Author Archives: Elizabeth Thompson

Let’s Talk About Lymphedema

Lymphedema, or the post-treatment swelling of arm, leg, breast or chest wall, affects an estimated 15 percent of women who have a sentinel lymph node biopsy.

Yet patients are rarely informed prior to treatment about the possibility of developing this condition.

During the Q&A session of a lecture I attended in New York last month, several women asked about lymphedema relating to breast cancer. When we queried the 80 breast cancer survivors in the audience, the subject of lymphedema had only been brought up with one of them before her surgery. It occurred to me that this topic is too often skipped over in pre-treatment discussions with patients.

The precise cause of lymphedema remains a mystery, even to physicians.  The current thinking now is that there is a combination of mechanical failure of the lymphatic system coupled with an increased immune response which leads to swelling of the arm, leg, or even the chest and breast itself. The swelling is very challenging to control. It can affect both women and men of any age.

Please refer to my previously published blog for more information on lymphedema causes, prevention and treatment methods.

Elizabeth Pink Surgical Bra® Testimonial – Katrina

We are so grateful when women use our Elizabeth Pink Surgical Bra® and want to share their experience.  Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Price: $60.00

The Elizabeth Pink Surgical Bra® has been featured in a blog post by the breast reconstruction authority, Kathy Steligo!  What an honor!  Click to read more:    

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Elizabeth Pink Surgical Bra® Testimonial – Lisa

We are so grateful when women use our Elizabeth Pink Surgical Bra® and want to share their experience.  Lisa, thank you so much for providing this wonderful feedback!

How Does a Physician Prepare for Her Hip Replacement?

BFFL Co Founder and CEO Elizabeth Chabner Thompson, MD, MPH was featured in a blog on about preparing for hip replacement surgery. Please click here to read the full article and interview.

Breast BFFLBag® Video

Dr. Elizabeth explains the carefully chosen contents in the Breast BFFLBag®.  

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Dr. E Demonstrates the Benefits of the Elizabeth Pink Surgical Bra®

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Dr. E demonstrates the benefits and features of the Elizabeth Pink Surgical Bra® in this short video.

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Patient to Patient: How to Be a Best Friend for Life


Kevin with his axillapilla® and Brain BFFLBag®

My name is Kevin Bojarski and as anyone that knows roughly what this website is about, I am a pretty lucky guy. I will back up and try to give you a quick story about why I am here. Over 2 years ago I suffered an AVM (Arterial Venous Malformation) rupture. I just graduated college and started working at my first job and things were moving great. One day after work, I decided to go to the gym. I don’t really remember what happened that day, or the next 30 days after that, but I have learned stories after the fact. The story is that at the gym I started getting a massive headache and went into the locker room and went into a stall. A guy came in and asked me if I was OK. My response was just a bunch of gibberish jumbles. The man knew something was wrong so he went and got me help and really saved my life. End scene. Like I said, I have no clue what actually happened next and I am pretty sure that was a good thing. The only thing I slightly recall for the next one-month stretch of time while at the hospital/rehab center were just quick bursts, a few seconds of precious times that I actually remember.

One of the moments that I recall vividly was one at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington D.C. At this instant, I specifically remember getting a colorful bag given to me from another TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) survivor and all of the goodies inside from my new Neuro/Brain BFFL Bag (the fluffy heart size axillapilla and a lip balm were, and still are, the ones I use from the bag all of the time). There were a bunch of other things inside that were used to help me in the early stages of my recovery. There were also tools that were in there for the caregivers as well. I wrote on the white board communicator, used the pill container, and I enjoyed the pictures, books and games,. You name it! That bag was essential at that time in my life and still is to this day!

When I received that bag I distinctly recall a man giving it to me. I do not know what his name was or even a rough outline of his face. What I do remember though was a phrase that he said out loud when he was there with me: “you’re going to get better.” I remember that phrase and tell myself that each and every day. Others that are on this journey with me get it, from patients that had this years before me and others that had it more recent know what it is like. The struggle is tedious. The problems and issues we face seem never-ending. But like the man who gave me my favorite lip balm told me, and I still tell myself routinely: you are going to get better. I promise.

