SGRHO forum promotes breast cancer awareness

Nisheeka Simmons, Staff Writer

The Francis Marion University chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho hosted a forum focusing on the significance of breast cancer on Monday, Oct. 22 in the Leatherman Science Facility from 6:20 p.m. to 7:20 p.m.

It was one of the many events held on the FMU campus in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  During the forum students were presented information about the disease and allowed to ask a medical professional any questions they had that were relevant to the subject.  Afterward, there was a moment of silence in remembrance of family and friends who were lost to breast cancer.

As the main speaker for the event, Dr. Karen Thompson discussed the basics of breast cancer, a condition where abnormal breast cells continue to grow well past the point of maturity.  After lung cancer, it is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women, and it will develop in one in eight women.  Caucasian women are more likely to develop breast cancer, but African-American women are more likely to die from it.  According to Thompson, if the cancer is diagnosed early and treated properly, many women will survive.

Thompson’s presentation listed the symptoms of breast cancer, which include lumpiness or swelling of the breast or arm, change in size or symmetry of the breasts, skin irritation or dimpling, redness or scaling of the skin and nipple discharge or inversion.

These signs need to be addressed by a doctor as soon as possible, especially if there is variation from what is considered normal for a specific person.

“Any change in a woman’s breast should not be ignored,” Thompson said.

The importance of women becoming familiar with their breasts was highly stressed by Thompson, as it is the best way to find a diseased mass before it becomes deadly.  This is accomplished by giving monthly self-breast examinations.  Women should check for the signs and symptoms of breast cancer and any other irregularities.  Furthermore, they should have their breasts examined by a doctor at least once every year.  This will allow any changes in the breast tissue be recognized and treated swiftly and will significantly increase the patient’s odds of survival if the mass turns out to be cancerous.

Thompson went on to explain that about eighty percent of irregular masses in the breasts are benign, or noncancerous.  However these conditions, which include cysts and fibroadenomas, may become problematic if left untreated.  Treatments for the masses include incision and drainage and surgical removal.

As a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner, Thompson says, it upsets her to see patients so attached to the superficial aspects of their breasts to the point where they refuse to have the affected tissue removed.

Thompson explains that a woman’s breasts should not be the source of her identity.

“Survival is more important than having this breast on your chest,” Thompson said.

Thompson expressed her pleasure at seeing students participate openly in the breast cancer awareness forum.  She found that she was speaking to more students than she expected and thanked them all for making the experience worthwhile.

For further information, contact Thompson at (843) 661-4656.