Breast health concerns everyone

William Lee

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In honor of October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, WIU will kick off its plan to get female students to get mammograms.With the help of a grant from the Susan G. Komen Foundation, WIU and the McDonough County Health Department are beginning an ad campaign to get women of all ages informed about the early detection of breast cancer.

“All women at the age of 20 should be checking their breasts for lumps, thickness or other changes,” Rosalyn Kalantari, family nurse practitioner at Beu Health Center, said. Kalantari has practiced for 20 years and believes early detection is key in fighting breast cancer.

“The women that will usually have a breast mass in this younger group fall into the category (that) will have a benign (non-cancerous) breast mass,” Mimi Prerost, project director of WIU’s breast health awareness, said. “Since there is no way to prevent breast cancer, the only chance we have is early detection.”

Although cases of breast cancer in younger women are rare (1 in 2,500, according to the 1997 American Cancer Society report) and breast cancer is not preventable, young women must test themselves to detect changes.

“Some of (the neglect to get a mammogram) is that ‘I don’t won’t to think of it,’ ‘If I don’t (get tested) it won’t happen to me.’ So what we try to do is increase their awareness of it,” Prerost said. “We try to make it non-threatening and just say if you find anything unusual then have it checked … have someone check it so that you can put your mind at ease.

” This is the second straight year WIU has received a grant from the Komen Foundation. Beu’s health education department hired a graduate assistant to help in the breast awareness campaign.

“Otherwise we wouldn’t be able to devote this much time or attention to breast health, because on a college campus there are a lot of issues to deal with and that probably wouldn’t be a top priority,” Prerost said.

For Brigette Koehler, who serves as project coordinator for the breast awareness program, breast cancer hits close to home.

“My cousin died of breast cancer and it makes me care more about this besides it just being my job,” Koehler said.

A part of Koehler’s strategy is to have high members within sororities supporting the idea of breast health awareness. Chi Omega, Phi Sigma Sigma and Alpha Sigma Alpha already have committed to meeting with Koehler to discuss breast health. Koehler said the Greek system will hopefully promote breast cancer awareness.

“If you have one person that talks about breast cancer, then hopefully it will have a positive effect on others,” Koehler added.

Koehler hopes to eventually speak with all sororities about breast cancer.

“I hope to (speak) to as many people as we can so people will have a general knowledge of breast cancer and it won’t be such a taboo thing to talk about,” Prerost said. “I think when one or two sororities see that others are doing it, they’re going to do it too, so I’m really looking for a great turnout.”

In addition to presentations on breast health, materials such as breast models were purchased to show students what a lump in a breast would feel like.

Also benefiting from the Komen Foundation is the McDonough County Health Department.

“We offer scholarships here for Susan G. Komen,” Lynn Van Pelt, manager of family health services at the health department, said. “The scholarship provides 100 percent of a mammogram screening.”

Although most women affected by breast cancer are not college-age, students are not immune and should have regular testing.

“Young ladies should seek information from their personal physicians,” Van Pelt said. “Through their (family) history, the physicians can then decide at what age they should have a baseline mammogram. If there is a familial history, then, of course, their age would be a little younger than a woman that doesn’t have a history.”

Though women are the main audience for the breast awareness project, men with breast cancer will also be addressed.

“A lot of men think this is just a woman thing, but men can get breast cancer,” Prerost said.

“Studies have shown when a man gets breast cancer, he’s more likely to have serious problems because they usually don’t seek treatment as early as women because they don’t think it can happen to them.

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