The heartbreak of psoriasis
By Mark Parikka, National Psoriasis Foundation volunteer
Whether or not you’re old enough to remember that television ad – the heartbreak of psoriasis – you may not be aware how truly heartbreaking this disease is to the estimated 7.5 million Americans who suffer from psoriasis and/or psoriatic arthritis, with nearly 77,000 San Diegans and one million Californians in that total.
As a volunteer with the National Psoriasis Foundation and a sufferer of the disease, I know all too well what this disease can do to a person. Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disease that appears on the skin and is linked to other diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, to name a few.
Diagnosed six years ago, I have gone through my share of ups and downs, including a weeklong hospital stay in late 2007 due to a severe psoriasis flare. Recovery was slow, but thanks to heavy-duty medication, my disease is under control.
I am actively involved with the National Psoriasis Foundation. Most people don’t understand this disease, the toll it takes on you. It’s not just the physical manifestation on your skin, but what’s going on under the skin, the very deep psychological and emotional tolls you deal with everyday.
I’ve been volunteering for five years. I want to find a cure. That’s my main motivation for volunteering with the foundation and the annual San Diego Walk to Cure Psoriasis. I also want to help raise awareness about the disease, to let people know it is not just a skin disease and it is not contagious.
Fortunately people are hearing more about psoriasis now that celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Phil Mickelson are discussing their psoriasis publicly. There are pharmaceutical companies now advertising drugs used to help manage the disease and they use celebrity spokespeople. Kardashian has plaque psoriasis on her skin while pro golfer Mickelson has psoriatic arthritis, a painful inflammation of the joints that impacts about 30 percent of those who have psoriasis.
In late July, the Psoriasis Foundation held its leadership conference at a downtown Chicago hotel. The conference presented forums and workshops where participants could learn more about psoriasis. Among the workshops was an informative presentation from psoriasis researchers on the latest accomplishments toward finding a cure, a panel discussion on the opportunities and barriers for those with psoriasis and an advocacy and networking forum.
There also was a chance to walk through the exhibit hall and visit with pharmaceutical company representatives and vendors who were present at the conference. And, at a volunteer luncheon, the volunteers were thanked for their many contributions to the National Psoriasis Foundation.
Awareness is the key to understanding our disease, and that’s why August’s National Psoriasis Awareness Month was so important. I look forward to the day that a cure is found and no awareness month is needed. I urge everyone to join the seventh annual Walk to Cure Psoriasis on Oct. 12 in Old Town San Diego.
There was also an informative workshop being held where individuals learned more about psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. This annual, no-cost event – More than Skin Deep – was slated for Sept. 7 in San Diego. Sponsored by the National Psoriasis Foundation, it included presentations by local dermatologists and rheumatologists.
—More information about San Diego events is available at psoriasis.org or on Facebook at Walk to Cure Psoriasis SD.
One mammogram away from your own cure
By Laura Farmer Sherman, executive director of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, San Diego
When caught in its earliest stages – usually by a mammogram – breast cancer has a survival rate of 98 percent. But according to the Cancer Prevention and Early Detection Facts and Figures of 2012, nearly half of all eligible women in San Diego County (49.2 percent) aren’t taking that life-saving step.
I was one of them. At 42, I was working at Sempra Energy and had great health insurance. I believed I had everything but the time it took to get a mammogram. Then, I found a golf-ball sized lump in my left breast.
Quickly, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer, had a mastectomy, followed by eight chemotherapy treatments and three months of radiation. I am lucky. I’m here to warn others.
Whatever your reason might be for not getting a mammogram, I am pleading with you to think of the alternative.
All women are at risk for breast cancer. It knows no boundaries, whether it be age, gender, socio-economic status or geographic location. Surprisingly and contrary to what I believed to be true, most women diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States have no family history of the disease. And unfortunately, we still do not know what exactly causes breast cancer to develop in a certain person at a certain time.
Research estimates that regular screenings with mammography have resulted in 30 percent fewer deaths from breast cancer. However, mammography is not perfect. It can sometimes miss tumors or identify tumors that are not cancerous, particularly in women with dense breasts or who are at high risk for developing breast cancer.
Komen is committed to finding better, more sensitive methods for detecting and identifying breast cancer earlier. While they are not perfect, right now mammography is the most effective way to catch breast cancer early.
The reason doctors recommend getting a yearly mammogram once you are over 40 is so they are able to see even the smallest changes that may be hard to see, but the images can be compared from year to year to see if there have been any changes. Yes, mammograms are very accurate, but they are not perfect. Sometimes, they can miss cancer.
That is why you also receive a clinical breast exam (CBE) before you receive a mammogram. A CBE is a physical exam done by a health care provider to check the look and feel of the breasts and underarms for any changes, such as lumps. Women should get a CBE at least every three years starting at age 20 and every year starting at age 40. It is also important to know how your breasts normally look and feel. If you notice any change, see your doctor.
In the U.S., one woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every two minutes and one woman will die of breast cancer every 13 minutes. With $1.4 million at work locally, Komen San Diego continues to be the county’s only breast cancer organization committed to providing services for every step of the breast cancer journey, including providing mammograms and breast screenings to the women of San Diego.
We are here to help the women and even men get the help they need, whether they have health insurance or not. For more information, visit komensandiego.org.