BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - The National Cancer Institute and Adventist Health Bakersfield doctors both said one out of eight women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer over the course of their lifetime.
That's why this week professionals are spending time educating women in the community about their options in case it happens to them and showing them how they can avoid a breast cancer diagnosis.
Adventist Health Bakersfield nurse and director of cancer services, Melina Thorpe knows what it's like to tell women in Kern County that they have breast cancer, "for any woman when you get the diagnosis that you have breast cancer it's pretty shocking," Thorpe said.
However, after spending over two decades supporting women through the life changing diagnosis she still never imagined the tables would turn the way they did in her own life, “In 2009 I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer from a routine mammogram," Thorpe said.
Once the doctor, now the patient after a routine breast cancer screening she said she always kept up on, "I was always very diligent in getting my mammograms and I went that year and they found a very early stage one breast cancer."
Thorpe said many women are avoiding breast cancer screenings because it can be an uncomfortable and frightening process, but she hopes that this October during breast cancer awareness month that more women choose to be brave because it may mean the difference between life and the alternative. "Usually women who don't go for mammograms or are afraid to go for mammograms you know and we find them at a later stage and it's lot harder to treat and to cure," Thorpe said.
According to the California Cancer Registry in 2014 there were more than 25,000 new cancer cases among women in California and more than 4,000 deaths associated with the disease. In Kern County alone there were 444 new breast cancer cases, data from the registry showed the most common cancer in California is breast cancer. Thorpe said those findings are still consistent today in Kern County, "Breast cancer is the number one cancer that we diagnose and treat at this facility."
Tuesday Adventist Health breast surgeon Connie Lee showed women how breast surgery methods used to remove cancerous cells is continuing to become more advanced since the early days in the 60's, "Now a days we have things like this what they consider scar-less surgeries," Lee said in front of a room full of women.
Doctor Lee said scaring from breast cancer surgery is very minimal now because doctors no longer have to make such large incisions. Even though you may see some scarring, the treatment process is not as radical as many believe, "Generally it's just taking that area of your breast out," Lee said.
Lee said she merges cosmetic surgery techniques when conducting cancer removal operations to help women feel more comfortable with the process. However, Thorpe said each treatment option is different for every woman including her, “I had a lumpectomy, my surgery was in October I had some genetic testing, I had radiation for six weeks after the surgery and followed by medication for nine years."
Thorpe said even though she has remained on medication for the last nine years to maintain her remission, she is thankful that she did not have to go through chemo because she was able to detect the disease early. She hopes that by spreading awareness Tuesday and throughout October others will take the same step she did. So that they can stay breast cancer free too.
In light of breast cancer awareness month Adventist Health will also be offering free clinical breast exams in about two weeks from Tuesday on October 24, 2018. The event will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. at the AIS Cancer Center located at 2620 Chester Avenue, Bakersfield CA 93301. Reservations are required so reserve your spot by calling 661-637-8321
There will also be a girls night out event at the AIS Cancer Center from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. where survivors and community members will have access to cosmetology vendors, reduced 3D mammogram screenings, a fashion show, food and more. Make sure to RSVP by calling 661-637-8321 as well.