Pink ribbons, tutus and balloons flooded Salt Lake City’s Liberty Park on Oct. 7 as members of the community came together for Breast Cancer Awareness.
Breast cancer survivors, supporters and sponsors gathered to encourage screening and early detection at the American Cancer Society’s fundraising event, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. The event kicked off the 32nd annual Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Today, there is a one in eight chance a woman in the United States will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. Breast cancer deaths have dropped 39 percent since 1989. This decrease is largely a result of early detection, screening and better treatments.
One of the walk’s sponsors was Utah Cancer Control Program. The program helps women ages 40-64 who are low-income, uninsured or under-insured receive free mammograms.
BYU health science professor Dr. Ray Merrill said screening can play a key role in the lives of breast cancer patients.
“It’s a disease where early detection has a huge impact on survival,” Merrill said.
Utah Cancer Control Program Media Coordinator Joelle Fierro said Utah has a particularly low breast cancer screening rate and hopes her booth at the walk will encourage women to get screened.
“It’s not enough just to come out and support breast cancer,” Fierro said. “We need to increase screening rates throughout our country.”
Fierro suggested young women encourage their loved ones to seek out regular screening and take action in their health care to improve Utah’s low screening rates. Oct. 20 is National Mammography Day.
“Be a supporter and make sure you’re encouraging the women in your life who should be getting screened to get screened,” Fierro said. “Early detection saves lives.”
BYU nursing professor Deborah Himes said while breast cancer more commonly effects women in their 40s and 50s, there are many preventative measures college-age women can take to combat the risk of breast cancer without constantly being concerned about the disease.
“I don’t like to spread a lot of worry; that’s not my goal,” Himes said, “but take care of your body like you need it to last a lifetime.”
The American Cancer Society suggests maintaining a healthy diet and exercise as key practices to lower the risk of breast cancer.
West Jordan breast cancer surgeon Anne Kieryn works with breast cancer patients and their family members on a regular basis.
Kieryn said she encourages her patients and other breast cancer survivors to attend events like the Oct. 7 walk as a means to bring positivity to the fight against breast cancer.
“I try to get all my patients to come out here because one of the best things about this is all of the positive energy that comes with it,” Kieryn said. “There are things that can make breast cancer better, and this is one of them.”
BYU MBA students were among those bringing positive energy to the fight against breast cancer. MBA students Natalie and Christopher Davis said the walk benefited MBA students as well as those affected by breast cancer.
“Doing any kind of service really brings a group together, and I think that’s a really good thing,” Christopher said.
Alumni of the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority at the University of Utah have been supporters of and participants in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk for three years. The Zeta Tau Alpha women ran a tent dedicated to breast cancer survivors at this year’s walk.
Zeta Tau Alpha alumna Jenny Pratley said she loves being able to honor and show appreciation for such strong women. Pratley said she hopes members of the community will continue to come out in support of breast cancer awareness.
“The more we can be involved and the more we can help find a cure, then the better we’ll be as a community,” Pratley said. “When the community is involved and strong, all you feel is love.”