Thank you BFFL for your support, encouragement, guidance and the bag!

– Kevin

Did You Know? 31 Facts About Breasts

31FactsimageBack by popular demand during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, our list of 31 Facts About Breasts! Each day in October we will post a new one.  Read it here.

What To Expect During Radiation Treatment

themomssiriusI recently appeared as a guest on the weekly SiriusXM radio talk show THE MOMS to discuss with host Denise Albert her upcoming radiation treatment.

Denise has breast cancer, and chose to have a lumpectomy with chemotherapy and radiation instead of a mastectomy.

Long-term studies have shown that her type and stage of cancer can be successfully treated with either lumpectomy and chemo/radiation or mastectomy with chemo.

Denise had her lumpectomy, followed by a year of chemotherapy, and is now preparing for the last step, six weeks of daily radiation. As would be expected of a patient who is also a radio host, she had a lot of questions for me, and of course I loved being a resource to a woman who helps so many others with great advice.

Here are some highlights from our conversation: (more…)

Supporting a Partner with Cancer

July 16 - 41633398Many people don’t know what to do when their spouse or significant other receives a cancer diagnosis. What should they say? How should they act? How can they be supportive, compassionate, helpful and strong?


New BRCA Mutations Discovery

July-16-16692030Recent discoveries indicate there may be many more BRCA gene mutations than previously thought, and this may affect how we test for inherited breast cancer in the future.
A public-private partnership, called BRCA Share™, announced in June that it has found a number of new and previously unrecognized variants of the BRCA gene.


Bone Genes and Breast Cancer

July 16 -11473748Researchers in Vienna, Austria and the University of Maryland who are working together on an international collaboration have found what appears to be a new route to preventing breast cancer. Their work shows that by blocking a genetic pathway to bone repair, a new drug may also prevent inherited breast cancer caused by the BRCA gene.

For several years, clinicians have used the antibody drug Denosumab to block a gene and its protein, collectively known as the RANKL/RANK system. The antibody prevents loss of bone in patients with various forms of cancer. This drug has very few side effects and is highly effective. The new research shows that mouse breast cells with BRCA mutation, when treated with this drug, were no longer susceptible to the development of breast cancers.


Brain BFFL® Bag Featured in Northwell Health News

lhhgiftbagThe Brain BFFL® Bag was featured in a recent story on Northwell Health’s news site about member Lenox Hill Hospital’s program to improve the experience and recovery of neurosurgery patients. Read Entire Story




The Fast-ing Track to Good Health

We’ve all heard the old saying “you are what you eat.” In recent years however, it’s become increasingly evident that when is just as important as what, or how much, you consume.


BFFL Co Founder Featured in Physician Career Magazine

PracticeLinklogoBFFL Co Founder and CEO Elizabeth Chabner Thompson, MD, MPH was featured in the Career and Entrepreneur column of the Winter 2016 issue of Practice Link, a leading physician career magazine. Click here and go to page 24 to read the entire article.

How Soon To Start Chemo

You just had breast cancer surgery, and your doctor wants you to follow it up with chemo. But your son’s wedding is in six weeks. What should you do?

In a previous blog, we wrote that prolonging the Time to Surgery (TTS) from diagnosis reduces the overall survival for women with breast cancer.

How long after surgery you should start chemo, or the Time to Chemotherapy (TTC) is another commonly asked question, and many recent studies are attempting to provide answers.

Although there isn’t universal agreement on the optimal TTC, there is agreement that time matters, and that women for whom chemo is recommended shouldn’t wait too long before starting treatment. (more…)

Does Time to Surgery Matter?

female surgeon with scalpelWhen diagnosed with breast cancer, many women describe feeling pressure to “get the cancer out, FAST! ” Others, however, seem slightly annoyed (because of the excellent prognosis for early stage disease) with their diagnosis and would rather not change their plans. They’ll ask, “Can I still go on my cruise?” so that they can enjoy some time before treatment starts. In some cases, doctors have reassured patients that taking a few months to make a decision is perfectly fine, while others have discouraged any delay in surgery and/or treatment. (more…)

Why We’re Losing the Battle of the Bulge

fat woman measuring her stomach

This past July, the New York Times published an article entitled, “Americans Are Finally Eating Less”. The article explained how, after decades of bad diets and increases in obesity, our country’s eating habits had finally begun to improve and calories consumed were declining for the first time in over 40 years. Obesity rates had stopped rising for adults and children, and had actually decreased for younger children.

