BUCKHANNON – Did you know that one in eight women will face a breast cancer diagnosis in their lifetime?
That’s why community members, survivors and family members gathered at the Stockert Youth and Community Center to raise awareness about the condition, share survivor stories and talk about the importance of early detection and examinations.
Nurse practitioner at St. Joseph’s Family Medicine and teacher of nursing at West Virginia Wesleyan College Amy Coffman talked about how prevalent the disease is and the importance of early detection.
“There’s more than 245,000 new cases every single year,” Coffman said. “Most cases occur in women over the age of 50, but 10 percent of all breast cancer patients occurred in women younger than the age of 45.”
She said the risk of developing the diseases increases with age, but it is still a risk at 20 years old.
“One in eight women in the United States are diagnosed with breast cancer in their life,” Coffman said. “I think that is an absolutely staggering statistic, one in eight, think back to your eight childhood friends, eight high school friends, the eight girls that were in your wedding – one in eight women will have breast cancer.”
Coffman said the most important tool for the detection of breast cancer is a mammogram.
“Women between 40 and 44 have the option to start screening every year, “Coffman said. “In the last couple of years – maybe five years or so – there’s been a lot of change in screening recommendations. It used to say, ‘get one a couple of years before you turn 40 and start getting them every year at 40’ and we have had some changes that say, ‘maybe you don’t need them until you’re 50,’ but I never changed my personal practice.”
Surviver Linda Wolfe shared her story and the importance of mammograms.
“I went to have my mammogram last year on December 27, 2018, on January 4 it came back positive that I had cancer in my breast and here’s the thing, ladies, my cancer was not a lump – no lump in my breasts,” Wolfe said. “They didn’t look any different, couldn’t tell any difference and I couldn’t feel anything.”
Wolfe said her type of cancer was a hardening of the tissue in the breast, it was in the milk duct, so there was no lump.
“After three of those chemotherapy treatments, they did the MRI and found out that the chemotherapy had done nothing to reduce the size of what was in my breast,” Wolfe said. “With my oncologist, the regular breast surgeon, my husband and I, it was decided that my left breast would be removed and that was scheduled rather quickly,” she said.
She said the doctors removed 14 nodes from underneath her arm.
“They gave me a report that there was no cancer in my lymph nodes, and it showed no cancer in my body – praise God, I am cancer free,” Wolfe said. “I cannot urge you enough to have your mammograms done. I’ve been having mammograms done every year since age 26.”
The secretary of the West Virginia Wildlife Center Judy Channell said she used to be a hairdresser and during that time, she worked with the American Cancer Society’s Look Good-Feel Good Program.
“You look good, you feel better, and the same thing applies for those who are going through treatment,” Channell said. “If you are undergoing chemo or radiation you are eligible for this program. The basics of it are there are licensed hairdressers who take part, and the American Cancer Society institutes the whole thing and cosmetic producers and manufacturers donate products.”
She said those in the program receive a bag or box of makeup products and licensed hairdressers help them with any issues they may be having with their skin, nails or hair.
“These licensed hairdressers go over some issues with you, that you might have with your skin, and of course, the first thing is losing your hair. They also sometimes will help with getting the wigs,” Channell said.
She said currently St. Joseph’s does not offer the program, but she is hoping to change that.
“I was very sad to find out that they’re not taking place in St. Joseph’s Hospital now,” Channell said. “I’ve got some connections and I’m still trying to get it started. Due to the population in our county, it might be a once-a-year, maybe twice-a-year thing.”
She explained the American Cancer Society helped her when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 when a mammogram helped catch it early, but now she is also cancer-free.