October was National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, proclaimed to unite those who are fighting breast cancer to have hope and to help spread awareness about this deadly disease. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2011, 220,097 women were diagnosed with breast cancer (40,931 died) and 2,078 men were diagnosed with male breast cancer (443 died). Do you know your risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer?
According to BreastCancer.org, about 1 in 8 U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime and 1 in 1,000 men will develop invasive breast cancer in his lifetime. Yes, even men are vulnerable to breast cancer. If breast cancer runs in your family, it is best to see your physician for regular checkups. Early detection is key to fighting against breast cancer.
Community Fights Back
The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community joined millions who are making the effort to bring attention to this deadly disease. The SRPMIC came together for various events during the month of October. On the evening of Tuesday, October 16, a Breast Cancer Awareness Walk was held at the Salt River Fitness Center. Approximately 50 people walked 1 mile around the Two Waters complex to show their support.
“The purpose of the event is just to bring awareness about breast cancer to the ladies and to the Community,” said Community Health Educator Deborah Robinson. She encouraged everyone, especially women, to stay healthy and to follow up with their providers to get their mammograms. “The ladies really need to keep their mammogram appointments. They’re just not showing up, for what reason I don’t know. Lately, this has been a problem. In September, 28 ladies came out to the [mobile mammogram unit in Salt River] for their mammograms. [More women] really need to come in and get checked.”
Supporters wore pink, were given pink glow necklaces and were provided snacks and drinks. They walked to honor someone who has had breast cancer, or they just wanted to show support to the SRPMIC.
“I am here to honor women who are challenged with [breast cancer],” said Carrie Watahomigie, who is far too familiar with breast cancer since her grandmother, aunt and many friends have been diagnosed with it. She mentioned having a friend who was recently diagnosed and is currently going through chemotherapy.
“When they [are diagnosed], I usually tell them to have hope,” said Watahomigie. “From my observation, most people conquer [breast cancer]; they beat it. I think breast cancer is beatable because my aunt [who is a breast cancer survivor] is up and around, and she is now 101 years old. She [currently] lives in New Mexico, and she’s very healthy and she beat it.”
“I am here to honor my grandmother Marlene Johnson, who was diagnosed [with breast cancer] in 2008 and passed in 2010. Her breast cancer evolved into bone cancer, which is more severe,” said Community member Dashia Enos. “I’ve become more aware of [breast cancer since then]. It made me realize what steps I should take to be healthier. I try to support in this way.”
“We lost my mom, Pauline Rhoades-Antone, two years ago. We’re here to honor her, but also to bring awareness,” said Community member Lillia Munoz. “There has been an increase in breast cancer in the Community. More of our people are being diagnosed, and we just want to [increase] awareness.” Munoz encourages women to get checked often, and not wait until age 40.
The key to beating breast cancer is early detection. When cancer is detected early, it is easier to treat and you are more likely to survive. The best way to detect breast cancer early is to have regular screening mammograms. A mammogram is simply an x-ray of the breast tissue. Cancer experts recommend women have their first mammogram at about age 40. Munoz added, “If there is a history of breast cancer in your family, get checked earlier.” After that, regular screening mammograms are recommended every one to two years to check for any changes in the breast tissue.
Sometimes, breast cancer that runs in families is because family members share the same risk factors, such as smoking or obesity. Other times, breast cancer that runs in families is hereditary, caused by a particular gene mutation that significantly increases the risk of developing breast cancer.
A mobile mammography unit comes to the SRPMIC Health Annex Building five times throughout the year. If you would like to make a mammogram appointment for the next mobile visit on December 4, call Community Health Educator Deborah Robinson at (480) 362-7329. Appointments are available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. that day.