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Getting the Message Out

Upcoming events raise awareness of breast cancer.

Jerrye Holmes moved to the Fairfax area last year after her oldest daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 34.

“You have to have a positive attitude, otherwise you are defeated by it," said Holmes. “My daughter’s breast cancer was detected by a fluke mammogram.”

The doctor suggested that Holmes' daughter have one done during a regular exam, and a lump was discovered. Further tests revealed that the lump was cancerous, and since then she has been receiving treatment.

To raise awareness of breast cancer and to promote early detection, Brighton Collectibles in Fair Oaks Mall hosted an educational breakfast on Oct. 1 for its staff. The event featured speaker Diane Ben-Senia from the American Cancer Society (ACS) and several breast-cancer survivors and family members.

In observance of October as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Brighton is conducting a campaign aimed at raising funds for the Northern Virginia Chapter of ACS. “Breast cancer is the second most diagnosed cancer in women,” said Ben-Senia. Lung cancer is the most diagnosed cancer. Statistically, one woman in eight will develop breast cancer during her lifetime. Gender and age are the two main factors that increase the risk of developing the disease. Breast cancer in men does not occur often; it accounts for only 1 percent of breast cancer cases. Age is an important factor, as 77 percent of the cases occur in women over the age of 40. ACS recommends annual mammograms for women over 40, and a clinical breast exam every two to three years for women 20 to 39. It is estimated that in 2004, 215,990 cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed nationwide, and that 40,110 people will die from the disease.

“You want an aggressive doctor, because he will push you to get these tests done," said Holmes. Her two younger daughters now have to get their mammograms at age 23, as family history is a factor in getting breast cancer. Ten percent of the detected cases are hereditary, meaning that a family member had been diagnosed with breast cancer before.

PERSONAL HISTORY also plays a factor in the risk of developing breast cancer. Although the cancer is not recurring, someone who has had it before is three to four times more likely to develop a new case of breast cancer in the same area. Women who begin menstruating before age 12 and women who reach menopause after age 50 are also at higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer. Alcohol use and consumption of birth control pills also increase the risk.

“Women who are on birth control pills are at a higher risk during use, but not after they’ve stopped using them,” said Ben-Senia. She added that some studies show a link between obesity and breast cancer as well.

Brighton Collectibles supports the fight against breast cancer. Last year, Brighton stores donated $400,000 to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, an international organization that supports breast-cancer research, education, screening and treatment programs.

Brighton is also involved in two fund-raisers to help fight breast cancer. The first is the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk, which takes place on Sunday, Oct. 10, at 8 a.m., at the RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. This year, about 100 Making Strides walks will take place across the country. Since 1993, the walk has raised over $100 million to provide funds for research on breast cancer. In 2003, 400,000 walkers raised $28 million for ACS.

The other fund-raiser Brighton is involved in is the Think Pink Too event. Throughout the month of October, the store is selling a bracelet that has a dangling heart with a pink ribbon on it. The pink ribbon is a symbol people wear to increase awareness of breast cancer. The bracelets are $40, and Brighton at Fair Oaks will make a $5 donation to the Northern Virginia Chapter of ACS for every bracelet sold. The customers are encouraged to match that donation.

ACS encourages women to have mammograms annually after age 40.

“They are not infallible, but they are currently the best option we have,” said Ben-Senia. Former President Bill Clinton designated the third Friday in October as National Mammography Day. On that day, and through the month of October, some radiologists provide discounted mammograms. In 2003, 705 facilities accredited by the American College of Radiologists participated in the event. This year, National Mammography Day falls on Oct. 15.

For more information about breast cancer, visit the ACS Web site at www.cancer.org.