While researchers and clinicians are experts in understanding the science of breast cancer, patients are experts in the daily experience of the disease.
The SABCS® is committed to elevating patient perspectives and welcoming patient advocates as integral partners in the effort to end breast cancer.
“Patients bring a unique dimension to the conversation—the real-life experience of living with breast cancer. Our insights into the emotional, psychological, and practical challenges offer deep understanding beyond data,” said SABCS® Program Planning Committee Member Julia Maués, MA, a patient advocate and co-founder of the advocacy organization GRASP.
As in years past, the 2023 Symposium will feature patient voices throughout the program’s world-class educational sessions. Patient advocates will share their insights on topics such as lobular breast cancer, HER2+ breast cancer, inflammatory breast cancer, treatment post-CDK 4/6 inhibitors, toxicity management, and more. Special sessions, including a panel on social determinants of health in cancer care and the highly anticipated View from the Trenches presentation, will also include important context from patient advocates.
Significant thought and preparation have gone into facilitating this inclusion, and it has a significant real-world benefit, said Program Planning Committee Member Thelma Brown, BSc, a patient advocate and member of the Breast Cancer Working Group at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
“It ensures that research efforts, treatment strategies, quality of life, and outcomes align with the needs and concerns of those affected by breast cancer,” she said.
As the world’s premier gathering of breast cancer experts, the Symposium offers individual patient attendees invaluable opportunities to expand their knowledge base and advance their advocacy. In addition to larger educational sessions, smaller poster presentations within the Exhibit Hall will provide excellent chances for one-on-one, low-pressure interactions with scientists from all over the world across the spectrum of breast cancer research.
“Just as in oncology, advocates have their particular interests. Whether it is metastatic breast cancer, disparities, basic research, patient reported outcomes, etc., advocates will find topics that will be important to them and their work,” Brown said.
The SABCS® also sets aside space for advocates to connect with and learn from each other. The Patient Advocate Lounge, supported by Lilly, will be a designated space in Room 225B of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center where advocates can network, relax, and refuel with snacks and beverages. A nonprofit and patient advocate section of the Exhibit Hall will feature representatives from more than a dozen organizations. And some, including Alamo Breast Cancer Foundation and GRASP, will hold their own events for patient advocates in parallel with the official Symposium.
Free registration to the 2023 SABCS® is available for patient advocates and those who work or volunteer for patient advocacy organizations. As increasing numbers of patients get involved in the Symposium, Maués and Brown are reminded of the many individuals who paved the way and ensured that patient voices would have a meaningful impact. Together, patient advocates and the breast cancer scientific community can continue to push that work forward.
“We must actively seek and welcome new and diverse voices, perspectives, and experiences,” Maués said. “By doing so, we will enrich our collective advocacy efforts, drive positive change, elevate patient care, and persistently strive to conquer breast cancer. Broadening the pool of advocates and perspectives will enable us to better serve a wider range of people, each with their unique experiences and needs.”