|Education, early detection vital for survival|
|Sunday, 14 October 2007 19:00|
By SHARMA HOWARD For the Norwich Bulletin
By the Numbers:
NORWICH - Early detection is key to survival rate when it comes to breast cancer, a disease expected to cause about 40,460 deaths in women in 2007. Education is crucial. "There's definitely a need for awareness," said Linda Massey, director of Nursing Services at United Community and Family Services. She said many women are confused as to when they should get their mammograms, as the guidelines have changed several times. Age range can affect a woman's vigilance in keeping up with early detection, Massey noted.
"Women consider breast cancer an disease for older women, and we need to get the message out that women should take an active role with their own breast exam as the first line in defense," she said. "We need to increase awareness." Massey cited the older generation of women as most compliant in keeping to date with their exams and mammograms.
Local organizations are doing their part to inform all women and men about breast cancer.
Uniting to address
After working for several years with various organizations to promote breast cancer awareness, Vickie Han brought them together to form the Breast Health Action Counsel in May 2006, which serves Bozrah, Montville, Norwich and Sprague. "We kind of put our minds together to reach more women in a more efficient way, to do outreach to different ethnic populations," Han said.
One way they have found to be dynamic is their Women to Women home parties, where she educates women about breast cancer at a hostess' home. A translator can accompany if necessary, and the home environment offers a very conducive atmosphere for bonding, she said. "If any type of problem or concern arises, it becomes an instant support group," Han said. Other programs involve going out in public and hitting the pavement.
With the Norwich area's flux of immigrants, its not uncommon to run across a woman who has never heard of a mammogram, Han said. Rounds are made to hair and nail salons, grocery stores, town halls, senior centers, farmers' markets -- anywhere they can reach out.
"We know that we reach at least 6,000 women a year," said Han, who has also organized a van that comes to the Norwich Adult Education classes, where volunteers pass out literature and give on-site breast exams. If an exam yields a suspicious finding, they refer the patient right away, she said.
And hospitals are extremely helpful with raising awareness and celebrating victory over breast cancer.
Trials and triumphs
The William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich hosts an early detection program, including free mammograms and pap smearse for those without health insurance or the under-insured. The hospital also run an ongoing support group, as does Day Kimball Hospital in Putnam.
While many people may have breast cancer at the forefront of their minds with October being breast cancer awareness month, health-care professionals are looking year-round to find ways to educate and remind the public of the disease. Backus is working on creating a program called the Breast Health Patient Navigator Program for women who find out they have an abnormal mammogram. "Often they can be overwhelmed by fear and not know what to do next, so this program will help patients navigate the system and get the help they need in a timely fashion," said Shawn Mawhiney, director of communications at the hospital.
And for those on the other side of breast cancer, hope awaits. Backus will host "Survivors in Fashion," a fashion show Friday night at the Fox Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino, showcasing 25 local breast cancer survivors. "These women are great," Mawhiney said. "Not only are they models, but they're role models. There's a lot to celebrate and a lot of life to be lived out there on the stage."