Program helps highlight diagnosis

Guests adorned in pink filed through the doors of the Stockert Youth Center Monday for a special breast cancer awareness program.

Almost a dozen of those in attendance were survivors of breast cancer, having been through the often rigorous medical treatments typical of cancer patients. One survivor, Pam Linger, said she was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 41 and, after radiation therapy, her cancer returned almost every five years thereafter.

“It definitely changed your perspective on things in your life,” Linger said. “When you hear cancer, you think, ‘Oh my gosh. Am I going to die?”

Dr. Ilan D. Bornstein, who practices obstetrics and gynecology at St. Joseph’s Hospital, said that 230,000 women are annually diagnosed with breast cancer and another 40,000 women suffering from breast cancer die annually.

He said there are three common ways to diagnose breast cancer, and that 90 percent of diagnoses are through mammography. The other two ways breast cancer is initially diagnosed is through a clinical breast exam or a self breast exam. Most health departments, hospitals or doctors should be able to provide literature on how to conduct a proper self breast exam.

Bornstein recommends yearly mammograms from age 40 and older. He said that 50,000 women with breast cancer were diagnosed under the age of 50, and that the cancer is more aggressive and spreads faster in younger women.

Dr. Kimberly Farry, who practices obstetrics and gynecology at Associates for Women’s Health in Buckhannon, said a change in lifestyle can help ward off the risk of breast cancer. She said that simply walking regularly can significantly decrease the risk.

“Even one step is the right step in the right direction,” Farry said.

She said that stress is normal, but not when it becomes distress, and the risk could be further reduced by a decrease in stress. Breast feeding also reduces the risk of breast cancer in women, Farry said.

Linger said she agrees with Farry about reducing stress and letting “the little things go.” Linger did not have to take chemotherapy with her initial diagnoses and radiation treatments. The chemotherapy came after the cancer re-emerged.

“I have gone through more than I ever thought was possible,” Linger said, later adding that she has been blessed to have her treatments. “I’m not giving up my entire life because of cancer.”

Linger said the advice she would give to others who have been diagnosed with cancer is not to let the fear build up inside.

“It builds up in you, and it’s better not to let it. Get out, talk to people and don’t get so built up inside to where you’re scared to death,” Linger said.

A local breast cancer support group meets at 7 p.m. the third Monday of each month at the South Buckhannon Mission Church on Randolph Street. Survivors and those currently battling the disease are welcome to attend and share their stories and resources.

“Here I am, still alive and kicking and fighting,” Linger said. “It’s always a fight, but never give up.”

Involved in the organizing of the awareness event are Buckhannon Medical Center, Upshur County CEOS, Fred Brooks Garden Club, St. Joseph’s Hospital, Community Care of West Virginia, Associates for Women’s Health and the Upshur County Health Department.

Craig Presar, the event’s m.c., also thanked the West Virginia Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program, Davis Memorial Hospital, John Jenkins, Wal-Mart, Feola’s Flowers, Mark Riggs and “everyone else who helped make this day successful.”

Proceeds from the raffle and sales at the event support cancer prevention.