it happened, and it is not pleasant.

Suggested book for health education or encouragement:
The Universe Has Your Back, by Gabrielle Bernstein

Favorite inspirational quote:
“Here and now.”

Why is breast cancer awareness month important?
To raise awareness and have as many people check themselves or go to a doctor. Early detection is key.

What advice do you have for patients, survivors and those supporting them?
For patients, reach out to someone that has been through the same road as you. No one, except people that have had cancer, know how it is. Also, watch funny videos or movies. Be with friends and family for the good times, not for crying. They can cry behind your back.

For survivors, always remember to have perspective. Yes, I had cancer, and it was not a walk in the park. I deal with its consequences 24/7, but I am still here, healthy, enjoying life every single day. My body changed forever, and I learned to live with pain and discomfort, yet life is precious and it is worth living.

For supporters, please do not tell people they are super brave warriors… you endure what you endure because it happened to you, no one choses it. Also, know that it is awkward to see people cry for you, when you cannot do anything about it. It hurts to see people cry with such despair...

Cheri Raimonde, PT, DPT, has a clinical doctorate in physical therapy and is a physical therapist in Verde Valley Medical Center’s EntireCare Rehab and Sports Medicine Experts department. Cheri appreciates the holistic aspect of treatment and having the knowledge to treat not just the affected body part, but the whole patient.

What is your main tip for breast health?
Healthy lifestyle and health weight – keep that body mass index (BMI) at a 26 or less. BMI is the common denominator for increased risk of breast cancer AND lymphedema.

What are common misconceptions about lymphedema?
Unfortunately, lymphedema, if left untreated, doesn’t just “go away” with elevation. If caught early, lymphedema can be reversed. Follow precautions and wear your compression as prescribed by your therapist. Also, it’s ok to have a blood draw or blood pressure taken in the “at risk” arm. There is no supporting evidence that this causes lymphedema. Same with air travel.

Why do you recommend compression for lymphedema patients?
Compression is an extremely important piece for lymphedema management. It is one quarter of the “gold standard” of treatment: Complete Decongestive Therapy, manual lymph drainage (MLD), exercise and skin care. A therapist can be the most skilled at MLD, but without compression, our beautiful integumentary (skin) system WILL accommodate to changes, such as swelling. Compression gives the skin support and facilitates the movement of lymph via muscle contraction thru exercise and mobility. This allows the limb to remain smaller or “decongested”.

What groups do you support that help breast cancer patients or survivors?
I support groups local, survivor groups. Due to COVID, the importance of human contact and being near each other has changed. I’m starting a “buddy system” with patients who find it difficult to exercise on their own. Together (2 to 3 people), we complete an outdoor activity to support our health and safety!

Suggested book for health education or encouragement:
I always have copies of Dr. DuPree’s book, The Healing Consciousness: A Doctor’s Journey to Healing, on hand to give my patients…even if they haven’t met her. Her journey is quite remarkable.

Favorite inspirational quote:
Treating lymphedema, as one of my co-workers and “breast friend” stated, “is very humbling.” It takes creativity and what may work for one patient does not work for another. There can be many “fails” along with the many successes. This quote is in my email signature: "Compassion gives us the freedom to redefine ourselves as well as the all-important freedom to fail, which contains within it the freedom to take the risks that allow us to be truly creative."
? Susan David, Ph.D., author of Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life

Why is Breast Cancer Awareness Month important?
Any efforts made to educate the public on health and well-being are important…Empowerment…be your own advocate.

What do you find most promising right now about breast cancer treatment and/or research?
I recently did a webinar on “super micro-surgery for lymphatic repair.” There are surgeons trained to repair the lymphatics prior to lymphedema and potentially reversing it. Good stuff out there!

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