Sept. 7, 2011
By Nicholas Iovino
It’s no secret that women often rank taking care of others above taking care of themselves. The health of those caregivers, however, could not be more important for the children, husbands and older relatives who depend on them.
That’s one reason why Hallmark Health, which includes Lawrence Memorial Hospital of Medford and Melrose-Wakefield Hospital, has organized a series of dinner seminars this fall inviting women to learn more about their health and how to avoid the pitfalls that accompany stress, aging and cancer risk.
“Women really are the caregivers,” said Judy Sadacca, outreach manager for imaging and endovascular services at Hallmark Health. “If you look at that, then caregivers have to take care of themselves, too. We tend to look at ourselves last.”
Hallmark experts will give presentations on different topics, including breast health, coping skills for the stresses of life, and the importance of early detection to minimize the risks associated with cancer. The series of dinners will take place at the Montvale Plaza, 54 Montvale Ave., Stoneham, on Sept. 21, Oct. 19 and Nov. 3.
“One of the important things we hope to come out of this is to empower women to speak to physicians about their breast health,” said Eileen Dern, director for community services for Hallmark Health. “I think that’s a really important part of this. Women have to feel empowered about talking to their health care providers and feel free to ask those questions.”
The first dinner seminar on Sept. 21 focuses on women’s breast health, genetic testing and mammography. Attendees will hear presentations from Patricia Sereno, MD, family physician and Boston medical director for Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure; Rebecca Eisenberg, MD, medical director, Hallmark Health Hematology and Oncology Center and Olga Efimova, MD, PhD and radiologist.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women, other than skin cancers, according to the American Cancer Society. The latest statistics show that one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.
The American Cancer Society estimates about 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed for women in 2011.
“We really want to dispel the myths about mammography and breast imaging,” said Dern.
In 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force concluded that women in their 40s should stop having annual mammograms and older women should cut back to one exam every other year. Hallmark experts and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure refute that study, saying it’s more important than ever for women to conduct monthly self breast exams and for women 40 and older to schedule an annual mammogram.
Breastfeeding is another practice health experts are pushing women to adopt post-pregnancy. Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin released a “Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding” in January of this year.
“Aside from benefiting the baby, it’s also helpful for women,” said Dern. “They are less likely to develop breast cancer.”
The second dinner seminar on Oct. 19 is called “Finding the Wise Woman Inside of You, the Wise Women’s Health Club.” Paula Kelly from the Huggins Center for Alternative Therapy and Paula Richards of Spirit Rising Studio will give presentations on alternative therapies like yoga and reiki and talk about how to listen to your body.
“It’s about coping with the stressors of daily life,” Dern said. “Women will hear about healthy ways to cope rather than overeating.”
Screenings and health information will also be provided. Attendees will have a chance to get their blood pressure tested, screen for osteoporosis and register for a mammogram in the future.
The third dinner seminar, scheduled for Nov. 3, is titled “A Wealth of Knowledge Awaits You — Cancer Talks for Women.” Experts from Hallmark’s Health Hematology and Oncology Center will discuss ways women can reduce their risk for developing cancer and detect it early using age appropriate screenings.
“Our specialists are going to be talking that evening about the health screenings they can do, some cancers that are more specific to women than men, and cancers that women don’t think about like lung cancer or head and neck cancer,” Sadacca said.
The series of dinner seminars is free and open to everyone, but participants must register in advance either by going to the events calendar at www.hallmarkhealth.org or by calling 1-800-540-9191.
Funding for the series was provided by the Hallmark Health Hematology and Oncology Center, Hallmark Health Women’s Catalyst Fund and Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Massachusetts Affiliate.
An annual women’s golf tournament held in May also helped provide funds for the series.
“We’re tying the pieces together so they can really see the connection,” Dern said. “You don’t’ have to attend all three [seminars]. We expect that women will be interested in different topics and expect to get a wide range of people from their 20s through their elder years.”