Clemson professor joins CDC committee to help young breast cancer survivors
CLEMSON — Rachel Mayo knows something about being a young breast cancer survivor. Now the Clemson University public health researcher, who has dedicated her professional life to helping women prevent, identify and survive cancer, will combine her personal and professional experience as a member of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Breast Cancer in Young Women.
This committee helps the CDC develop evidence-based approaches to advance understanding and awareness of breast cancer among young women through prevention research, public and health professional education and awareness activities, and emerging prevention strategies.
“We are excited to have Dr. Mayo as a new member of the Advisory Committee on Breast Cancer in Young Women. Her experience and commitment to supporting and educating young breast cancer survivors will be great assets to the work of the committee,” said Temeika L. Fairley, a health scientist and designated federal official on the committee in the CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention.
For Mayo, a public health sciences professor whose term lasts until Nov. 30, 2021, the nomination to the committee was a surprise and an honor.
“The group consists of researchers, providers and patient advocates and it’s a great honor to be a part of that. I always find that when you step outside of your comfort zone, you learn so much,” Mayo said.
“You have to get off the fifth floor of Edwards Hall,” where her Clemson office is located, she said. “I’m excited to learn more from this group, and it’s an honor to represent Clemson University and South Carolina, as these committee members come from across the nation.”
In what began as a two-year process of applying to be on the committee, she was sent a link with the information for the committee from a colleague who wanted to nominate her.
“I looked at it and the committee seemed like it fit with my research efforts,” she said.
Since graduate school, she has been researching breast and cervical cancer and working with survivors. Ten years ago, before her own cancer diagnosis, she wanted to reach out to young adults, so she helped start the South Carolina Witness Project to give women of all ages a platform to share their breast cancer survivorship stories and advocate for breast cancer screenings.
But after her own diagnosis and treatment three years ago, she realized that she primarily interacted with older cancer survivors because of the connection with her work and those who visited her during treatment.
Mayo said that cancer is different for women who are pre-menopausal and there is little research about prevention strategies, which fuels her drive to help this population.
Serving on this committee is just another way she can help younger survivors.
“The CDC is the place that puts out the best public health practices. If a young woman is diagnosed, she might Google something and it’s going to give her information from the CDC. But someone has to review what the messages are and translate the science to patients and their families,” she said. “That’s exciting to be able to shape these best practices.”
The Advisory Committee on Breast Cancer in Young Women
The Advisory Committee on Breast Cancer in Young Women is a federal advisory committee established by the Education and Awareness Requires Learning Young (EARLY) Act, section 10413 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The EARLY Act authorizes CDC to develop initiatives to increase knowledge of breast health and breast cancer among women, particularly among those under the age of 40 and those at heightened risk for developing the disease.