Every three minutes, a woman in the United States is diagnosed with breast cancer. This year, 43,000 will die from the disease.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and last week the Women’s Resource Center, in conjunction with other organizations, held a series of informational events, kicked off on Saturday with a well-attended event at the Woodbury Campus Center in Portland. The event, co-sponsored by the Portland Post Office and the College of Nursing, featured speakers such as U.S. Representative Tom Allen, Portland Mayor Cheryl Leeman, breast cancer survivor Carol Doane of the College of Nursing, and several research and fundraising organizations. There was a “memory tree” where people hung pink hearts with written remembrances of loved ones who died of breast cancer. The tree was so full that the hearts spread onto the surrounding wall.
The Women’s Resource Center’s main goal for the week’s events was to raise awareness of the importance of early detection. If detected early enough, breast cancer has a nearly 100 percent survival rate.
“I think a lot of women who go to school here come to campus and aren’t necessarily thinking about their health,” said Mary Kay Kasper, director of the Women’s Resource Center. “We’re making it visible. People look at a bulletin board or hear a speaker and think, ‘What is this?’ If one woman does a self-exam and detects a lump and is able to be treated early, that’s the most we can hope for.”
Events later in the week featured a presentation by Carol Doane and an informational session by Carrie Nix Kivela of University Health Services. Both events were canceled due to lack of attendance.
Doane, who was diagnosed in December 1991 with an aggressive tumor, was going to give one of her first presentations about her experience with breast cancer.
“Breast cancer has to do with loss,” she said in an interview. “You lose your breast, your hair, your self-esteem. It hits you on number of levels as a woman. It’s very, very personal. There are a lot of feelings involved.”
Doane first went for an examination due to pain in her breast-an atypical symptom. She was doing regular self-exams, but had skipped mammograms for three or four years. She was 47 at the time, and there was no history of cancer in her family. A needle biopsy revealed a cancerous tumor, and a radical mastectomy and six months of chemotherapy followed. Her tumor was 8 millimeters in diameter, about the size of a pencil eraser.
“Early detection is so key,” she said. “It’s devastating for any woman to have breast cancer.”
Kivela agreed that the best way for women to protect themselves is to do regular monthly self-exams, backed by annual clinical exams and mammograms. University Health Services does annual exams, and will teach women how to effectively perform self-exams.
The week of events ends Monday. Becky Beane, a 27-year-old breast cancer survivor, will give a presentation about breast cancer in young women from 12 p.m.-1 p.m. in the Woodbury Campus Center.
Alive Editor Kristie Green can be contacted at: [email protected]