CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan --
The bass booms through the speakers as gyrating hips and waving hands take over the room. Dancers wearing shades of pink raise their voices to the song and move their feet to the rhythm all to increase breast cancer awareness.
Nearly 200 service members and status of forces agreement personnel participated in Marine Corps Community Services’ Zumba Xtravaganza Oct. 25 at the Camp Foster Community Center.
The event was organized to promote preventative measures women can take to reduce the risk of contracting breast cancer, including early detection and routine screening and self-examinations.
“This event is organized every year during the month of October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” said Faith R. Martin, a group fitness director with Health Promotions, MCCS Okinawa. “It’s a time for all the (community members) to come and dance and lift their voices for the cause.”
The event began with organizers presenting candles to participants who have lost loved ones to breast cancer.
The participants were then encouraged to visit an information booth set up at the event to have their questions answered and learn more about prevention and diagnosis of breast cancer.
“I hope that (participants) take away a message of overall women’s health and making sure you’re making yourself a priority,” said Megan J. Chapman, a registered nurse and wellness director with Health Promotions, MCCS Okinawa. “People who lead healthy, active lifestyles are better off when it comes to fighting breast cancer.”
Obesity and excess weight increase the risk of developing breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Growing evidence suggests that women who enjoy regular physical activity have a 10 to 20 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer compared to women who do not exercise.
Zumba, an aerobic conditioning workout based around dance routines, provides one option for service members and SOFA personnel looking for exercise opportunities.
“Zumba has always stuck as something celebratory with all the dancing and enjoyment,” said Martin. “It helps to bring joy and celebrate the lives of those who have already passed away from breast cancer or are fighting it now, while promoting healthy lifestyles.”
The theme of education extended throughout the night, with helpful tips and methods for detecting breast cancer symptoms early.
Women should have a clinical breast exam at least once every three years after turning 20 years old, and every year after 40, according to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation. Women should also familiarize themselves with their own bodies through regular self-screenings.
Women should make their health a priority, according to Chapman.
“Whether it’s a mammogram if you’re over 40 or just a sticker on a calendar to make sure you’re doing your monthly breast self-exam, prevention and early detection is better than treating it second hand,” said Chapman.
The night’s energy stayed at a feverish pitch as participants stayed positive and supportive for each other and the cause.
“I loved it; it was awesome,” said Christee L. Cagle, an event participant. “My (grandmother) fought breast cancer twice, and so I’m here to support the cause.”
Most participants wore some form of pink apparel to represent their support for Breast Cancer Awareness Month – pink shirts, sweatpants, bandanas and even tutus.
“It was nice to see everyone in pink,” said Cagle. “(The event) was effective and great.”