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It’s National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month!

Guest post by Jane MacNeil, President of Turn The Towns Teal®

What do you think of when you see the color teal? The ocean? Or is it your favorite crayon from childhood? Our national campaign called Turn The Towns Teal® is trying to change that.

Our founder (and my sister-in-law) Gail MacNeil was shopping at the supermarket one day when she noticed a small pink ribbon printed on the package of her English muffins. Gail immediately recognized the ribbon – a popular method of bringing awareness to breast cancer – and realized there was little awareness of another prominent cancer among women: ovarian cancer.

Inspired by her own ten-year battle with ovarian cancer, Gail immediately began to lay the foundation of Turn The Towns Teal® and set forth certain guidelines for the campaign, including the requirement that biodegradable teal ribbons be put up in the beginning of September to promote awareness of this particular cancer. She officially started the campaign in 2007, at which time 40 towns in New Jersey participated. By 2015, we had registrants in all 50 states as well as in Canada and Bermuda.

Today, our campaign is being carried out by my family and a group of extremely dedicated volunteers. Volunteers tie our biodegradable teal ribbons (made in the USA!) in their towns, at their businesses, places of worship, and neighborhoods and private residences. They also distribute our symptom cards to increase awareness of the subtle symptoms and risk factors of ovarian cancer.

Because there is NO conclusive early detection test for this cancer and a pap test does not detect ovarian cancer, early detection is critical. Some of the symptoms we recommend watching for are:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Vague but persistent gastrointestinal upsets such as gas, nausea, or indigestion
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)
  • Unexplained changes in bowel habits
  • Unexplained weight gain/loss
  • Ongoing unusual fatigue
  • Back pain
  • Menstrual changes
  • Pain during intimacy

If these symptoms persist for 10 days to 2 weeks, consult your gynecologist, physician or gynecological oncologist. As seniors, it is important to be an advocate for your own health. Gail’s gynecologist dismissed her classic symptoms on three separate occasions. When she was eventually diagnosed, she was in the very late stages of the disease and unfortunately passed away in 2008.

While every woman is at risk for ovarian cancer, the good news is, if diagnosed early the success rate is 90-95 percent. Remember: The earlier the diagnosis the better the prognosis.

Want to get involved with Turn The Towns Teal®? Visit our website for more information. We’ll start registration for our 2018 campaign on May 8, World Ovarian Cancer Awareness Day!

Jane MacNeil is President of Turn The Towns Teal®, a national campaign to promote awareness of ovarian cancer, its subtle symptoms and risk factors.

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Men’s Health Month & The End of Prostate Cancer

Guest post by Drew Saelens, Vice President of Government Relations & Patient Advocacy at ZERO – The End of Prostate Cancer

Though June represents the beginning of summer, it is equally important to remember June is Men’s Health Month. This month is naturally a great opportunity for Seniors Speak Out to collaborate with ZERO – The End of Prostate Cancer to provide some helpful suggestions for how seniors can truly make this summer the healthiest one yet.

Get Educated!

Take the time to learn about how preventable some men’s health problems are and how important early detection can be. While diving into a complicated topic like cancer could be overwhelming, there are a few important facts to know.

ZERO is working to end prostate cancer, a disease that impacts 1 in 8 American men during their lifetime. In fact, prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the United States after skin cancer. For seniors, it is especially important to be aware of this disease, as about 6 in 10 cases diagnosed are for men aged 65 or older.




Prostate cancer begins in the prostate, which is a walnut-shaped gland in the male reproductive system. The prostate surrounds the urethra and makes the fluid to nourish and protect sperm cells. Unfortunately, there are no outward signs or symptoms of early prostate cancer, so it is very important to regularly visit your doctor for a screening test. ZERO recommends that men get an initial baseline Prostate Specific Antigen Test (PSA) at age 45. Once this test is completed, it becomes easier for older men to watch for any irregularities by monitoring PSA levels with a doctor. The good news is, if caught early, prostate cancer has a 99 percent survival rate.

Not at risk for prostate cancer? There’s still important steps you can take as a friend, daughter, mother, or partner. Encourage the men in your life to bring up preventive care and the PSA test with their doctor, especially once they turn 45. It can be a lifesaving conversation.

Take Action!

I’ve worked in health care for 15 years. I’ve been a consultant, a fundraiser, and an advocate. Over the years, I’ve learned the true value of speaking out to create meaningful change. Seniors should not underestimate their ability to make an impact! If there is an issue that you’re passionate about, do not hesitate to contact policymakers both in Washington, D.C., and in your local communities. It is important to make your voice heard, especially on issues that directly impact your health. Here are a few easy ways you can take action in ZERO’s fight to end prostate cancer:

Together, we can affect meaningful policy changes that contribute to our goal for Generation ZERO: the first generation of men free from prostate cancer.


Drew Saelens is Vice President of Government Relations & Patient Advocacy at ZERO – The End of Prostate Cancer. ZERO is the leading national nonprofit with the mission to end prostate cancer by advancing research, improving the lives of men and families, and inspiring action.

