How long have you been a breast and ovarian cancer research scientist? What sparked your interest in it?
I have been a cancer research scientist for 13 yrs. I started working with breast cancer specifically in 2002, and I was introduced to ovarian cancer cell lines in 2004.
How would you describe your swagger? What makes Colletta, Colletta?
I am very gracious and loyal person. I try to always have a positive attitude. There’s no energy that can mimic what’s released when a positive, high-stepping woman enters a room. I love what I do, and I am motivated to go above and beyond, to make a positive change in breast and ovarian cancer in the African-American community.
You stress early detection of breast cancer. What do you suggest?
The most effective way to detect breast cancer is by mammography, and a clinical breast exam can complement mammography screening. For average-risk women, the general recommendation is to begin getting annual mammograms at age 40. There is also breast self-exam, which is an option for women starting in their 20’s. Remember: If you find a lump, don’t panic. 80% of lumps found end up not being cancerous.
Go digital. Centers that specialize in digital mammography are best for women with dense breast tissue and for women under age 50. New research finds that black women are more likely than white women to have dense breasts, potentially boosting their breast cancer risk. Denser breasts make it harder to detect breast cancer via mammogram.
Know your risk. If you have family members who have had breast cancer, especially a mother or sister, and if they had breast cancer before reaching menopause, tell your doctor, as your own risk of cancer may be higher than average. Some women at high risk may be recommended for annual MRI in addition to a screening mammogram.
Tell us a little about your book, “Cancer Doesn’t Always Win”.
Cancer Doesn’t Always Win: A Comprehensive Guide to Beating Breast & Ovarian Cancer instructs readers on the causes and symptoms of both breast and ovarian cancers while providing valuable information on:
- The link between both cancers
- Risk factors for both cancers
- Advice for dealing with a diagnosis and the subsequent treatment
- Tips for living a healthy lifestyle that lowers your cancer risk
- Stories of survival from women who have lived through breast and ovarian cancers
What do you want readers to take from it?
I want women to be inspired to take charge of their breast and ovarian health. For breast and ovarian cancer survivors, I want them to use the information and resources that I share in the book to assist in getting adjusted to their “new normal”. Most importantly, I want them to feel confident in knowing that “Cancer Doesn’t Always Win”.
What about family members of those who have breast cancer, what do you suggest they do to support?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer. One of the most important ways to be supportive is by listening. Offer to attend doctor appointments for support. Take notes so that she doesn’t have to remember everything that’s being discussed. Don’t offer advice, but acknowledge the difficulty of the situation. Talking directly to other people with breast cancer can be helpful. Giving your loved one a survivor’s contact information would be beneficial. When your loved one is at the end of cancer treatment continue to be gentle with them. It’s not helpful to tell a breast cancer survivor she should feel happy, lucky, or fill-in-the-blank. It’s better to ask, “How are you feeling? Participating in an annual breast cancer walk is one of the nicest ways that family can show support for her and help her fight the disease that tried to sideline her.
Please share any upcoming projects.
I am currently developing a quarterly subscription box called “The Love & Hope Box” for breast and ovarian cancer survivors. A survivor will receive subscription gift boxes with inspirational and comfort items. This service will be available being December 1st at www.CollettaOrr.com
I will be in Atlanta, Georgia in January 2016 on book tour for “Cancer Doesn’t Always Win”.