Over 300,000 women in the US are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, with an estimated 12,000 of those diagnosed expected to be under the age of 40. Early detection is pivotal to ensuring a high likelihood of survival, which is why the Keep A Breast Foundation is doubling down on the importance of self-checks with their new Keep A Breast app. According to Keep A Breast Medical Director Dr. Joel Evans, “The breast self-check is the simplest and easiest way to protect your breasts. Knowing your ‘normal’ is the only way to know if something needs further evaluation, which is the most important part of early detection.”
Launched in 2016, Keep A Breast’s “Check Yourself!” app has been popular, domestically and abroad, as a helpful tool supporting breast cancer self-checks, education, and awareness. Building on that success, the foundation’s new app will focus on giving users access to clinical support in the event an abnormality is identified during a self-check. Carbon Health, a technology-enabled healthcare provider, is powering the clinical support feature, leveraging its robust virtual care capabilities. With the updated app, users who identify something concerning during a self-check will be able to access direct, real-time clinical support.
Aligned with Keep A Breast’s mission, the new app is specifically designed (aesthetic direction by Tina Tictone) for younger users who the foundation highlights as often left out of the breast cancer conversation. The Keep a Breast app is available as a free download from the Apple Store and Google Play.
To learn more about Keep A Breast’s new app launch and its partnership with Carbon Health, Medgadget caught up with Shaney Jo Darden, Founder of Keep A Breast, and Dr. Sujal Mandavia, Chief Medical Officer at Carbon Health.
Medgadget: Thank you for taking the time to share the great work of Keep A Breast (KAB) Foundation with Medgadget. Let’s start with some background on KAB’s mission and current activities or priorities in pursuit of that mission.
Shaney Jo Darden: I founded Keep A Breast 20 years ago after a friend, who was in her 30’s, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Since the beginning, Keep A Breast has made connections with younger generations about breast health through music, art, skate, and surf culture. We meet young people where they are and we empower them with the education to help them be their own health advocates.
Our mission is to empower young people around the world with breast health education and support. We do that through our new app, the Keep A Breast app, where users can learn to check themselves, prevention education on our website, and Fit 4 Prevention, a program to encourage movement to lower your risk of breast cancer.
Medgadget: Today KAB offers the “Check Yourself!” self-check app. Why is breast cancer self-assessment so important? What are some of the challenges of encouraging and educating women about self-assessment?
Dr. Sujal Mandavia: Self-assessments or self-checks are an integral element of a comprehensive breast cancer detection strategy, and critical to building an awareness of breast health and familiarity with one’s body to know what is healthy and “normal” for you. Self-checks are not a replacement for provider exams or imagining and screenings (such as mammograms, ultrasounds, or MRIs) but they are key in tracking and maintaining your health in-between routine healthcare visits.
Introducing new habits can be a challenge, and we understand that integrating self-assessments into your life can be hard too. It may be intimidating to learn how to correctly perform a self-check, a struggle to find the time in your busy schedule, or frightening to think of what to do if you did find something in the assessment. Keep A Breast has done an outstanding job of creating a supportive community and a helpful app to overcome these barriers and make it easier to integrate self-checks into your lifestyle.
Now, through our partnership, Carbon Health providers are here for you to extend that support when something does come up during a self-check. We want to remove the fear of the unknown or of what to do next and encourage everyone to take the first step to a healthier relationship with their breast health.
Medgadget: What motivated KAB to explore expanding upon the current offering? What new features or capabilities will the updated app include?
Darden: While we love our current app, we felt it wasn’t reaching its full potential and wanted to expand it for a couple of reasons.
Currently, if anyone does find anything during their self-check, they’re left to go through the next scary steps alone. We wanted to really support our users, especially in the case where someone may find something during a self-check. The new version will offer users the ability to “write it out,” or take notes on what they find, connect with Carbon Health for direct access to telehealth medical professionals, receive other recommendations for how to get help, and provide suggestions for when you are with doctors. The point is to really support people throughout this experience
We also want to really give people free access to breast health information and support in an approachable way that makes checking yourself and knowing your body the new normal.
The app’s new or improved features include:
- Step-by-step self-check tutorial featuring animated GIFs
- Robust scheduling feature based on your menstrual cycle (we have tips if you don’t have one, too!)
- Expanded breast health resources and information
- Direct connection to virtual care via Carbon Health
- Stories from breast cancer survivors
- Rewards for users who check themselves monthly
- In-app sharing feature
Medgadget: Carbon Health is providing clinical support to the new offering. How does that work for the patient user who might have discovered something during their self-assessment using the new app?
Dr. Mandavia: Detecting a lump can be a scary moment. That’s why Keep A Breast users can make a Carbon Health Virtual Care appointment and speak to a provider who will be able to provide a consultation and offer assistance on next steps, which may include an imaging referral, or helping to establish care with a primary care provider.
Medgadget: While the app is free, is the use of Carbon Health covered by health insurance? Is there a direct fee for service model?
Dr. Mandavia: Carbon Health accepts most insurance carriers, PPO’s, as well as Medicare. However if you don’t have insurance, the cost of the visit is $69.
Medgadget: In addition to Carbon Health, can you share how any other partners (i.e. Thrive Causemetics) are involved in the new offering?
Darden: We’re extremely lucky to have partners who believe prevention is the cure and support our work in so many ways. Thrive Causemetics’s donation from their campaign last October helped fund the new app and the amazing features we can now offer for young people to know their “normal” and be their own health advocate.
Medgadget: KAB’s mission is to “empower young people around the world with breast health education and support.” Why are young people both the target audience for the app and a priority for KAB?
Darden: When I was in my 20’s and had a friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer I had no prior comprehension of how early in life breast cancer could strike. It flipped a switch in my brain and I realized that it was my purpose to start this conversation with young people about breast cancer prevention. I wanted to do something that spoke to my peers and empowered them to be their own health advocates. Because no one is too young for breast cancer.
In the beginning, I never intended on starting a non-profit. It just happened very organically with the help of friends and supporters. Our vision is a world without breast cancer. But until then, we’re here to educate young people about the true risks of cancer, ways of living a healthy, non-toxic lifestyle, and the importance of a self-check and early detection.
Medgadget: In addition to the just-launched app, are there any other current or upcoming programs or opportunities that KAB is excited about?
Darden: This year is the 20th anniversary of Keep A Breast and we’re highlighting this milestone with the aspect of our work that started it all: the KAB Breast Cast. Art can communicate complex feelings and emotions that I never could. Art can change lives, make people think, and make people act. And for KAB, it inspires people to be their own own health advocates. Whatever we do, art is always at our core. This October, we’re launching the Nashville Keep A Breast Collection Breast Cancer Prevention Campaign. The women in this exhibition represent strong, fierce, and empowering individuals. They were cast to honor women in their lives who have been affected by breast cancer, who they have lost to breast cancer, or simply to celebrate the healthy breasts that they have. They chose to be included in this exhibition to create a conversation around breast cancer in their communities. The Nashville KAB Collection features artists, musicians, activists, politicians, athletes, influencers, and survivors.
Also, every year in October we launch Fit 4 Prevention, a movement with a goal is to inspire people to reduce their risk of cancers by adopting a healthier, more active lifestyle, in a way that sparks their inner champion. This year is no different! On our website you can attend or host a virtual workout class and fundraise for Keep A Breast’s work and mission.
Finally, we’re also developing The KAB Valley, a Boutique Wellness Center designed as a desert community that will provide the space and tools for visitors, survivors, and caretakers to explore and nurture individual and collective wellness. This center will serve as a retreat space for community enrichment and survivor support, and youth programs on prevention led by artists in residence.
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