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Advocates Speak Out: Bob Blancato (Part 1)

In preparation for the 2015 White House Conference on Aging next week, Seniors Speak Out’s Nona Bear spoke with Bob Blancato, a long-time advocate for older Americans who has been involved in the past three White House Conferences on Aging, twice in leadership roles. Below is the first part of the two part conversation. Be sure to check in tomorrow for the second part.

Part One

Nona Bear (NB): Can you explain your background when it comes to being an advocate for seniors? What are some of the issues you focus on?

Bob Blancato (BB): When Congressman Mario Biaggi of New York, my previous boss in Congress, became an original member of the House Select Committee on Aging in the late 1970s, his getting on the committee, and then becoming the chairman years later, gave me an unprecedented opportunity to become an advocate for older Americans. So it all came as a result of this work assignment. Today, many of the issues we work on are the same issues we’ve worked on in the past, such as promoting economic security for older individuals, ensuring quality of health, emphasizing the importance of the Older Americans Act, preventing elder abuse and combatting age discrimination. These are all issues that have transcended time and are still very important.

NB: Tell me a bit about your role in the past White House Conferences on Aging?

BB: I’ll have been to four of the six White House Conferences on Aging: 1981, 1995, 2005 and will be attending the upcoming one in 2015. I wish I had been at the 1971 Conference; it was such a dynamic event and had the largest crowd of any White House Conference. The best story that came out of it had to do with Richard Nixon who had Arthur Flemming as his executive director. They wanted Richard Nixon to announce the Older Americans Act so they prepared the speech and despite Arthur Flemming suggesting $50 million [to support the bill], Nixon came in and announced an initial support for $100 million. It is a thing everyone remembers, it blew everyone away.

NB: What has been the most remarkable achievement coming out of past Conferences?

BB: In addition to what Nixon did in 1971, the 1961 White House Conference on Aging laid the groundwork for the Great Society programs like Medicare, Medicaid and the Older Americans Act. The 1971 Conference also laid the groundwork for what became the National Institute on Aging and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. In 1981, the Conference was very contentious, but it addressed the contrasting views of what to do with Social Security at that point. The National Commission on Social Security Reform, informally known as the Greenspan Commission, was created as a result and it came up with the plan that saved Social Security from bankruptcy. It was a tough vote, but it fulfilled its mandate of preserving Social Security.

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Advocates Speak Out: CJ Page of Community Health Action Network

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 2.38.30 PMCJ Page is executive director of the Community Health Action Network. He spoke with Seniors Speak Out’s Nona Bear about issues seniors are facing in his area. Below is an abridged version of the interview.

Nona Bear (NB): What community do you serve and how long have you been an advocate?

CJ Page (CP): The Community Health Action Network has been around since 2007, serving the community as a resource and a strong advocate for health and education. We work on health and minority issues, as well as serve seniors.

NB: What are some of your priorities around the Part D program?

CP: As health advocates, it’s important that we think about the needs of seniors and ensure they have the information needed about the programs they use, such as what changes are being made. I see a great deal of work that has been done, but I also see the need for education on health issues for all age groups.

NB: Are there other concerns regarding Part D or Medicare in your community?

CP: Many of the people I work with want to stick with the coverage they have under Part D, and if any changes take place, it is a concern. If we hear of coming changes, that inspires people to take action, like signing petitions to keep things the way they are.

NB: What would you recommend seniors discuss with their doctors and pharmacists in relation to their medicine and Part D coverage?

CP: People need to ask a lot of questions to understand the medication they are taking and what happens to their body. They should also ask about expected side effects and how to deal with those.

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Seniors Spoke Out…And Were Heard! 

THANK YOU to every senior and supporter who spoke out during the recent budget debate.  While a senator proposed making harmful changes to the Medicare Part D program, the Senate did not vote on the proposal, choosing to keep Part D in its current form. No doubt, this was due to all of your hard work to protect this vital program. Because of advocates like you, Part D remains intact and will continue to provide seniors access to affordable medications. 

Stay tuned to Seniors Speak Out and share your stories and photos with us about how Medicare helps you live life to the fullest. You never know when we may need to speak out again!

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Keeping Part D Strong: Don’t “Fix” a Successful Program

In George Washington’s time, doctors frequently treated patients by bleeding them with leeches. Just as this procedure didn’t produce successful outcomes, “bleeding” Medicare Part D is a misguided attempt that would be equally unsuccessful. 


Medicare Part D is a rare commodity, a government program that is healthy and works well! Here are some reasons why:


1)     Seniors like the program, consistently giving it a near 90% satisfaction rate;

2)     Research demonstrates Part D contributes to reductions in hospitalizations; 

3)     Consumers are empowered by many optionsamong coverage plans;

4)     Premium costs have been relatively stableover the past five years.

5)     The net federal spending for the program was nearly 50 percent less than anticipated by CBO projections.


If you rely on the Medicare prescription drug program, now is the time to keep up with policy threats to the program and get involved to ensure your access to prescription drugs is not threatened. We can’t let this vital program, which protects the health of tens of millions of seniors and people with disabilities, be endangered by misguided changes. As the old adage goes, if it ain’t broke…