Good news, right? Not good enough, apparently. A subsequent Times article (published this month) tells a completely different story. Despite our country’s best efforts to fight obesity, including a major campaign by Michelle Obama, the share of Americans in that category has edged up.

What happened?

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what has caused the apparent reversal in progress. However, logical reasoning might indicate that, if lower calorie consumption has not led to a sustainable decrease in obesity, perhaps calorie consumption is not the problem.

Under the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, chain restaurants are required to publish the calorie content of their meals. The federal government has improved the requirements for school lunches, and many schools have completely removed soda machines from their hallways. Some states (such as Berkeley, California) have even begun to tax sugar-sweetened beverages. While these are certainly steps in the right direction, they don’t mean that Americans are stocking their fridges with fresh fruits and vegetables and replacing soda with water.

Calories are not the villain here. Understanding how to fuel our bodies in a healthy way is the key to fighting obesity and improving overall health. Fried chicken, for example, is packed with salt, saturated fat and unhealthy calories. On the other hand, an avocado is loaded with healthy fats which the body can use. The same is true of almonds and other tree nuts. While high in calories, these foods (when eaten in moderation) provide nutrition and energy that evens out blood sugar levels and fuels the body in a healthy way.

The fact of the matter is: When certain foods become unavailable or restricted, they often gain traction as ‘forbidden fruit’ and become all the more appealing. Restricting or taxing soda doesn’t mean that people acquire a deeper understanding of the health risks associated with it. If people want sweets or fast food, they don’t have to look far to find it. If soda isn’t available, there are plenty of substitutes. The prevalence of “low fat” cookies and desserts only fools people into thinking that they are making a better choice. In fact, this can lead consumers to eat larger portions of these products when, in fact, they generally contain higher levels of sugar to offset the decreased fat. Hardly a good choice.

Where is the data coming from?

These figures are released every two years by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, considered by many to be the gold standard for federal health data. The numbers show that about 38% of American adults were obese in 2013 and 2014, up from 35% in 2011 and 2012. Marion Nestle, a professor in the department of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, said that the trend is “very unfortunate and very disappointing”. She added, “Everybody was hoping that with the decline in sugar and soda consumption, we’d start seeing a leveling off of obesity.”

Some of the most startling numbers were among minorities. From 2011 to 2014, 57% of black women were obese, the highest rate of any demographic. The next highest were Hispanic women (46%) and Hispanic men (39%). Of white women and men, 36% and 34% were obese, respectively.

Obesity and breast cancer

For women, the dangers of obesity (particularly post-menopause) include a possible increased risk for breast cancer. Fat cells produce estrogen and cause inflammation, which is considered a contributor to the development of breast cancer. Maintaining a healthy body weight and exercising regularly can lower the risk.

It seems that, within only six months, our nation’s health situation has deteriorated from promising to discouraging. There are no quick fixes here. Until more Americans become better educated about how what they eat affects their overall health, the fight against obesity will be hard won.

The Flu: What You Need to Know

fluseasonaheadThe flu season is upon us, and we all cringe at the potential disruption it can bring to our busy lives. While there is no way to completely guard against the flu, there are things you can do to minimize the risk: (more…)

Exercise and Cancer Outcomes

Last week, I received a call from a woman who I consider a business genius. Her exercisefriendship is a gift, and she offers a wealth of experience not only in business and finance, but also in travel, hobbies, and relationships. She is a “self-made “success who embodies the vital ammunition of hard work and the type of focus that’s necessary to complete the toughest challenges.

When she called to tell me that she had just been diagnosed with breast cancer, her usual calm and confident voice sounded panicked. (more…)