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Health care professionals and community partners are gathering in Illinois for a breast cancer symposium to discuss advancements, genetic testing and more.

The 2012 Chicago Breast Symposium will take place Oct. 13 – 14 at the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in North Chicago. It has partnered with the Chicago Plastic Surgery Research Foundation. More than 600 attendees are expected, who include health care providers, surgeons, community groups and the public.

Every 1 in 8 or 9 women is diagnosed with breast cancer so being “armed” with the latest information is more important than ever before, said Chicago Medical School Chief of Plastic Surgery Loren Schechter.

“I think people should attend because the reality is with 1 in 8 or 9 women being affected, you’re going to know somebody,” Schechter told the Defender.

“It may be a friend, it may be a family member and if you’re armed with this education, this state of the art education, you can help someone through the process.”

Last year Schechter hosted the first annual breast cancer symposium and was surprised by the number of attendees, he said. After a successful turnout, he said he started planning for the second one because he realized there is a knowledge gap regarding treatment and reconstruction options. That gap is more apparent in underserved communities.

“We’ve learned as we have delved more into these issues is there’s a real knowledge gap in terms of choices and options for women with breast cancer,” he said.

Schechter said women in underserved communities have a higher mortality rate, meaning they die from breast cancer. More awareness about before and after treatment are extremely important.

“In terms of minority women, even if they get a mammogram and it’s abnormal, meaning it needs treatment or a follow up, there may be a fall off; they don’t follow through. Why is that?” said the doctor.

Those women sometimes struggle with finding child care during doctor appointments or even getting to the appointment, he said.

He said working with groups such as The American Cancer Society has shown him the many options women are offered in those communities, but may not be aware of. This month’s participants will learn more about support options. The American Cancer Society arranges rides and assists with child care.

Panelists will discuss the entire spectrum of options, which includes annual screenings to treatment options such as chemotherapy and reconstruction. Those are the usual discussion topics, but with the medical field advancing, new research shows aftercare treatment is just as important. The program is focusing on “survivorship,” Schechter said. Sessions will cover post-treatment options like fertility options, family relationships, art and music therapy.

The overall theme is survivorship so attendees can expect to learn about the standard care as well as newer techniques and exercises.

Incorporating pilates and yoga into one’s routine has been discovered to help relieve the after surgery scarring and tightness, Schechter said.

“One of the things we found helpful is for women to get their flexibility back by doing some of these core strengthening exercises.”

Unlike last year, Schechter said the symposium has brought the Illinois Department of Health aboard to discuss access to care. There will also be dialogue and information on hereditary breast cancer and the common insurance issues that arise with it like genetic discrimination, he said.

Continuing education credits are provided for physicians, nurses, social workers, surgical techs and other for a one time registration fee of $50 and $100 for physicians.

Registration is still open at www.Chicagobreastsymposium.com

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