Breast cancer battle needs your help, says Dr. Susan Love

Susan Love breast cancer
Dr. Susan Love, breast cancer survivor, activist and researcher.

Dr. Susan Love has been on both sides of the examining table: In 2012, the chief visionary officer of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation — which works to eradicate breast cancer with new research approaches — was diagnosed with leukemia. Her cancer is now in remission, but her fight’s not over.

Dr. Love’s foundation is behind the Health of Women study, which polls all types of women for clues into what leads to breast cancer and how we can end it. Participants complete lifestyle surveys a few times a year, providing valuable data to Dr. Love’s team of researchers. “We need everybody, because we need to compare,” she tells us. “It can contribute to our understanding and pushing research.”

Because Dr. Love and her team work to eliminate the disease, we spoke to her about what exactly we need to do to get there.

Are we at all close to winning this war?
No. [Laughs] I don’t think we’re as close as we would like to be. We’re still treating with surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, sometimes targeted drugs — we started that when I started out in the early 1980s. We keep adding drugs, but we don’t ever subtract anything, and our results are a little better, but not great. What I really think we need to do is shift from trying to find exactly what is the gene that’s gone wrong, or the metabolic pathway that’s gone wrong, and fix it, to trying to figure out what are the conditions that cause it in the first place. I think we’ll be much more successful if we go looking for the cause rather than focusing on fixing it after it’s already broken. We have that great example of cancer of the cervix, where we were doing total hysterectomies for abnormal pap smears when I started because we didn’t know what else to do. So you lost your fertility, and had surgery for something that hadn’t even gotten far. It’s sort of like what we do for DCIS [abnormal cells in a breast’s milk duct] today. These mastectomies for DCIS, it’s like doing a hysterectomy for an abnormal pap smear — we don’t know what else to do. Then we figured out that it was sexually transmitted that it was a virus and now we have a vaccine. How much better would that type of approach be for cancer of the breast!

Why is that approach better?
All cancers have mutations in them, but we make lots of mutations in our bodies over the years. We’re exposed to carcinogens all the time — from the radiation in the atmosphere through environmental things, through the sun, through cigarettes — and the reason cancer is more common as you get older is because the longer you live the more chance you have to experience all of these carcinogens and get mutations. But not everybody gets cancer, so it obviously is more than just an abnormal mutation that’s the problem. If you think about, say, kids that grow up in a bad neighborhood, you can either try to capture every kid as they do a crime and put them in jail, or you can look at the conditions of the neighborhood and maybe you clean up, get rid of the gangs, get a farmers market, do all these things we talk about. By changing the neighborhood, [those] same kids will turn out differently — not 100 percent, but a lot.

So what needs to be done?
One of the things that we’re doing here at the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation is putting out the call for people to give us questions to ask in the Health of Women study about the collateral damage [breast cancer] creates. I think [with] people who haven’t had breast cancer, there is a sense that, “Oh, well, you get diagnosed, then you have to have surgery and maybe radiation and chemo, but then you’re back to normal and everything’s great.” And anybody who’s had it will say no. [Laughs] You’re never back to normal — it’s a different reality. … So we’re putting out a call for questions and we’re gonna work with other breast cancer groups this October. Then we’ll put it in the health study and we’ll be able to document what the cost of the cure is and also maybe correlate it with some other things in people’s health. There may be links that haven’t been really looked at because people don’t pay that much attention to them.

What can we do to help?
We really need your generation to help push. We’ve got awareness, we’ve got screening, we have treatments — they’re not great, but we’ve got some treatments and we’re doing better — but let’s just get rid of it. To hell with it! The time’s come to go the next step. Let’s just end it — let’s find the cause and end it. And it’s a doable thing. We’ve done it with other cancers, we can do it with this.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

MTA announces service changes for Sunday

The MTA has announced service changes ahead of Sunday's People's Climate March, which will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday. Riders using…

Local

NYPD launches Twitter account for L train

The NYPD recently launched a Twitter handle dedicated to the L train and its riders. According to @NYPDLtrain, officers went underground Thursday morning to hand…

Local

Bushwick community space offers activists a place to…

A new Bushwick community space offers community activists to meet, create, learn and throw back a few cold ones. MayDay, located 214 Starr Street in Bushwick,…

Local

Activists gearing up for Sunday's "historic" People's Climate…

If all goes according to plan, more than 100,000 people will gather near Central Park West on Sunday morning and march through midtown to raise…

Movies

Kevin Smith makes peace with the Internet

I was thinking about Ain't It Cool News and Harry Knowles last night, wondering if anyone from Ain't It Cool had reviewed my new movie…

Movies

Art imitates life in 'Swim Little Fish Swim'

There's a certain comfort to be taken in finding that young artists are still moving to New York and trying to make it — and…

Movies

Review: Terry Gilliam's 'The Zero Theorem' is better…

Terry Gilliam's latest, "The Zero Theorem," concerns a reclusive malcontent (Christoph Waltz) struggling with the search for the meaning of life.

Music

Esperanza Spalding and a being called Emily get…

Esperanza Spalding is about to spiral off in a brand new direction that may or may include an alter ego named Emily.

NFL

Oday Aboushi ready for increased role, and to…

Oday Aboushi might feel comfortable enough to engage in some trash talk the next time he is on the field.

NFL

Giants vs. Texans: 3 things to watch

The Giants host the surprising Texans (2-0) in what may already be a must-win game for Big Blue.

NFL

Eric Decker misses practice again, could miss Monday

Jets wide receiver Eric Decker missed practice Thursday as he continues to rehab a hamstring injury suffered last Sunday.

MLB

Derek Jeter still focused on baseball as final…

Derek Jeter has effectively hid his emotions for 20 years in the Bronx.

Parenting

A sneaky way to serve kids fruits and…

"My First Juices and Smoothies" gives smoothie recipes for kids.

Style

3 things we love from Day 1 of…

The highlights from Day 1 of Milan Fashion Week.

Sex

Why don't more couples use condoms?

  Call it the “condom moment.” That’s the name the authors of a new study have given to the pivotal conversation every couple should be…

Sex

Need an idea for a first date? Here's…

Picture your idea of a nice first date. Is it dinner and a movie? A visit to an interesting museum exhibit? Instead, an expert on…