Cancer patients need our support

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O ne in eight. That’s the likelihood of a woman in the United States getting invasive breast cancer in her lifetime, according to BreastCancer.org. That is an alarming statistic. All of us know someone who has breast cancer – be it a family member, friend or acquaintance.
On Sunday, we introduced you to Jan Hicks – a two-time breast cancer survivor. As a registered nurse and case manager for Springs Memorial Hospital, Hicks is all too familiar with cancer’s impact on those diagnosed with the devastating disease and their loved ones.
She’s also familiar with the tools used to fight cancer – surgery and multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiation – none very pleasant to experience.
Hicks is not alone, there are many more women and men diagnosed with breast cancer.
In 2011, according to BreastCancer.org:
u About 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the United States. About 57,650 are expected to be diagnosed with non-invasive breast cancer.
u About 2,140 men are expected to be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. Men have about a 1 in 1,000 chance of being diagnosed in their lifetime.
u About 39,520 women in the United States are expected to die in 2011 from breast cancer. However, death rates from breast cancer have been decreasing since 1990 – especially in women under 50.
The decreases are attributed to treatment advances, earlier detection through screening and increased awareness.
u There are more than 2.6 million breast cancer survivors in the United States in 2011.
While it is important to be aware of the statistics and note the advancements made over the years, it is more important to become educated about cancer – its symptoms, how to treat it and support those with it.
The American Cancer Society said the following are possible symptoms of breast cancer:
u Swelling of all or part of the breast
u Skin irritation or dimpling
u Breast pain
u Nipple pain or the nipple turning inward
u Redness, scaliness or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
u A nipple discharge other than breast milk
u A lump in the underarm area
These symptoms are not all-inclusive and could be something like an infection or a cyst. That’s why mammograms are critical for diagnosis. And if the diagnosis is cancer, a doctor will decide the best course of treatment.
A support system is critical for a cancer patient going through treatment. Hicks’ brother, Butch Dutton, knows quite well what it’s like helping loved ones through the ordeal. Their father, Ted Dutton, was undergoing chemo treatment for lung and spinal cancer, while Hicks was doing the same for breast cancer. Ted died Sept. 12.
“It wears on your emotions and tests the faith you have to draw on,” Butch said. “We know with God that it’s ‘your will be done,’ but that doesn’t make it easier.”
There are other support systems. One of the best known is the Susan G. Komen Foundation, created 25 years ago by Nancy Brinker, who made a promise to her dying sister.
Today it is the largest network of breast cancer survivors and activists, whose goal is saving lives, empowering people, ensuring quality care and finding cures for breast cancer.
October is designated Breast Cancer Awareness Month with the focus on education, research and support for cancer patients.
But the awareness shouldn’t cease as October comes to an end. And several local organizations are doing their part to continue that vital support.
Second Baptist Church has started a support group titled T.H.E. Cancer Ministry. It meets the third Thursday each month.
The Look Good, Feel Better Program for cancer patients is scheduled from 2 to 4 p.m. Nov. 14 at Springs Memorial Hospital. The volunteers help cancer patients with makeup and hair to help them feel better about themselves.
We commend these organizations for their continued support for cancer patients.
They’ve set the example for caring. We should all follow suit.