By Coshandra Dillard
When Ebony Fowler was 10, she learned she had fibrocystic breasts–a noncancerous condition resulting in painful lumps. By 19, doctors removed a benign tumor from her breast. These experiences and the careful attention she’s paid to her body compelled her to host an event Saturday in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Women of varying ages and experiences met at Tyler Public Library to hear information about breast cancer and were encouraged to receive or continue getting regular mammograms.
East Texas Pin-a-Sister, a local group that encouages black women to get mammograms through community events and “pinning” ceremonies, was represented.
Member Regina Davis said awareness about breast cancer has come a long way.
“When I was growing up nobody talked about breast cancer,” she said.
Nonetheless, it is critical that black women be vigilant in self-exams and screenings. There have been improvements in early detection and treatment for breast cancer, but black women continue to have the highest breast cancer mortality rate. According to a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this month, black women have had lower breast cancer incidence compared to white women since 1975, but rates have recently converged, as there is an increasing breast cancer incidence in black women, particularly among those age 60 to 79.
However, among women younger than 50, breast cancer death rates are decreasing at the same rate among black and white women.
Deitra Barrett, diagnosed at 36, is an 11-year survivor. The diagnosis was a huge blow to the young mother. At that time, she associated cancer with death.
“Early detection is what saved my life,” she said.
But the road to recovery was no smooth feat. Barrett said it’s easy to get caught up or even inspired by the parade of pink in the celebration of survivors, but that side effects of treatments such as hair loss, pain, and fatigue is very real.
“There is more to cancer than a pink ribbon,” she said. “It is not a cute thing when you have to fight cancer.”
Johnny Barrera, owner of B-FIT Personal Training and one of the group’s panelists, stressed to the audience the importance of developing good eating habits that last a lifetime.
Studies have shown that regular physical activity and a healthy diet–filled with fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains–may reduce the risk of cancers. These habits, along with stress managment, also are important following a diagnosis to help the body recover.