The Importance of Breast Cancer Advocacy: Insights from the Community

October 30, 2020
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reast cancer is as diverse as it is widespread, impacting people indiscriminately worldwide. With a cancer that touches so many lives, the availability of a strong community is paramount, and we’ve seen the power of advocacy unite and spur this community into action.

At Bristol Myers Squibb, we know that in order to fully grasp the needs of the patients, we need to understand the perspectives of everyone in the community, from health care providers and patients, to caregivers and advocates. In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the vital role advocacy plays in addressing the needs of those living with this pervasive cancer, we sat down with Amy, a breast cancer survivor, Cathy Ormerod, a breast cancer patient advocate at Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC), and Dana Walker, M.D., M.S.C.E., Oncology Development Team Lead at Bristol Myers Squibb.

Understand the signs and symptoms, treatment options, risk factors and types of breast cancer here.
Amy Wu, Advocate and Breast Cancer Survivor

Amy Wu, Advocate and Breast Cancer Survivor

By partnering with patients and advocacy organizations, we are driving clinical trial participation, educating patients, identifying barriers, and gaining a deeper understanding of the needs of the community. Our goal? Grow together as partners to ensure the community is empowered throughout their breast cancer journey and that all breast cancer patients have equal access to the necessary resources and tools along the way.

Diagnosed and successfully treated almost five years ago, Amy, an Asian American breast cancer survivor and advocate, says that a strong support community or network and a safe place to share one’s stories and experiences are critical for cancer patients and survivors, alike. 

“There is a special need to reach out, especially to women of color or underserved communities, because I feel that by showing up and by telling them my story that there will be a greater awareness that this could also happen to them,” Amy says, adding that encouraging people to share their stories is what she believes in most. ”They shouldn't be ashamed of asking questions and sharing their concerns.” 

Cathy Ormerod, Breast Cancer Advocate at LBBC

Cathy Ormerod, Breast Cancer Advocate at LBBC

Cathy Ormerod, breast cancer advocate at LBBC, echoes the importance of cultivating a safe space where patients can affirm their experience in an honest environment. Equally important, she says, is providing trustworthy information to patients and caregivers. 

“At its core, patient advocacy is the act of a patient confidently representing themselves in receiving care and becoming a true and equal partner in their healthcare journey,” Cathy says. “As an advocacy member, we create a culture of acceptance by recognizing the diversity in patient journeys. We also provide forums for storytelling, which is shown to foster self-advocacy and hope.”

Advocates are the trusted interface between industries and communities by making a long term and better impact for people. Cathy shared that in the last few years, she has seen an increase in patient involvement in shaping clinical trial design, informing criteria for patient reported outcomes, and screening into clinical trials those who are eligible to participate. It is heartening to see the patient experience being elevated in importance, she said.

Dana Walker M.D., M.S.C.E., Oncology Development Team Lead, Bristol Myers Squibb

Dana Walker M.D., M.S.C.E., Oncology Development Team Lead, Bristol Myers Squibb

As a leading company in advancing research and identifying treatment options for certain cancers, Bristol Myers Squibb partners with the community to address the unmet needs of people with breast cancer and evolve knowledge in a way that will allow patients to feel supported. As a former provider, Dr. Walker understands how overwhelming a diagnosis can be and how vital it is that patients are well informed throughout their journey.  

“One of the most important things that patient advocates and advocacy groups do is help patients access the right information and have a seat at the table throughout their cancer journey,” Dr. Walker said. “As an industry partner, it is our job to compliment these efforts by listening to the needs of the community and, as we further science, ensure equal access to the information about available treatments. Equal access plays a big role in the way BMS designs clinical trials.”

Patient burnout and burden are also critical factors to consider when designing our trials. It is our responsibility, Dr. Walker says, to consider how a trial will align with patient lifestyles and develop information in a digestible way, so patients can feel comfortable and confident when deciding to participate. 

Our dedication to the breast cancer community runs deep and is rooted in the inspiration this community provides. BMS celebrates all advances for the breast cancer community, big and small, and is committed to driving change, addressing the unmet needs of the community, and improving outcomes for patients.