CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan – -- style="margin: 0in 0in 10pt;">Marine Corps Community Services hosted the Breast Cancer Awareness Zumbathon for the local and military communities in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month Oct. 20 at the Community Center aboard Camp Foster.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month, like the zumbathon, promotes fitness, health and communication between people. Breast cancer is caused by out-of-control cell growth that lump together to form tumors. It is the second most common cancer for women, the first being skin cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, more than 254,000 women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer this year and approximately 41,000 will die from it. For men, about 2,470 will be diagnosed this year and about 460 will die. It is most common for women 40 years old or older, but breast cancer can occur at any age.
“My aunt had it twice and I had a really close family member who got it when she was nine years old,” said Lance Cpl. Whitten Gafnea, a distribution management specialist stationed in Okinawa, Japan and Zumbathon participant. “She had it four times. Now she is in New York living her dream and five years cancer free.”
Women and men are susceptible to this disease. While some risk factors like gender, age, and family history cannot be controlled, exercise and diet can help minimize risks.
“I am classified as high risk,” said Saundra Ladd, the breast cancer survivor guest speaker at the Breast Cancer Awareness Zumbathon. “I have been cancer free for three years, but I will be monitored for the next two because of my risk factors. I have to take a pill that helps lower my risk of relapsing.”
Relapsing is when the cancer returns after being treated and the patient is declared cancer free. The doctor will determine if a patient is at a higher chance of relapse, but with proper treatment and monitoring the chances are reduced.
Health experts from American Cancer Society recommend that men and women, starting in their 20s, get breast cancer screenings and preform monthly self-breast exams. They should also have a clinical breast exam every three years and women 40 and over should have a mammogram and a clinical breast exam every year. Men 40 and over should have mammograms if they have a family history of breast cancer.
Self-breast exams are short exams a person gives themselves by moving their hand around the breast feeling for anything unusual in the tissue like lumps, nipple discharge, or seeing any discoloration.
According to the American Cancer Society, some patients show no symptoms of breast cancer but the exams catch it, allowing treatments to start early and giving the patients a higher chance of recovery. In many cases males are diagnoses with breast cancer after it has hit the later stages because breast exams are not something they normally think about. This later diagnose leads to a higher mortality rate.
“Women should do self-checks as soon as they know how to do one” said Ladd. “A woman should know her own body and if anything is out of the ordinary during one of these self-checks, she needs to get examined by a doctor.”
To learn more about breast cancer, self-checks and risk factors visit the American Cancer Society at www.cancer.org or the National Cancer Institute at www.cancer.gov.