LAURINBURG — October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and pink is the favorite color at Scotland Health Care System throughout the month.
To help raise awareness of breast cancer and to encourage women to have annual mammograms, there will be plenty of pink articles of clothing worn by the system’s associates and medical providers throughout the month.
“Wearing pink shows that we are determined to educate women and men about breast cancer,” says Chris Hogan, director of Imaging Services. “Early detection is the best protection. That’s not just a slogan we lightly toss around. Mammograms do help save lives. A great example is Keisha Ridges, a Bennettsville native and mother of three, who had mammograms at Scotland Imaging Center, was diagnosed with breast cancer, and is now on the road to recovery.”
Ridges was only 37 years old when diagnosed with breast cancer. Typically a woman doesn’t begin screening mammograms until age 40. But Ridges was experiencing breast pain and discomfort. Ridges knew that what she was experiencing was not normal. Mammogram results showed no suspicious areas, but Ridges continued to experience breast pain. So she requested and received additional testing, including an ultrasound. Though she did receive a breast cancer diagnosis, Ridges was relieved to know that she was right to listen to the signals her body was giving her and that she was right to be persistent in following through with her medical providers.
“Being told I had breast cancer was a shock,” Ridges said. “I have an aunt who had breast cancer, but she was much older when diagnosed. I was only 37. I thought surely I don’t have cancer.”
But a breast biopsy by general surgeon Dr. Chi-Dai Chen confirmed Stage 3 breast cancer. “Though I was surprised by the news, I didn’t cry when Dr. Chen told me I had cancer. I simply told him let’s fix this,” she said
Following a mastectomy, Ridges received both chemotherapy and radiation therapy at Scotland Cancer Treatment Center.
“On those treatment days when I wasn’t quite as cheerful as I should have been or didn’t feel well, the staff sat with me, encouraged me, and was so kind to me. Most of all, they gave me hope.”
While undergoing treatment, medical oncologist Dr. Kelvin Raybon referred Ridges to Duke for genetic testing.
“Due to all of the publicity in recent months about stars with breast cancer I wanted to find out if I had the breast cancer gene,” she said. “It turns out I don’t, which is great to know. I don’t have to worry about my daughters having the breast cancer gene.”
Radiation therapy has compromised Ridges’ immune system which means right now she is unable to return to her job as a guard at the Bennettsville State Prison.
And though she’ll have to continue with monthly shots for the next five years and daily chemo pills for a long time to come, she maintains a positive attitude.
“This experience has taught me that we all need to listen to our bodies. If something feels wrong get it checked out and be persistent until you are satisfied. Every woman should have a mammogram starting at age 40, even younger if the person has a family history of breast cancer.”
According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women, except for skin cancers. About one in eight women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime.
The American Cancer Society’s estimates for breast cancer in the United States for 2015 are:
— About 234,190 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women and men.
— About 40,730 women and men will die from breast cancer
— Death rates for breast cancer have steadily decreased in women since 1989, with larger decreases in younger than in older women and in white than in black women. From 2007 to 2011, rates among women younger than 50 decreased by 3.2 percent per year in whites and by 2.4 percent per year in blacks, while among women 50 and older, rates decreased by 1.8 percent per year in whites and by 1.1 percent per year in blacks. The decrease in breast cancer death rates represents improvements in both early detection and treatment.
— For every 1,000 women who have a screening mammogram:
— 100 are recalled to get more mammography or ultrasound images
— 20 are recommended for a needle biopsy
— Five are diagnosed with breast cancer
— One in six breast cancers occur in women age 40-49
Get your pink on
Each Wednesday throughout October Scotland Health Care System is hosting Pink Out for Breast Cancer from 11 am to 1 pm in the front lobby of the hospital. Any employee or community member who visits the Pink Out table wearing an article of clothing in any shade of pink will receive a refreshing cup of lemonade and a sweet treat.
Community members can also join Scotland Health Care System in its efforts to raise breast cancer awareness by coming out to walk in the annual Breast Cancer Awareness Walk on Oct. 3o.
“Our walk is a visual reminder to the community that early detection is important in the battle against breast cancer,” said Dotti Matthews, director of Scotland Cancer Treatment Center. “Regardless of your gender, the chances are someone in your life has been touched by breast cancer in some form or fashion. As a community we can come together to raise the level of breast cancer awareness.”
The walk is held at the WR Dulin Conference Center at noon and is open to all those interested. Lunch is provided at no charge through a grant by Scotland Memorial Foundation.
Last year more than 100 women and men joined the walk. The number is expected to expand again this year.
“We thank the many community members who have joined us in the past for this event, said Mary Callahan-Lopez, walk coordinator. “In addition we want to thank local merchants who support the event, as well as Scotland Memorial Foundation for their financial support. Following the walk each cancer survivor receives a goodie bag of items, and we give out some nice door prizes.”
Thanks to a grant from Scotland Memorial Foundation, the staff of Scotland Imaging Center celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness month by presenting each woman with a gift following her mammogram.
“We are so fortunate to have a screening tool to catch breast cancer early,” said Callahan-Lopez. “When breast cancer is caught and treated early, survivors can live many, many years with great quality of life. Don’t let the thought of breast cancer scare you and keep you from having a mammogram. Early detection is so important.”
For information about Scotland Cancer Treatment Center services, breast cancer, or the Breast Cancer Awareness Walk on October 30th, call Scotland Cancer Treatment Center at 910-291-7630.
Karen Gainey is marketing coordinator for Scotland Health Care System