Young 20-somethings, men and women alike, usually think themselves invincible. We can consume gallons of caffeine in a day, dine on fast food for all three meals and take a shuttle from their car to class because the walk is too much physical activity. We've heard the risks for heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer, and sure do hope our parents implement some lifestyle changes to reduce their chances of developing disease.
Young women often feel the same in response to breast cancer – they will subject themselves to a mammogram not a day before their 40th birthday. But for the past several years healthcare providers and agencies have dubbed October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month to try to change these attitudes, raise awareness and bring the topic into the open.
According the American Cancer Society, 192,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to occur among American women in 2001 and an estimated 40,200 women will die from breast cancer. Several risk factors are associated with breast cancer, but are often beyond a woman's control, such as age, genetic makeup and family history.
While medical technology has improved breast cancer testing and treatment methods over the years, most breast lumps are still found by women themselves at home through self-breast exams For these reasons, prevention becomes the most important tool in combating breast cancer.
`The main thing is prevention,” said Susan Schafer, RN, a nurse educator with Providence Imaging.
Schafer said that it is recommended that all women, beginning around age 20, should conduct monthly self-breast exams. Clinical breast exams are recommended every three years for women age 20 to 40 and then mammograms every year after age 40.
Schafer says she feels that devoting the month of October has been successful in bringing about awareness and opportunity for discussion for both women and men.
“Men are becoming more open with it– they can say the word. And women are becoming more outspoken because it's their health and body,” said Schafer.
Dyann Bowland, RN, is an educator with the Student Health Center. She said the Student Health Center encourages men to talk to their female family members and friends and encourage them the keep themselves healthy.
In past years, the Student Health Center offered free mammograms during October through the Providence mobile mammography unit and men were just as receptive of the message as women.
“Male students would bring their moms to get a mammogram then take them to lunch,” said Bowland. “It's a great way to show mom you love her.”
UAA has had various events and information around campus during the month to promote awareness among students and UAA Advancement will be hosting one last event on Oct. 31. From noon to 1 p.m. in the Campus Center Den three breast cancer survivors will speak and field questions about their experiences and the importance of early detection.
Lea Anne McWhorter is one of the speakers who will share her story and words of wisdom. McWhorter, a volunteer with the American Cancer Society and UAA employee was first diagnosed with breast cancer 11 years ago. She hopes the audience at the Oct. 31 event will take away a new awareness of their bodies and view preventive care as something they can do for themselves.
“They [women] need to be aware of what is going on with their bodies,” said McWhorter. “It's a gift to themselves.”