It’s impossible to put together a fall issue of Well-Being without thinking about breast cancer. Thanks to the success of campaigns by the American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen and others, for many of us October has become synonymous with Breast Cancer Awareness.
While breast cancer is still the second most deadly cancer among women, behind lung cancer, death rates from breast cancer have been declining since 1989, with larger decreases in women younger than 50. These decreases are believed to be the result of earlier detection through screening and increased awareness, as well as improved treatment. So when I read that over 200,000 Mississippi women age 40 or older did not receive screening mammograms last year, I had to wonder how it could be possible and what we could do to change it. The answer could be simpler than you might think.
Several years ago when I was Director of Marketing for a hospital in the Mississippi Delta, the American Cancer Society piloted a program called “Tell a Friend.” The idea was for women to reach out to friends and loved ones about scheduling their annual screening mammograms. Our hospital participated by extending an open invitation to women from the community to join us for a “Tell a Friend” event. We served refreshments, handed out information, gave away door prizes and provided a bank of telephones so our guests could make their phone calls to 10 friends. Each woman was given a pink carnation as they left. Little did we know then what an impact that day would have.
Within weeks of the event we began to hear from women who had been for their mammograms as a result of a call from a friend and who had learned they had breast cancer. One woman in particular had an aggressive form of the disease and likely would have had limited chances for recovery if her cancer had not been discovered when it was. All of us who had been involved with the project were humbled by the realization that such a small act of making a phone call could literally save a life.
The beauty of the idea behind “Tell a Friend” is that we don’t need an organized event for it to work. If each of us reached out to 10 friends and made sure they scheduled a screening mammogram, maybe Mississippi’s breast cancer statistics could be improved.
It is a simple act, that takes less than 10 minutes and it can save the life of someone we love. How easy is that?
I don’t know a family that hasn’t been touched in some way by breast cancer. The loss it has caused will echo for generations to come. But this October, we can make a difference, simply by calling a friend and insisting they make an appointment for a mammogram. And ladies, before you call…make sure you have scheduled your mammogram too!
For information about financial assistance for screening mammograms and other breast care services contact the American Cancer Society at www.cancer.org or call the local ACS chapter at 855-283-0383.