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Rose Kushner, Advocate for Women with Breast Cancer

January 10, 1990

NEW YORK (AP) _ Rose Kushner, a medical writer and psychologist and forceful advocate for women with breast cancer, has died of the disease at age 60.

Kushner, who resided in Kensington, Md., died Sunday, The New York Times reported today.

She gained national fame in 1975, with the publication of ″Why Me? What Every Woman Should Know About Breast Cancer to Save Her Life,″ an account of her own battle with the disease.

Breast cancer specialists initially rejected many of the steps she advocated, including less radical surgery, which now are common.

Kushner focused her energies on the breast cancer crusade in 1974, when she discovered a lump in her breast but refused to submit to the then-routine ″one-step″ procedure.

In the mid-70s, a woman undergoing treatment would be anesthetized, the lump removed for biopsy, and, if malignant, the breast would be removed. The patient would not know until she awoke whether the breast was gone.

Kushner fought against the one-step procedure, arguing that women needed time after a diagnosis to find the best surgeon. After 18 phone calls, she finally found a general surgeon who would remove just the lump.

Now, the one-step procedure is no longer used.

″She is probably the single most important person in leading to this major change in breast surgery,″ Dr. Bruce A. Chabner once said. Chabner is the director of the division of cancer treatment at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md. ″I don’t think the public would have accepted it or even known about it if she had not been so persistent in her efforts.″

Kushner founded and was director of the Breast Cancer Advisory Center, through which she provided women with information about their options when faced with the disease.

This year, she was scheduled to be awarded the James Ewing award from the Society of Surgical Oncology for the outstanding contribution by a non- physician to the fight against cancer.

Her husband, Harvey Kushner, called this ″poetic justice.″ In 1975 the society’s members had booed her off the stage after she challenged their standard procedures.

Kushner is survived by her husband; her sons, Gantt of Silver Spring, Md, and Todd of Rockville Md.; a daughter, Lesley Kushner of San Francisco, and three brothers.

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