Four-Time Cancer Survivor on the Importance of Data-Driven Health Decisions
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual month dedicated to raise funds, increase awareness, promote early detection, and ultimately…find better cures.
Roughly 300,000+ new cases of breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S. in 2016 (breastcancer.org). Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women, with skin cancer ranking number two.
Unfortunately, four-time cancer survivor Kym Martin, MBA, CNC, CFT knows both diagnoses all too well.
Kym Martin’s Cancer Journey
I had the pleasure of speaking to Kym at SAPPHIRE NOW 2016 to discuss her cancer journey.
Named one of 15 Disruptive Women to Watch in 2015, Kym shares her story publicly to empower others, showing the world that life after a cancer diagnosis can be fruitful, rewarding, and inspiring.
When diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma as a teen in 1983, support groups and resources were sparse and treatment was based on limited research statistics as compared to the impact of “big data” on personalized medicine today.
Kym underwent 40 rounds of radiation to kill her cancer, and when completed, she was forced to live in a nearly new body.
The harsh side effects of radiation treatment plagued Kym for years to come, especially in the form of three additional cancer diagnoses: melanoma twice and breast cancer.
Kym’s Moles Emerge
By 1992, Kym developed moles on her body where she had been radiated for Hodgkin’s lymphoma and expressed concern to her radiation oncologist about her suspected link to the exposure.
Though her doctor disagreed that her treatment was the culprit, Kym elected to see a dermatologist to remove an irregularly shaped mole. The mole was an evolving melanoma that would have progressed if left unchecked.
In 2004, Kym noticed a new, pin-head sized mole on her body. When she brought it to the attention of her doctor, he assured her not to worry about the mark.
Luckily, Kym insisted that the mole be removed, and the tests later proved that she had good reason for persistence. The mole was her second melanoma.
From that moment on, Kym decided that she would never again let doctors alone decide her fate. She became a patient advocate and firm believer in the importance of patient-centered healthcare decisions.
Breast Cancer: Data Driven Healthcare Decisions Are Better Healthcare Decisions
In 2012, Kym was diagnosed with breast cancer and chose to have her breast tumor analyzed for chemotherapeutic effect. Based on her genetic profile, Kym’s body overexpresses a gene that repairs DNA. This gene compromises the impact of two of the three chemotherapy drugs recommended in her cocktail.
Therefore, this standard protocol for treating HER2 breast cancer would have produced “little to no benefit” per the lab report based on Kym’s personal genetic makeup. Without the data and facts behind her tumor profile, she would have never known.
Through precision medicine and the advancement in genetic tumor profiling, experts are hopeful for extended survival rates and reduction in toxic side-effects when it comes to cancer treatment. With that said, the latest cancer approach may pave the way for 7,000 women spared from the noxious effects of chemotherapy (Parent Herald).
“It will be a significant step forward,” UCL breast cancer consultant Dr. Robert Stein said. “In every area of cancer treatment, we have largely functioned on a one-size-fits-all basis because we didn’t have tools to do any better.”
In 2012, Kym also received validation as her oncologist clinically confirmed her suspicions. Kym’s two melanomas and breast cancer diagnosis were direct results of her prior radiation exposure.
Life After Cancer
Kym decided to forgo chemotherapy and lives a fulfilling life managing her breast cancer and survivorship with natural remedies. She is a firm believer in the critical importance of proactively catching reoccurrence as early as possible. Through her four unique cancer experiences, she wants to help others understand how to feel empowered around cancer. Whether you’ve been diagnosed or touched by the disease, she hopes to help people move through the fear, personalize their care, and embrace survivorship as a lifelong journey.
A Proactive Approach to Health
Through his Cancer Moonshot Initiative, United States Vice President Joe Biden has urged all organizations (technology, healthcare, and governmental) to work together. The Moonshot aims to promote advances in data sharing and the facilitation of personalized treatments and the collaboration of genomic and clinical data (Healthcare IT News).
SAP is leading the way in many precision health partnerships aimed at finding better, more personalized cancer treatments such as ASCO’s CancerLinQ.
COPE-ing with Cancer
Kym was impressed to learn about one particular SAP benefit. Through the Corporate Oncology Program for Employees (COPE), SAP enables access to Molecular Health Guide™, which runs on the SAP HANA platform. The solution is helping physicians interpret genetic changes and select personalized cancer-treatment options based on efficacy and safety. SAP is the first employer to offer COPE to eligible employees. COPE was first piloted in Germany in 2014 and is now also available in USA, Canada, and UK.
Kym is a strong advocate of programs like COPE. Through her public speaking engagements, she promotes the idea that knowledge is power. She urges people to take ownership of their health, learn about and take advantage of programs like COPE, find support systems post-cancer diagnosis, live a healthy lifestyle, manage fear, and partner with doctors as a proactive agent in one’s own health.