San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium 2020

Each year, 10,000+ men and women who focus their lives and careers on breast cancer gather in San Antonio, Texas for the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS). It's one of the largest gatherings in the United States of doctors, researchers, companies and patient advocates who are all laser-focused on breast cancer. Each year I've gone, it's been an amazing time of learning and connections with other people in this space.

Doctors and researchers make up the majority of the attendees, but there is a growing group of patient advocates who make the trek to San Antonio every year. In 2019, there was a patient lounge sponsored by a pharmaceutical company, where we patient advocates could rest our weary feet and recharge our phones and have a snack or two while we connect with others from across the country and the world also living with MBC.

Making connections

Last year, in 2019, was the last time I was able to go in person to this conference in San Antonio and it was also the extremely successful debut of the Guiding Researcher & Advocates to Scientific Partnerships (GRASP program), which offers unique opportunities to connect with doctors and researchers during the poster sessions. The GRASP program will occur again at SABCS 2020 and I'm expecting it to be the highlight of my experience again. We did the GRASP program at the ASCO program this year too and it was wonderful. GRASP is the brainchild of Julia Maues and Christine Hodgdon, two amazing MBC patients advocates who saw a need and have worked like crazy to fill it.

Now that so many organizations are moving their programs online and virtual programs are easier to access, one thing we patient advocates are starting to see is that the fees for patient advocates have mostly been waived. At first, SABCS was still charging $150.00 for patient advocates to access the virtual program and many of us starting tweeting about it. Another example of how speaking up can really move the needle in a variety of ways because it took about 48 hours for the programming to be offered to patient advocates for free. You can sign up as a patient advocate here.

Attending a scientific conference virtually

In my experience, the virtual method of attending a scientific conference is often preferable over attending in person. It's far less intimidating to access lectures and materials in the comfort of one's own home rather than having to walk around and dress up. You don't even have to put makeup on! Plus the traveling and dealing with hotels and airfare and all the other things that go along with leaving one's home - it can add up to a lot of headaches!

Opportunity to connect with the researchers

If you are interested in learning more and getting information that is current and see and virtually meet the people who are doing the research that is keeping us all alive, this is an amazing opportunity that won't cost anything but your time. This conference is often prohibitively expensive for those of us who don't work for big cancer centers that would pay our way... who am I kidding, that's most of us. But this is now a free opportunity to learn from the best AND to meet researchers! I have found many of the breast cancer researchers sit in labs and hardly interact with patients. I believe our interaction with them is key to ensuring that they see the human element of this disease.

This year, let's fill SABCS with men and women who are personally affected by this disease and make them pay attention!!

Who's with me?!

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