Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Korean women in the United States. Many of these women face difficulties due to the cancer and lack information to help them navigate through the experience. However, existing support programs have been developed primarily for English-speaking, non-Hispanic White women. Faced with this need among Korean breast cancer survivors, Professor Sunmin Lee in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Maryland School of Public Health and her research team developed a program that provides culturally appropriate information that is delivered in Korean. The T.O.G.E.T.H.E.R.(Together Overcome and Get Empowered Through Health Education and Relationships) program is one of the first programs to be specifically developed for Korean women with breast cancer.
This project, which is funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), was designed to improve the lives of Korean breast cancer survivors. In addition, this program was in part developed using information from interviews with physicians as well as other Korean breast cancer survivors in order to identify the specific needs and issues that Korean breast cancer survivors face. Click here to learn more about the preliminary study.
Click here to be directed to our program's Facebook page.
The TOGETHER Program in the Media
- Click here to see our video clip from WKTV USA, which was published on March 4, 2015.
- Click here to see a video about our program. Included in this video is a brief introduction to our program from our Principal Investigator, messages from our program facilitators, experiences from previous participants, and greeting from the TOGETHER research team.
- Click here to listen to our radio interview on 1310AM WDCT Family Radio (기쁜소리방송) on February 11, 2015.
- Our program has also been featured in local Korean newspaper articles. Click on the links below to view them:
Eligibility for Participation
Korean American women aged 25 or older who meet the following criteria were eligible to participate in this study:
- had a diagnosis of stage 0-III breast cancer;
- had surgery and/or completed treatment within the past 2 years (may still be receiving adjuvant therapies) or plan to receive treatment;
- were able to speak and read Korean.
About the Program
The program consisted of 7 weekly sessions and 1 follow-up session that lasted for about 2 hours each. All sessions were delivered in Korean by two female bilingual licensed clinical psychologists. Participants had the opportunity to learn, share, and bond with other Korean breast cancer survivors, who had similar experiences. The program provided important information that was culturally tailored, including information on diet and nutrition; exercise; complementary and alternative medicine; communicating with healthcare providers and family/friends; preventing and managing treatment side effects; follow-up care plans for breast cancer survivors; and dealing with cancer related employment, insurance, and financial issues.
TOGETHER Program Cohorts
We conducted our first cohort in the Spring of 2014, second cohort in the Fall of 2014, third cohort in the Spring of 2015, fourth cohort in the Fall of 2015, and fifth and last cohort in the Spring of 2016. Below are pictures from our cohorts in Maryland and Virginia:
Cohort 1- Maryland Group:
Cohort 1- Virginia Group:
Cohort 2- Maryland Group:
Cohort 2- Virginia Group:
Cohort 3- Maryland Group:
Cohort 3- Virginia Group:
Cohort 4- Maryland Group:
Cohort 4- Virginia Group:
Cohort 5- Maryland Group:
Cohort 5- Virginia Group:
Thoughts from Our Participants
TOGETHER Program Outreach
The TOGETHER program conducted outreach in the community to not only recruit participants, but also to increase awareness about breast cancer and breast cancer screening in the Korean community. Below are images of seminars and outreach activities that we conducted in local Korean churches.
Healthy Together Happy Together Event
On December 11, 2014, the TOGETHER program research team hosted a breast cancer event at the Global Mission Church in Silver Spring, MD. The motivation behind this event was to promote the health and well-being of Korean women with breast cancer by connecting local physicians, leaders in the community, members of the media, and breast cancer survivors. Through this event, it was our hopes to initiate and build a collaborative effort to prevent and overcome cancer within the Korean community.
2015 Susan G. Komen Washington, D.C. Race for the Cure
On May 9, 2015, the TOGETHER program research team, participants, as well as friends and family joined the Korean Community Service Center (KCSC) team to participate in the 2015 Susan G. Komen Washington, D.C. Race for the Cure. Our program participants expressed their excitement to be able to celebrate being breast cancer survivors with women from all over the region. The event was inspiring and empowering as we completed the 5k (3.1 miles) walk with about 15,000 other people, including 1,500 breast cancer survivors.
TOGETHER Preview Event
On August 22nd (in Vienna, MD) and 23rd (in Hanover, MD), the TOGETHER team held a special program preview event for Korean breast cancer survivors as well as their friends and family. Women interested in participating received a sneak peek of the program, met past participants, and learned about “Effective Communication Methods for a Happier Life” from Dr. Jinhee Kang (clinical psychologist at the University of Maryland Counseling Center), and “Foods that are Good for My Body” from Ms. Young Lim Chu (complementary and alternative medicine practitioner). Attendees expressed that they were comforted by sharing their experiences with other Korean women with breast cancer and affirmed their attendance after they came to recognize the importance of this beneficial program.
TOGETHER Program Picnic
On October 6th and 7th, the TOGETHER program research team held picnics in Virginia at Mason District Park and in Maryland at Matthew Henson State Park for our cohorts 1 to 4 participants as well as long-time breast cancer survivors. This event was not only a fun, bonding experience where we got to know each other better but also a celebration for our breast cancer survivors.
Cancer Seminar Series: Treatment Side Effects
The TOGETHER program research team hosted a cancer treatment side effects seminar on February 14, 2015 at the Korean American Family Counseling Center in Vienna, VA. The speaker, Ms. Chung Ahn, is a certified oncology rehabilitation registered nurse at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington, D.C., who has 25 years of experience as a nurse and 3 years of experience treating cancer patients specifically. Cancer survivors, friends, and family members gathered to learn about ways to reduce and manage cancer treatment side effects, especially those related to breast cancer.
Cancer Seminar Series: Breast Cancer Screening and Diagnosis
Dr. Gina Kim-Ahn, who has 13 years of experience as a radiologist and is currently a Breast Imaging Fellow at George Washington University, provided an informative seminar on April 26, 2015 at Bethany Church in Gaithersburg, MD. Her talk was a part of the TOGETHER program research team's cancer seminar series. Dr. Kim covered various breast cancer screening and diagnosis related topics including screening guidelines and methods, understanding mammogram results, what to do if your screening results are abnormal, and screening for recurrence among breast cancer patients. Attendees expressed that after years of getting mammograms, they finally understood about breast cancer screening.
Cancer Seminar Series: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Breast Cancer
On May 30, 2015, the TOGETHER program research team continued its cancer seminar series at the Korean United Methodist Church of Greater Washington. The speakers included three local Korean physicians: Dr. Gina Kim (a breast imaging fellow at George Washington University), Dr. Bonnie Sun (a breast surgeon and assistant professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine), and Dr. David Min (a medical oncologist at Maryland Oncology Hematology and a clinical professor at Georgetown University School of Medicine). Drs. Kim, Sun, and Min provided detailed explanations and answers to individuals’ questions and covered everything the audience wanted to know about breast cancer from diagnosis to surgery and treatment.