LUMBERTON — Among the medical information tents clustered in the parking lot of Biggs Park Mall on Thursday, more than 700 people gathered at the 13th annual Mammography Day to feast on hot dogs or chicken, dance to the music of the Carolina Breakers and collect brochures and bags of promotional items from local medical offices that specialize in mammograms — lifesaving X-rays that detect breast cancer.
“We had a wonderful turnout, a lot of good vendors,” said Ann McLean, marketing coordinator for Southeastern Regional Medical Center and the main organizer of the event. “If even one person got some good information about breast cancer prevention from Lumberton Radiological Associates or Gibson Cancer Center, then it was time well spent.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States, the leading cause of cancer deaths among women of all races. In 2008, the most recent year numbers are available, about 210,000 women in the United States were diagnosed with breast cancer and 40,500 died.
Among the crowd of people at the event were some whose lives have been affected by the disease — the second leading cause of death for women, behind heart disease.
Ninety-year-old Florine Alfano, of Fayetteville, sat shaded by the afternoon sun at the edge of a tent where people enjoyed cole slaw, baked beans and pasta salad. Alfano, who said she loved to listen to the music of the Carolina Breakers, was diagnosed with breast cancer about 10 years ago and had surgery to remove a lump on her left breast and lymph nodes under her left arm.
“It’s a nice day for an outing,” she said. “And I’m glad I could be here.”
Alfano’s friend Patricia Childers drove her to the event.
“She and I hang out like best girlfriends, and she’s old enough to be my mother,” Childers said. “She can still dance.”
Dressed in a T-shirt bearing the words “fight like a girl,” Sabrina Groves was one of eight women who traveled from Galilee Free Will Holiness Church to “support the cause.”
Groves, who has had a cousin die from the disease and also has an aunt and several cousins in remission, said a cure for the disease would be “absolutely awesome.”
“It affects everyone,” she said. “Almost everyone knows a woman who has been affected by it. It is rare, but it affects men, too. They can get breast cancer as well. Treatment should be completely inclusive for everyone.”
According to breastcancer.org, a man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about one in 1,000; about one in eight U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer during her life.
The American Cancer Society advises women to have yearly mammograms starting at age 40 and continuing for as long as they are in good health.
According to the society, these additional steps may help women reduce their risk for breast cancer:
— Avoid alcohol. Drinking is clearly tied to a heightened risk of developing breast cancer. In fact, your risk increases the more you drink.
— Be active. A growing body of research indicates that exercise lowers breast cancer risk. Aim for 45 to 60 minutes of exercise at least five days a week.
— Regular mammograms can detect cancer in its early stages, before it is big enough to feel or cause symptoms, and give women a head start on potentially lifesaving treatment. A person with a heightened risk of breast cancer should ask a doctor about additional screening tests, such as an MRI scan.