Every October, alpha Kappa Delta Phi takes gigantic strides to bring the importance of breast cancer prevention, support, and research towards the forefront for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. To wrap up breast cancer awareness month, we have the opportunity to share with you a Q & A session with Carolyn Ricci, Program Director at the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade.
Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Carolyn Ricci. I am the program director for the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade (ABCC). In this role, I am responsible for investing the funds raised from AVON 39 The Walk to End Breast Cancer, our partnerships with great organizations like aKDPhi, and other revenue streams, in programs that improve breast cancer outcomes and reduce disparities in survival rates at the community and national levels. Our strategic grant making reflects: a holistic and place-based approach in high-need areas throughout the United States; a commitment to enabling access to medical advances and support services for breast cancer patients, particularly those from vulnerable populations; and a commitment to investing in research on the prevention, diagnostics, and treatment of breast cancer.
How long have you been with the ABCC?
How did you get started with the ABCC?
It was the happiest of accidents. I had moved to New York City and was looking for a job through which I'd make a difference. I saw an ad on a job search website for a job at the Avon Foundation and knewthat they were doing tremendous work, so I thought I'd give it a try. What I couldn't have known was just how much I would love this work, which is far more than just a job – it’s a passion.
What motivates you while working for the ABCC?
I'm inspired by virtually every aspect of our work. The programs funded through the ABCC are making are real difference in the lives of many breast cancer patients. I hear those stories and feel proud about what we are able to accomplish. But I also hear the stories of women who we can't help, and it reminds me that there still much to do. More than 40,000 women die in the U.S. every year from metastatic breast cancer. Our work is not done until we bring that number to zero.
Who and why was the ABCC started?
In 1955, Avon created the Avon Foundation for Women with the mission of improving the lives of women and their families. Years later, in 1992, the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade launched in the UK with sales from the first fundraising product being used to support the organization’s establishment of a breast cancer research center. In 1993, the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade launched in the U.S. and Canada, and the AVON 39 The Walk to End Breast Cancer series began in 2003. Today, Avon is the leading corporate supporter of the breast cancer cause globally. We are dedicated to improving women’s lives by supporting awareness and education, and advancing breast cancer care – both access and quality of care.
What has the ABCC accomplished this year?
Programs supported by the ABCC are moving the needle in the fight against breast cancer. Our funding supports organizations working across the continuum of care – providing education and outreach in local communities and linking people to screening services they need; enabling service providers to allow more underserved women to access post-screening diagnostics, follow-up and treatment services; and supporting survivorship programs. The goal is to ensure that every woman can access the care she needs today, while also funding research focused on the prevention and development of better treatments/options for those with metastatic disease, to ultimately envision a world without breast cancer tomorrow. For those with metastatic breast cancer, which currently has no known cure, Avon has developed a metastatic-specific initiative to support programs solely focused on meeting the needs of this patient population.
What do you think is the biggest myth about breast cancer?
One of the biggest myths in breast cancer is that you don't have to worry about it if you don't have a family history of the disease. In fact, less than 15% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have a family history. 85% have no family history.
How do you think our progress has been with eradicating breast cancer?
While breast cancer incidence rates have remained constant over the past few years, at roughly 125 diagnoses per 100,000 women, mortality rates are decreasing. Women’s overall breast cancer death rates decreased 36% from 1989 to 2012. These numbers are according to American Cancer Society Breast Cancer stats for 2015 - 2016. The decline in breast cancer mortality has been attributed to improvements in early detection and the development of better treatments. However, not all populations have benefited equally from these advances. Even though progress has been made in advances in breast cancer care, there is still work to be done. Especially in uninsured and underserved populations -- where the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade focuses their funding. That is why it is more important than ever to participate in events like AVON 39. Together, we can raise the funds needed to support organizations around the country that help men and women, regardless of their ability to pay, get the quality care that they need.
Do you have any last words for our readers about preventative care?
Preventative care starts with you. It's never too early to become familiar with what is normal for your body and don't hesitate to report any changes to your medical provider right away. Women need to be their own best advocates in their healthcare. If you feel that something is not right with your health, be sure your medical provider hears your concerns and takes them seriously.
Remember – Know your risks. Know your body. Talk to your doctor.
alpha Kappa Delta Phi Sorority, Inc. and the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade sincerely thank you for your generosity & help!