October is breast cancer awareness month, and volunteers from Community Howard Regional Health, Project Access, and Minority Health Alliance are encouraging women to take care of their health.
The groups had a joint outreach event on Oct. 6 at the Carver Community Center. A nurse practitioner was available to give private breast exams, and all three organizations had booths filled with information. Turnout was lower than expected, but the service was there for anyone who needed it.
“With COVID, we didn’t have access to be able to do mammograms for a while,” said Howard Community Nurse Practitioner Angie Bowman, “so now we’re playing catch-up.”
Bowman said women should do self-exams regularly to notice any changes. She said it is important to notice if something looks or feels different than usual, because that could be a sign of breast cancer.
“You’re just feeling for something different than you’ve noticed before,” Bowman said. “There are studies out there that show there are much better rates of success for cancer treatment the earlier that we catch it, so that’s the goal.”
George Mast, manager of corporate communications at Community Howard Regional Health, said there have been recent cases where cancer was not detected as early as it could have been due to people avoiding hospitals because of COVID-19.
“People were not doing regular screenings. People who were afraid to come back to a doctor’s office, so we are seeing some cancers that were not caught earlier,” Mast said.
Mast said it is safe to go to the doctor, and he encourages people to get their regular checkups.
Cathy Stover, executive director of Project Access, said oftentimes women get overwhelmed or are so focused on other people that they do not always make their health a priority.
Stover also said she was grateful that Minority Health Alliance brought models of healthy and unhealthy breasts so women could get an idea of what they should be feeling when self-examining.
“They brought their models of what a healthy breast looks like and what different stages would be, and I think that’s really important to see because as women, we do put ourselves on the backburner,” Stover said. “Also, if you don’t know the changes in your body and you don’t understand what you’re feeling, if you don’t know what the difference is, you may have a little bump.”
She says they see women all the time who just thought they had a little pain in their arm, but sometimes that pain can be linked to breast cancer.
“I think a lot of women tend to second-guess themselves, like, ‘That’s not really bad. I can wait. I’ll put that off,’” said Adriane Minor of Project Access.
Everyone who participated in the clinic emphasized the importance of screenings to ensure nothing goes undetected.
“We’re coming up on the Christmas season, and for women, the best gift you can give your family is you,” said Rachel McClain from Project Access. “So take care of yourself, and take care of your body.”