Pink ribbons, T-shirts, and bracelets, you name it, in the month of October pink of the color of breast cancer awareness.
However, Breast Cancer Awareness Month is more than just wearing the color pink, and more than just the month of October.
Wearing the color, according to the National Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation, Inc., is to raise awareness of the disease in the annual campaign by bringing to light the steps that should be taken to detect the disease in an earlier stage.
The university is doing that with the help of the TCU Health Center and a couple of faculty members to provide students and faculty with the education on breast cancer and early detection.
According to TCU Nurse Colposcopist Johnnie Ireland, to promote Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the TCU Health Center has the Pink Clinic Day for all insurance providers in October.
Ireland said that the Pink Clinic Day is meant for nurses to discuss self-breast exams, breast screenings, to give handouts to students with breast cancer facts and to discuss how to conduct a self-breast exam.
“Mammography in younger females will not be necessarily in finding breast tumors due to the density of the breast,” said Ireland, who served as her sister’s own caregiver as she battled breast cancer and is now four years cancer free. “It’s not a safety issue, but more an issue of screening reliability. Younger women do get breast cancer and there really needs to be improved detection methods for this population.”
Until then, younger women can do physical exams of the breast to feel for any lumps, bumps, or abnormalities.
Although mammograms aren’t ideal for someone under the age of 40, they are still possible. According to the Susan G. Komen website, “Fewer than five percent of breast cancers occur in women under age 40.”
However, between the ages of 20 and 59, breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death, due to particular genetic factors that put a number of women at a higher risk than others at a younger age. Those diagnosed with breast cancer at the younger age range could possibly have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation. Not only do the genes bring a risk of breast cancer, but those women who carry that gene also run the risk of ovarian cancer, according to the Komen website.
Ann Louden, a breast cancer survivor and the face of Frogs for the Cure, wants to hold more educational events for students and faculty so that they can become more knowledgeable about breast cancer and its symptoms.
“The [Frogs for the Cure] committee meets to talk about all the educational opportunities we need to offer to our students,” Louden explained. “This is an area we could do a lot better in, there’s no question.”
Louden’s goal is to do something every week for students next year to educate them more on breast cancer.
“I’ve always wanted to do something every week for students,” Louden said. “Just for speakers to come on campus to talk about breast cancer awareness and wellness and education.”
Louden explained that the Feed Your Pink Side Lunch is meant to educate students, faculty and staff on the latest trends in breast cancer research. This year, Bob Schieffer and Former First Lady Barbara Bush led the luncheon to speak about the importance of early screenings and testing for breast cancer, as both had family members that battled the deadly disease.
However, Louden also does her best to promote breast cancer awareness in months other than October at TCU.
“We do the Women’s Basketball Event in February and we do some educational pieces, which the basketball team takes responsibility for with their team and with their fans,” Louden said.
In addition to basketball, baseball holds an event where they take a written pledge to have the women in their lives to screen for breast cancer.
“We collect those pledges and thank and encourage everyone to make sure the women in their lives get the mammogram,” Louden explained. “Around those events, there are usually stories written about what they want to know about statistics and screenings.”
The TCU Director of Undergraduate Nursing, Suzy Lockwood, is another faculty member who does a number of her own programs in the nursing department for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
According to Lockwood, she, as well as other nursing faculty, have given presentations on breast cancer awareness, treatment and survivorship to TCU faculty, staff, students and stakeholders.
Lockwood also continues to educate the TCU community in months other than October.
“We continue to participate in the same types of activities – especially with our 15-40 Club and encourage young adults to recognize their risk for developing breast cancer,” Lockwood said.
However, breast cancer isn’t the only form of cancer that Lockwood raises awareness about. She teaches about all cancers and it is something she is very passionate about.
“I think that people hear lots about breast cancer and very little about other cancers that actually have a higher mortality rate than breast cancer,” Lockwood explained.
As stated by Lockwood, some cancers might even present themselves so equivalent to other types of diseases, like diabetes or indigestion. Only ten percent of all cancers overall have a genetic connection. The other 90 percent are sporadic and can occur in those that have had no one else in their family with cancer.
As far as TCU raising awareness for breast cancer, Lockwood believes that they are doing a great job, however, she thinks that a lot more could be done for cancers other than breast cancer.
Something Lockwood and Louden agree on is that students should be better educated about cancer.
“In 2011, we did an event called Lynn Lecture, and we brought in a speaker to talk about the whole concept of mind, body, wellness, and also the mind-body connection healing,” Louden said. “We did three major events like that, and we found that there were fewer people.”
For this reason, Louden began just sticking to big events because the educational pieces were “not as easy to sell.”
This is also why Lockwood believes that cancers are diagnosed in the later stages. The lack of awareness of the signs and symptoms are the reasons for the higher mortality rates.
So how can you educate yourself and improve your chances of cancer survival in the event of a diagnosis?
“Know your bodies – do self examinations,” Lockwood said. “Just because no one in your family has had breast cancer doesn’t mean you are ‘safe’ from developing it!”