Health Magazine

No Boobs About It

Posted on the 27 February 2014 by Jean Campbell

We who use the Internet to educate about breast cancer or to find information about breast cancer are not in the majority. We who sponsor or attend breast cancer workshops, support groups, fundraisers and conferences are not in the majority. We who use social awarenessmedia to share all things breast cancer are not in the majority.

I have read that there is so much awareness of breast cancer. Some have wrote that breast cancer awareness has reached a saturation point.

If only this were true! Until we bring breast cancer awareness presentations to the neighborhoods were women live, attend schools, community activities, religious services, and social functions we will not be reaching the majority of women who are at risk of breast cancer and need, as all of us do, information about breast cancer.

I spend part of my time speaking to women living and working in the neighborhoods of NYC. Their lack of knowledge about breast cancer and their need to be vigilant about early detection can only be described as limited, at best.

Most of the women attending technical, trade and other adult learning schools, where I speak, are surprised to hear that young women get breast cancer. Many, under 40 years of age, do not get comprehensive breast exams. They assume that breast cancer is a disease of older women. They are shocked to hear the statistics on the incidence of breast cancer in women under 50. They are even more upset to hear of women in their childbearing years getting breast cancer. They don’t know about the BRCA mutations, or triple negative breast cancer or inflammatory breast cancer.

Recently I spoke to 400+ students, mostly women returning to the work force. Most live in neighborhoods where there is little breast cancer awareness, where October doesn’t bring a flood of breast cancer awareness activities, where few have the spare cash to purchase the pink products found in department stores outside their neighborhoods.

During my talks, women shared about their mothers, grandmothers, sisters, friends who now had breast cancer and those who had died from it. Many of the women never made the connection between early intervention, detection and survival rates. Most didn’t go for annual pap smears, never mind have a comprehensive breast exam. A handful of those women over 40 had ever had a mammogram. Few knew that having a mom, sister, or grandma with breast cancer put them in a risk category.

When I and my fellow survivors that make up the NBAI Speakers Bureau, present at neighborhood seniors centers, we find most women in this age category are not aware that they have the second largest rate of women diagnosed with breast cancer …2,000 + in NYC annually, and the highest mortality rate from breast cancer. Some believe that they are too old to get breast cancer, or at their age, should they get it, it will be so slow growing as not to need aggressive treatment.

Many of the women comfort themselves with myths that make them feel safe; the same myths that delay their seeking early detection services. They believe that if breast cancer isn’t in their family, they don’t need to be screened; they are safe.

The women I’ve met in hospital treatment areas have taught me that many women from predominantly immigrant neighborhoods are not aware of the need for breast exams and mammograms. Their lack of breast cancer awareness, cultural taboos, fears related to legal status in this country, lack of knowledge about free mammograms, fear, and language barriers kept them from seeking care earlier.

They don’t know about the different types of breast cancer, or the treatments they will need if they should get breast cancer. They don’t know that, if caught early, the prognosis for survival is excellent. They don’t know that if their cancer is caught in a mammogram, before it can be felt, if it is small and hasn’t spread beyond the breast they may not need chemotherapy.

No Boobs About It, now a not for profit organization, is actively seeking support for a program that will bring breast cancer awareness into the neighborhoods of NYC. The Neighborhood Approach to Breast Cancer Awareness Program will provide information sessions in churches, community centers, health care clinics, social/recreational centers, schools and senior centers.

Breast cancer survivors, that reflect the racial, ethnic and cultural composition of the neighborhoods that make up New York City, will share their stories at information sessions.

Until there is a cure; until we can actually prevent breast cancer, not just reduce our risk of getting breast cancer, our best hope of reducing mortality is breast cancer awareness and the earliest possible access to intervention services.

If you are a survivor, living in or with easy access to NYC, and are interested in joining our newly forming Speakers Bureau, please email me at [email protected] We welcome women and men from all racial and ethnic backgrounds. If you are comfortable speaking to groups, and have a positive survivor message, please get in touch.


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