Dr. Susan LoveWhen Olivia’s “Cruise for Our Cause” heads to the Caribbean on March 30, 2008 it will be the first cruise experience dedicated to breast cancer, women’s health awareness and research funding. So it’s timely that we catch up with Dr. Susan Love, President and Medical Director of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation. Her name and life work is synonymous with the breast cancer advocacy movement and it’s an absolute honor to have her participate in our money talk. Enjoy!

1. Is there a magic number in terms of dollars that will finally eradicate breast cancer?
The issue is not the number it is how it is being spent! Over a billion dollars have been spent on breast cancer research but we still do not know what the cause is and how to prevent it. A lot of research has been done on mice and rats and that has given us a lot of insight into breast cancer, but we can cure breast cancer in rodents and we can’t in women. We need to redirect the money to research on the earliest changes in women if we are going to eradicate this disease.

2. My gynecologist recently recommended the Halo Breast Pap Test. Why is the test so expensive? How long before it’s covered by most health insurance plans?
I wish we had an accurate “breast pap test” but more work needs to be done. There is data from the 1970’s that women who can express fluid from their nipple have a higher risk of breast cancer twenty years later but that does not translate to finding earlier cancers now! We are doing research in the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation to find markers in the fluid that can be used to identify which women are at risk but that is not ready for prime time yet.

3. How do economics play a role in early detection of breast cancer?
Economics are a big force, especially in this country where we have a fee for service medical system. Mammography has been proven to reduce the death rate from breast cancer by 30% in women over fifty but has not been demonstrated to be as valuable in younger women. We desperately need an inexpensive, simple test that we can do in young women but our systems tends to select for expensive, complicated ones. This is an issue we are trying to address in the Foundation with new approaches that can be made available to all.

4. Why do breast cancer and AIDS have to compete for fund-raising dollars within our community?
Actually when we started the breast cancer advocacy movement we were very careful not to take money from other diseases but to increase the pie. As a result one of the big funders of breast cancer research is the Department of Defense! I think the important issue to remember is that it is not an either or.

The Gay and Lesbian community are usually the ones on the forefront of change in the world. We need the Lesbian community to support our novel research to prevent breast cancer and find the cause. We were very fortunate this year to have an anonymous donor give us a million dollars to establish the Erin Daniels and Leisha Haley Breast Cancer Fund in honor of the breast cancer story line on the L Word. This type of support is the only way we are going to lead the way and eradicate this disease once and for all.

5. Is there an art to aging?
Living in Los Angeles as I do, I feel that there is a fear of aging. This led to the whole concept of taking hormones to stay young, a notion I first questioned in my Menopause and Hormone Book. I just turned 60 and have been amazed at how everyone feels the need to tell me “you don’t look 60?” I answer this is what 60 looks like! The trip to aging is to keep on living… if you do not use it you lose it is an important caution for your brain, muscles, libido and emotional life!

6. What are the most important financial lessons you’ve taught your daughter?
My partner and I have divided up the duties into life lessons and life skills. I do the life lessons “leave the world a better place for having lived” and she teaches her how to do the laundry and cook. That being said we got her a credit card when she was in high school and had her do a budget on Quicken and then pay her bills online. That way when she went off to college she had some experience in seeing how much she spent on iTunes! The other key lesson is the wonders of compound interest!

7. Will you ever retire?
I have retired many times… I retired from private practice and went into academics. I retired from clinical surgery and started my own research foundation because I was frustrated with the slow pace that things were moving. I went to business school and got an MBA at 50 and went on to start four companies (three are still around). When I get breast cancer solved I will become a musician!

8. Do you and your partner see eye-to-eye on money?
My partner and I spent a lot of time when we first got together and bought our first house figuring out how we each approached money. Although we came from very different financial backgrounds that has stood us in good stead over the past 26 years. Basically we have shared values and agree on the important things like helping friends and family and giving back.

Olivia’s Cruise for Our Cause9. Aside from the money raised on Olivia’s Cruise for Our Cause, why is it important to raise awareness about lesbian breast cancer?
Although there is nothing about being a Lesbian that makes you at higher risks some of the risks factors for breast cancer are more common in Lesbians. For example having your first pregnancy after 30, being over weight, drinking alcohol. When you add to that the fact that most women get their breast exams when they go to the gynecologist for birth control, you have many Lesbians slipping through the cracks!

10. What is your most significant memory about money?
I am the oldest of five and we did not have a lot of money. My Dad taught us that no matter what we wanted to study we needed to have a marketable skill (he suggested plumbing). I still tell that to my daughter. You need to know that no matter what you can support yourself.

More about Dr. Susan Love
Susan M. Love has one goal for the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation: to eradicate breast cancer within our lifetime! She strongly feels that we now have the tools we need to get to where breast cancer starts and only need the will and resources to make prevention a reality.

Susan M. Love has always been a pioneer and entrepreneur. She is known worldwide as one of the founding mothers of the breast cancer advocacy movement and sits on the Boards of the National Breast Cancer Coalition, Y-ME and the Young Survival Coalition. She started the first all-women Breast Center in Boston, then went on to develop the model for multidisciplinary breast care at the Revlon/UCLA Breast Center. After inventing the intraductal catheter at UCLA she recognized that she could develop it further in the for-profit arena and started Pro•Duct Health Inc (later acquired by Cytyc Corporation). She is currently the President and Medical Director of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, and founder and Medical Director of Windy Hill Medical, a breast cancer prevention company.

Always focused on keeping women educated about their options, Dr. Love authored Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book, termed “the bible for women with breast cancer,” by the New York Times. The fourth edition was published October 2005. Dr. Susan Love’s Menopause and Hormone Book first published in 1998, was one of the first to sound the alarm about the widespread use of postmenopausal hormones. The second edition was released in January 2003. A frequent spokesperson in the media she founded LLuminari, a multimedia women’s health information company whose experts are termed “Oprah’s doctors” in O magazine.

She is a Clinical Professor of Surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and was appointed by President Clinton to the National Cancer Advisory Board. She lectures nationally and internationally on breast cancer, menopause and women’s health. She has been awarded six honorary doctorate degrees, as well as numerous honors and citations. Dr. Love has a business degree from the Executive MBA Program at UCLA’s Anderson School. She is on the board of Sanarus Medical and provides consultation to PepsiCo.

Dr. Love received her medical degree from SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York, did her surgical training at Boston’s Beth Israel Hospital. She has retired from the active practice of surgery to dedicate herself to the urgent work of breast cancer prevention.

Read other Queercents interviews in the Ten Money Questions archive.