Twenty-year health partnership saves students’ lives

Foundation educates on breast cancer


On Tuesday, March 26 and Wednesday, March 27, The Maurer Foundation gave presentations to all female students (and offered to male students) during their gym class period on breast cancer awareness.

Sayville teacher Jennifer Wittman Cahill, who has taught in the district since 1992, reached out to The Maurer Foundation 20 years ago who established the annual program at the high school.

Ironically, Wittman Cahill found herself diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017 and has found that the presentation has held more significance after being a survivor for seven years.

“I can speak from experience to the students about having breast cancer and the way it affected my life,” said Wittman Cahill.

Wittman Cahill stressed the importance of the lifestyle risk factors discussed in the presentation (e.g., eating high-fat foods, processed foods) and spoke of how she modeled a healthy lifestyle pre- and post-diagnosis.

“When I told the students of my breast cancer diagnosis, I had one kid say to me, ‘You lied, you did everything, you ate healthy, you exercise and you got it.’ And that stressed [how] prevalent this disease is,” said Wittman Cahill.

Over 350 students at Sayville High School benefited from the presentations given by Maurer Foundation educators, who described the students as attune to the information and concerned about lifestyle and health factors that could contribute to the likelihood of having breast cancer.

Megan DiDominica, a Maurer educator, said that the prevailing myth of breast cancer being relegated to those with a family history was a particularly eye-opening conversation with students.

With 85 percent of those diagnosed with breast cancer not having a family history of the disease and 1 in 8 women testing positive, The Maurer Foundation has made great strides in raising awareness and teaching self-examination techniques.

DiDominica said that while discussion of self-examination techniques can be awkward, especially since model breast pieces are given out to the students to feel for lumps themselves, it helped to minimize the self-consciousness because of the gravity of the statistics and additional subject matter given.

Responding to the need in her own practice, breast surgeon Dr. Virginia Maurer first made breast health education programs available to her patients and their families. The success of these programs encouraged her to reach out to the general public, but particularly to adolescent women through high school breast health programs as Dr. Maurer believes “the choices we make early in life can affect our future breast health.”

Since 1995, The Maurer Foundation has been serving the community as a separate not-for-profit organization.

From reaching just over 1,000 people in 1995, The Maurer Foundation has continued to broaden capacity and now has educated hundreds of thousands.

“Through diverse partnerships, we educate the public, striving toward our goal to be recognized as the leading source of current and accurate breast health information,” said a spokesperson for The Maurer Foundation.

The Maurer Foundation’s mission is “to save lives through breast health education that focuses on breast cancer prevention, early detection, risk reduction and healthy lifestyle choices.” 


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