Saving Our Grandmothers, Wives, Mothers, Aunts, Sisters, Daughters, & Nieces
By: J. Chevont’e Alexander
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and the color pink is in full bloom. The color pink is paraded in stores, magazines, on television, and even on our favorite sports teams across America. From the ribbons, to the license plates, to the pink football gloves, the awareness of Breast Cancer Awareness month is a time that affects us all. The number of people who have been touched by breast cancer personally is tremendous. No matter how close or removed the relationship with that person is, the disease brings together friends, family, and strangers to support the cause of fighting this disease.
The largest disparity is in the African-American community. Even though Caucasians have higher diagnosis statistics, African-Americans are more likely to die because they wait so long before it is detected. According to the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health, African Americans continue to suffer the greatest burden for each of the most common types of cancer. Lack of medical coverage, barriers to early detection and screening, and unequal access to improvements in cancer treatment may contribute to observed differences in survival between African American and Caucasian women.
“This time of the year brings us all into focus on the issue of breast cancer, and the color pink reminds us to take care of our own breast health.” comments Pem Hall, Director of Community Health Programs for Susan G. Komen Central Virginia.
This annual international campaign increases awareness of the disease, and raises funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure. While most people are aware of breast cancer, many forget the steps to have a plan to detect the disease in its early stages, which is the time that is most crucial. In the United States among women each year, there are 230,480 new invasive cases, 57,650 new non-invasive cases, and 39,520 will die. Among men in the United States, there are 2,140 new cases, and 450 will die. In Virginia, there are 6,480 new cases and 1,140 will die. One in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime! Unfortunately, there is no true prevention, no known cause for the disease, and no cure yet, so during the month of October, and all year round, we need to continue to make everyone aware.
“October is the community’s opportunity to celebrate breast cancer survivors and helping women to save their lives.” says Dawn Ward, Communications Director for the American Cancer Society.
80% of all women who develop breast cancer have no known risk factors; #1 Risk Factor being born a girl, #2 Risk Factor Getting Older
Save the Tatas
“Early detection is your best protection.” says Hall.
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women and is the second leading cause of death among women. According to the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation, someone in our country still dies of breast cancer every 14 minutes. Those statistics are alarming, and to curb those numbers, it all starts with living and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, knowing what your risks are, getting regular screenings and early detection. Early detection makes a huge difference in options for treatment and survival rate. If the cancer is detected while it is still in the breast, the five year relative survival rate is 99%.
“These diagnosis and death rates are unacceptable,” says Katy Sawyer, Executive Director of the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation. “The Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation focuses on education, advocacy, and eradication all year long. Breast cancer is more than a pink ribbon.”
Early detection begins with having regular conversations with your physician to talk about your risk factors. By having these conversations, patients are able to make informed decisions, and this is key.
“Everyone’s risk factors are different. Women have to start making themselves a priority. So often women are the caregivers at home, that they forget about their own health.” comments Ward.
Early detection (self and clinical breast exams and mammography) saves lives – improves survival rate and increases treatment options. Mammography is the best tool that doctors have to detect breast cancer early but it is not perfect! Confirmation of cancer can ONLY be determined by microscopic examination of the tissue.
All women, 40 & older, should have a mammogram annually; if you have a significant family history or multiple risk factors, your doctor may recommend earlier. Awareness is key because women, men, and families need to be aware of the resources available for breast health.
Free Mammograms and pap smears are available for low-income, uninsured women through the Virginia Department of Health’s “Every Woman’s Life” program. Women can call 1-866-EWL-4YOU to see if they qualify. The program may also cover treatment if diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer. The American Cancer Society also encourages women and men to call 1-800-227-2345 to speak to trained professionals (available 24 hours a day) about diagnosis, screenings, and finding community resources.
ACCESS NOW and Every Woman’s Life are only a few of the hundreds of community resources available to those uninsured not able to afford screenings or treatments.
For more information, please visit www.komencentralva.org.
Saving Our Fathers & Sons Too
Men can be diagnosed with breast cancer too. Although breast cancer in men is rare, an estimated 2,150 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and approximately 410 will die each year.
What We All Can Do to Help
Women need to know their risk, including personal risks and learning about your family health history. If you are at a higher risk, get regular screenings done. Starting at age 40, women should have a mammogram performed every year. Starting at age 20, women should have a clinical breast exam at least every three years. Here are some other steps medical professionals suggest:
- Get regular exercise
- Maintain a normal weight and a lean body mass
- Avoid cancer causing environmental chemicals at home and at work, in your diet and in medical care
- Stop Smoking
- Manage your blood sugar and eat a low sugar diet
- Support your Immune System by managing your stress
- Get enough rest and adequate sleep
- Take vitamin and herbal supplements that are high in antioxidants
- Avoid second hand smoke
- Limit alcohol intake
- Eat a diet focused on leafy, green veggies and try to avoid red meats
- Manage Inflammation with diet and herbal medicines
- Get regular screenings. Early detection improves survival.
- Know your family history
- Breastfeed if you can
- Be careful about use of hormones
- Talk with your doctor
Upcoming Breast Cancer Awareness Richmond Area Events
On Saturday, October 20 join Susan G. Komen Central Virginia at the 6th Annual Pink Tie Gala at the Greater Richmond Convention Center at 7:30 p.m. Get your tickets for the sixth annual dance to raise funds for breast cancer awareness, education, and research in our community. Enjoy a night of great food, live music, and silent auctions. Tickets are only $85.00. 100% of the net proceeds benefit Komen Central Virginia. Space is limited, so get your ticket early. Advanced tickets only. No tickets will be sold at the door. For tickets, please visit www.pinktiegala.org.
Pink Line Dance for the Cure
9 a.m. to 11 p.m., October 20, Robinson Theatre, 2903 Q St. Presented by D&G Line Dancing. Tickets $20-$45. www.dglinedancingrva.com.
On Sunday, October 21, the American Cancer Society is hosting Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk at 12:30p.m. at Kanawha Plaza in Downtown Richmond. Individuals and teams are encouraged to register at www.makingstrides.com. This year, the walk will offer the opportunity for participants to enroll in a cancer prevention study, that will send you surveys over the next twenty years about your lifestyle and behavior to help medical professionals better understand the disease, and find a way to prevent breast cancer. You are also encouraged to enroll for the study/conference on www.cancer.org.
16th annual Breast Cancer Awareness Dinner, Oct. 29 at Brickhouse Run, 407-409 Cockade Alley in Olde Towne Petersburg. Presented by the Central Virginia Chapter of the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation. Make reservations at (804) 862-1815.
On Saturday, November 3, join the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, 9a.m. to 3p.m. for The Survivorship Journey: A Conference for Cancer Survivors and Their Caregivers. Richmond HCA, Bon Secours, and VCU Massey are all supporting the conference. This event is free to the public. Visit our website at www.vbcf.org for link to register.
To see more events, please visit the American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Central VA, and the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation online.
The importance of breast cancer prevention awareness is so crucial, because awareness has turned into action and engagement. There has been great progress and strides made in the fight against breast cancer, with new and more effective ways to prevent, detect, and treat this disease. However, breast cancer continues to take a terrible toll. For the month of October, and all year long, continue the call to action in your community.