To honor those who have survived breast cancer and those who have lost their lives to it, communities come together for walks, a ribbon becomes a symbol of hope, and items are decked out in pink throughout the month of October.
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and every 13 minutes, one woman will die from breast cancer.
Deborah Christensen is an oncology nurse navigator and breast health educator at Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George. As an oncology nurse navigator, Christensen helps patients recently diagnosed with breast cancer navigate the system, from helping the patient understand her diagnosis to making sure she finds the right medical help.
Christensen said it’s important for women to know their bodies. If a woman feels any unusual bumps or lumps either within her breasts or underneath her armpit, she should report that. And if her skin on her breasts is red or dimply, or “looks like an orange peel,” she should report that to her doctor immediately.
“I would stress that these aren’t [signs] that, just because women are young or at any age, they should think [they’re] not something they should address,” she said.
It’s suggested by the American Cancer Society that women receive annual breast cancer screenings starting at the age of 40. But Christensen said besides receiving yearly screenings, knowing your family cancer history is vital. She said there tends to be a genetic component with younger people, so being screened before the age of 40 may be necessary.
“Understand that just because there’s no cancer history in the family does not mean it couldn’t happen, even to young people,” Christensen said.
Depending on insurance coverage, according to newchoicehealth.com, the average cost of a mammogram in St. George is $97. If a woman is at the age where she can receive a mammogram but doesn’t think she can afford it, she can call 435-688-6499 to receive additional help from Dixie Regional Medical Center.
Dakota Bird, a junior criminal justice major from Logan, has never received a breast cancer screening because she’s 19 and doesn’t think she has to worry about breast cancer.
“College students aren’t thoroughly educated on cancer,” Bird said. “I think that’s because it’s such a common thing now that people aren’t necessarily surprised when they get it. That’s kind of ironic; you would think people would want to be more educated if it’s happening so frequently.”
On Thanksgiving of 2009, Drayson Ball, a senior media studies major from Gunnison, was at the dinner table when his mom told him and his siblings she had breast cancer.
“Honestly, you don’t ever think this will happen to any of your family,” Ball said. “It was just like, ‘Is this really happening? Is this real life?’”
His mom had stage three breast cancer, which means the cancer has spread among the immediate region of the tumor and may affect lymphnodes and muscles. She has now been cancer free for five years.
To honor his mom, Ball made a pink wristband to wear during basketball season of his senior year of high school. It was his first game since Thanksgiving break and a few days after his mom told his family she had cancer. Because of high school basketball rules, players couldn’t wear anything on their arms unless it was part of the uniform or a protective sleeve approved by a doctor. So Ball played with the pink wristband around his ankle.
From a man’s perspective, Ball said he now knows the importance of women receiving breast cancer screenings and learning to do self exams. He said he stresses the importance of this to his wife and sister.
“There are so many people who have been able to detect [breast cancer] early and been able to beat it,” he said. “But there are a lot of people who haven’t. Get educated and don’t feel like it can’t ever happen to you.”