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VOL. 130 | NO. 14 | Thursday, January 22, 2015

Fighting Breast Cancer Requires Awareness

By Don Wade

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To “fight like a girl,” as the slogan on so many pink T-shirts says, starts with knowing the enemy. Breast cancer is pervasive enough that one in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with the disease in their lifetime.

While African-American women are slightly less likely to develop breast cancer than white women (one in nine vs. one in eight), they are more likely to die from it.


“We’re the last to getting screened, the last to getting treated, and because of that we tend to die earlier,” said Patricia Matthews-Juarez, PhD, and co-director of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s Research Center on Health Disparities, Equity and the Exposome.

One way to fight the good fight: increased awareness. To that end, the first breast cancer summit will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 7, at UTHSC. The summit is aimed at African-American women and called “LIVE! African-American Women Surviving Breast Cancer through Education, Early Detection, Screening and Treatment.”

More than a dozen local health care, civic and community organizations are part of the Breast Cancer Awareness and Action Coalition that is presenting the summit.

“We are really pushing awareness,” Matthews-Juarez said. “We are expecting 500 to 600 African-American women” to attend.

American Cancer Society guidelines for the early detection of cancer recommend yearly mammograms starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as a woman is in good health; a clinical breast exam about every three years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women 40 and older; a few women (about two percent) because of genetic history or other facts should be screened with MRI in addition to mammography.

“If you have a family member with breast cancer you need to be proactive,” Matthews-Juarez said. “Genetic screening will show if you are at risk.”

The summit, which is free, is open to breast cancer survivors, women who consider themselves at risk for the disease, or whose lives have been impacted by the disease in some way. The event will be held at the UTHSC Student-Alumni Center at 800 Madison Ave. All participants must register in advance at www.uthsc.edu/live-just-as-we-are-registration or by calling 901-448-1681.

The featured speaker will be Dr. Thelma C. Hurd, a surgical oncologist and associate professor of surgery and clinical assistant professor in the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio in Texas.

During the summit, each participant will receive a range of free personal care services, including manicures and seated mini-massages; complimentary breakfast and lunch; a gift bag filled with useful items for the women and/or their children; plus access to a variety of health care industry vendors. An educational and motivational presentation will focus on the need for each participant to become an advocate for breast cancer education, early detection, screening and treatment among her family, friends and community.

To emphasize the need for black women to take charge of their breast health, the coalition is mounting a photo exhibit in conjunction with the event. UTHSC has arranged for free photo sessions for every participant.

The photos will create the exhibit titled: “LIVE! Just As We Are!” It will be hosted at locations throughout the city, starting at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library during Black History Month in February.

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