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Celebrating breast cancer survivors

Evans Memorial holds awareness event

Celebrating breast cancer survivors

Celebrating breast cancer survivors

Evans County residents and breast can...

CLAXTON — Grace Scarbrough had a mammogram in 2007. It revealed a small, cancerous lump in her breast.
It was stage 1 breast cancer.

"I opted - after a long thought process of considering what my best options were - I had a mastectomy," the Claxton resident said. "All the cancer was removed, and there was no sign of cancer in the lymph nodes. I had no radiation or chemo due to the fact that I had a mastectomy instead of a lumpectomy."

Scarbrough has been cancer free ever since. In January, it will be seven years since the lump was found.

The health-care community hopes for more success stories like Scarbrough's. So Evans Memorial Hospital held its first breast cancer awareness event Tuesday with some hospital staff and breast cancer survivors, including Scarbrough. The small conference room where everyone gathered — just a few steps from the mammography room — was decked out with the familiar pink ribbons for breast cancer awareness, pink and white balloons, pink-frosted cookies and even pink fruit punch.

"We want to recognize the importance of breast cancer and the screenings and what we have to offer to each of you here, and the signs you need to be aware of," said Martha Tatum, the CEO of Evans Memorial.

Dr. Paula DeNitto, a surgical oncologist in Memorial University Medical Center's Anderson Cancer Institute in Savannah, offered tips and statistics about breast cancer. Her presence reflects Evans Memorial's recently sealed partnership with Memorial Health.

She started her talk by asking a series of people to raise their hands: breast cancer survivors themselves and those who know family members, friends or co-workers with breast cancer. Between those questions, most in the room raised their hands.

"Just about everybody. That's something that breast cancer, these days — just about everyone's been touched in some way," DeNitto said. "There's one in eight women that will develop breast cancer in her lifetime."

She rattled off several sobering statistics concerning breast cancer. This year, medical experts expect more than 230,000 new cases, including 65,000 noninvasive breast cancers, and 39,000 women are expected to die from the disease.

But she also offered good news: Death rates have decreased since 1989, with the largest decrease in women younger than 50. That's attributed to increased screening, increased awareness and advances in treatment.

The best news, she said, is that there are 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S. today.

Some factors that cause breast cancer are beyond control. The top two risk factors, DeNitto said, are being female and aging. And some people are genetically predisposed to acquiring breast cancer.

But there are some factors women can control: weight, nutrition, exercise. Women who eat a diet rich in vegetables, low-fat dairy products, fruits and poultry — "no problem here," DeNitto quipped, in a nod to Claxton Poultry — and who exercise regularly (as little as briskly walking 2½ hours a week) are found to be at less risk of developing breast cancer.

Early detection is a key to surviving breast cancer. That is accomplished through: annual mammograms for women ages 40 and older, clinical breast exams every two or three years for women between 20 and 40 years old, and regular breast self-exams for women starting in their 20s and even their teens, DeNitto said.

Scarbrough, 64, not only has benefited from breast cancer treatment, but she also reaches out to women through Evans County Cares, where she helps raise money for women in need who need breast cancer treatment.

So in both ways, as a survivor herself and one who helps others, events like Tuesday's at Evans Memorial mean a lot to her.

"When they have something like this to recognize the need for mammography and to recognize survivors, pay tribute to those that haven't been as fortunate, then I'm anxious to come," she said.

Jason Wermers may be reached at (912) 489-9431.


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