By Peggy Mackenzie
Visitors to the Greenbrier County courthouse during the month of October may note the pink-bannered wreath over the entry door. The wreath is there to remind those who enter that October is West Virginia Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The pink ribbon is now nationally recognized as the most prominent symbol of breast cancer awareness. Each year, the month of October is given over to increase awareness of the disease and to raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure. The breast cancer awareness campaign also offers information and support to those affected by breast cancer.
On Monday, members of the Greenbrier Valley Breast Cancer Support Group gathered in front of the courthouse for the wreath hanging, as Jerry Halstead, one of the security officers at the courthouse, climbed a ladder and placed the wreath over the doorway. Halstead’s mother, Hilda Halstead, is a 25 year survivor of breast cancer. The other survivors present at the brief ceremony included Frances Zicafoose, 25 years, Ruth Kreft, 20 years, Brinda Renick, 21 years, and Betty White, a 30 year survivor. Their supporters included Bev Colombo, associate pastor of the Lewisburg Methodist Church, Judy Burns, Cathy Osborn, Larryetta Ellis, and Robert C. Byrd Clinic marketing executive Karen Jones.
As active members of the support group, they hope to encourage all women to be vigilant and take advantage of preventive programs that can ultimately save their life if cancer is detected early.
“This year alone, more than 1,340 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in West Virginia,” said Renick, the group’s president. “This means that out of every eight women you know, one will be diagnosed at some point in their life.” Although mortality rates are decreasing, and more and more women are getting mammograms, “an estimated 289 women in our state will die from breast cancer this year,” she stated.
While most people are aware of breast cancer, many forget to take the steps to have a plan to detect the disease in its early stages and encourage others to do the same. Those steps are mammograms, education, support, and early detection, the most effective means of fighting breast cancer.
Women age 40 and older are advised to have a mammogram at least every two years. Women ages 3039 should talk with their health care provider about the screening schedule that best fits their needs and risk profile. Clinical breast exams by a physician or nurse are recommended every three years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women 40 and over.
Health officials with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources are reminding residents to take advantage of free or low-cost breast and cervical cancer screening offered by DHHR. Screenings are also available through the Rainelle Medical Center and at the Robert C. Byrd Clinic in Lewisburg, the lead agency working under the Susan D. Komen grant guidelines. On Oct. 24, the Greenbrier Valley Medical Center will provide mammogram exams through the Komen grant to women who qualify. A walk-a-thon at the Rainelle Medical Center, scheduled for Oct. 18 from 10 a.m. to noon, is among many events during October designed to help fund women too young or those whose incomes disqualify them from benefiting the low-cost or free exams.
For more information about the screening program, call your local health department or the DHHR’s WVBCCSP at 1-800-642-8522, or visit the WVBCCSP online at www.wvdhhr.org/bccsp.