Partners for Healing, UT Extension and Coffee County Health Department and the Tullahoma Housing Authority have partnered to raise awareness about the importance of preventive care for breast cancer.
The organizations held the Power of Pink event Monday at Cedar Lane church of Christ. Representatives of the organizations were on hand to answer questions and provide resources to attendees.
The local initiative was provided through the Team UP TN program, which educates communities about cancer with the goal to conquer it.
According to the American Cancer Society, one in eight women will develop breast cancer during her lifetime, and an early mammogram can be the difference between a positive and a disastrous outcome.
Several local breast cancer survivors attended the event to tell their stories and encourage women to go for mammogram screenings regularly.
Cancer survivors, from left, Darla Sain, Pat Swann and Betsy White share their stories at the “Power of Pink” Team Up TN luncheon held Monday at the Cedar Lane church of Christ. The event was sponsored by UT Extension, Partners for Healing, the Tullahoma Housing Authority and the Coffee County Health Department as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Betsy White, 59, of Tullahoma, has battled breast cancer twice. The first time White was diagnosed, she was 40.
“It was 1999, right before Christmas,” White said. “I went for my routine mammogram, and it was abnormal. And it just snowballed from there.”
The cancer was found early, and after surgery and chemotherapy, White recovered.
“Then again, in 2006, I went again for my regular mammogram, and they found a lump again, this time on the other side,” White said.
It turned out this lump was cancerous, as well. But early detection helped again.
“Go for mammograms and do self-breast exams,” White said. “Anytime you feel something abnormal, go to the doctor. Keep in mind early detection is the key because it affects your prognosis and the severity of the chemo. If you let it go too far and other organs get involved, the chemo is much harsher and it’s harder to kill the cancer.”
Darla Sain, 51, has also fought the disease. Sain, of Manchester, is a nursing supervisor at the Coffee County Health Department.
“At 49, I was going in for a routine mammogram,” Sain said. “They called me back, and I had to go for a diagnostic one. A month later, I found out I had breast cancer.”
“I had no family health risk and none of the usual risk factors,” Sain said. “It was a big surprise. I was very lucky I was going to the routine mammogram and they caught it very early, at stage one. I was able to do just lumpectomy and radiation because they had caught it so soon.”
If Sain had waited until she could feel the lump, she would have had to undergo chemotherapy, she said.
“But they caught it really early, and I have been cancer free for two years,” Sain said.
“No matter what your family history and your risk factors are, go to your yearly mammogram,” Sain said. “Don’t only go if you think you have high risk. I thought I was at low risk and it happened to me.”
Belinda Letto with UT Extension said two factors significantly increase the risk of receiving breast cancer diagnosis.
“The first factor is being a female and the second one is aging,” Letto said. “Our risk increases as we age.”
One in eight women will develop breast cancer during her lifetime, said Letto. Though most women are aware about the risk of breast cancer, many still delay the mammogram screenings.
“About 50 percent of women do not get an annual mammogram,” Letto said.
That number also includes women whose doctors have recommended mammograms and women with insurance covering the procedure, said Sain.
“Mammogram is the frontline event when it comes to breast cancer,” Letto said. “A mammogram can find breast changes that could (develop into) cancer years before physical symptoms develop. The earlier cancer is detected, the greater your chances to full recovery are.”
Michelle Carmack, executive director of Partners for Healing, said that, among other services, the local clinic provides women’s care.
Partners for Healing is a nonprofit clinic that offers free primary care for the working uninsured in Coffee, Franklin and Moore counties.
Qualifying patients for the free services must not have any form of medical insurance, live or work in Coffee, Franklin, or Moore counties, work an average of 20 hours per week, and meet income eligibility requirements.
“The well woman visits (we provide) include breast exams, self-breast education, mammogram screening and cervical cancer and abnormality screenings,” Carmack said. “Starting Nov. 9, we will devote a full day to women’s health for our patients on the second Thursday of each month.”
Additionally, a mammogram bus provides services to locals every three months. This service is provided by St. Thomas Medical Partners, according to Carmack.
“The bus takes our entire parking lot and that service is free to anyone in our community, not just the patients at Partners,” Carmack said. “They will serve anybody who has no insurance. There is minimal paperwork. If you have no income, you just have to full out a form.”
The bus will be at Partners for Healing from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Dec. 12. Partners for Healing is located at 109 W. Blackwell Street.
The Coffee County Health Department also provides programs targeting early detection of breast cancer. The department offers various women’s health services. Pap tests and clinical breast exams are available for women. Women with low income, no insurance and certain age and high risk factors may qualify for free mammograms, Pap tests and other diagnostic procedures. Tullahoma Clinic of the health department is located at 615 Wilson Ave. in Tullahoma. For more information, call (931) 455-9369.