Tag Archives: breast cancer

DHEC in the News: Flu, Clemson’s solar-powered mobile health clinic, minimizing breast cancer risks

Here’s a look at health and environmental news from around South Carolina.

You should get a flu shot now, SC health officials say; here’s where you can go

As the temperature dips in York, Lancaster and Chester counties, it’s time to get a flu vaccination, say experts with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).

According to DHEC and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaccinations are recommended annually for everyone six months or older. Those who are older than 50, pregnant or have chronic medical conditions such as asthma or heart disease are at an increased risk of complications from influenza, according to DHEC.

Clemson’s mobile health clinic powered by the sun

The mission of Clemson University’s new mobile health clinic is to improve the health of the underserved community while providing a teaching experience for public health students.

But as “the world’s first 100-percent solar powered clinic,” it’s also tasked with improving the environment.

The specially designed 23-by-16-foot truck is outfitted with eight solar panels on the roof that charge the entire clinic, eliminating polluting exhaust fumes and noise, said health extension agent Logan McFall.

Healthy eating, exercise help women minimize breast cancer risks

In my role as a breast imaging physician, I am asked frequently what increases my patients’ breast cancer risk. … Although many factors are not in a woman’s control, adopting as healthy a lifestyle as possible is the common sense approach for women’s breast health.

Best Chance Network: Much-Needed Access to Breast, Cervical Cancer Screening

Trenessa K. Jones, DSL
Best Chance Network Director
Division of Cancer Prevention & Control

Although Breast Cancer Awareness Month is winding down, the need to continue proactive efforts to raise awareness about the disease and urge people to get screened remains.

To that end, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s (DHEC) Best Chance Network (BCN), along with its many partners, will continue to do what they have been doing for 26 years: educate the public on the importance of breast and cervical cancer screenings and help those who cannot afford to get screened.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), 3,820 South Carolina women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 690 will die from the disease this year.

BCN, which is administered by DHEC’s Cancer Prevention and Control Division, offers breast and cervical cancer screenings at no cost to women who have no health insurance or only have hospitalization insurance, who are between the ages of 30 and 64, and who meet certain income guidelines. The BCN program partners with more than 450 health care providers in the state to coordinate cancer screenings for these under-served women. The program also offers diagnosis and treatment, data tracking, public education and more.

Since its inception, BCN has provided more than 220,000 breast cancer and cervical cancer screenings for eligible women, assisting nearly 11,000 this past year alone.

The most recent South Carolina Central Cancer Registry data (2009-2013) indicates that more than 70 percent of women in South Carolina are diagnosed at an early stage, when the cancer is most treatable. In 2013, the South Carolina breast cancer incidence rate was 125.9 per 100,000 women ranking SC 28th out of 50 states and Washington, DC. The mortality rate was 22.4 per 100,000 women. SC ranked 21st out of 50 states and Washington, DC.

Early diagnosis is paramount: The earlier breast cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat. That is BCN’s goal: to help women in South Carolina gain an edge in their battle against cancer — and win.

Visit the DHEC website for more information on BCN.

Early Breast Cancer Detection Can Save Your Life

By Sonya Younger, DHEC Division of Cancer Prevention and Control Program

Ladies, let’s make a promise to ourselves – a promise to conduct self breast exams regularly and to get mammograms as recommended by the American Cancer Society. This simple promise can help detect breast cancer early and can make all the difference for a full recovery. #FindItFightIt

According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women. In 2015, there will be an estimated 3,820 new cases of breast cancer in South Carolina, and an estimated 620 deaths from the disease. But if detected early through screening and early diagnosis, breast cancer can be treated successfully. Being informed about screening options and making healthy lifestyle choices can help you take care of your body.

Screening Options
Steady declines in breast cancer mortality among women since 1989 have been attributed to a combination of early detection and improvements in treatment. For most women, breast cancer screenings include self exams, annual clinical breast exams and mammography.

breast-cancer-iStock_000016019343_XXXLarge cropMammography can often detect breast cancer at an early stage before any symptoms are present, and this early detection is when treatment is more effective. For younger women or women with dense breasts, digital mammography or ultrasound imaging in combination with standard mammography may increase the likelihood of detecting cancer. For most women at high risk of breast cancer, annual screening using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in addition to mammography is recommended, typically starting at the age of 30. 

To know what screenings are right for you, please talk to your healthcare provider and visit the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) websites for leading guidelines. Get familiar with the known benefits, limitations, and potential harms linked to breast cancer screening and know how your breasts normally look and feel and report any changes to a health care provider right away.

Best Chance Network

Knowing that all women should have access to preventive care, DHEC’s Best Chance Network  (BCN) offers free breast and cervical cancer screenings to women who meet certain risk and income eligibility requirements. DHEC partners with the South-Atlantic Division of the American Cancer Society and more than 400 health care providers in every county of the state to coordinate cancer screenings for these underserved women.

Who May Qualify for Free Cancer Screenings? 

  • Women who live in South Carolina
  • Women 40 to 64 years old
  • Women who do not have health insurance or are underinsured (meaning your insurance only covers hospital care)
  • Women who meet income eligibility guidelines

Now in its 25th year, BCN has provided more than 155,000 eligible women with breast and cervical cancer screening and has helped diagnose more than 1,600 breast cancers and 2,500 pre-cervical and cervical cancers since 1991.The program is funded through a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Prevention

In addition to screenings, making healthy lifestyle choices can help prevent the risk of breast cancer. To reduce your risk, you can:

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat a variety of vegetables, fruits and whole grains regularly.
  • Stay active or increase your daily physical activity.
  • Avoid or reduce alcohol consumption.
  • And, don’t smoke.

By providing access to early detection and treatment services, more women in South Carolina can win their battle against cancer. For more information, call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345, and ask about the South Carolina BCN.

Mary’s Story – DHEC Employee, Breast Cancer Survivor

By Mary N. Bright, Public Information Director, DHEC’s Division of Emergency Response, Nuclear Response and Emergency Environmental Surveillance

In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, DHEC’s Mary Bright is sharing her story about her fight against the disease.  

I’m sure some people would scoff when I say I’m one of the lucky ones but you’d probably have to know my story to understand why.

I have cancer; specifically, Stage II Invasive Ductal Metastatic Breast Cancer.

I know.  When I first heard that I had no idea what it meant either.

When I first found out, I couldn’t breathe.  When the doctor called me with the results of the biopsy, I was still telling myself the lump I had found was nothing.  Before that phone call, I had almost convinced myself that the second lump my Primary Care Physician found was a mistake too.  I told myself that we were both being overly cautious after a relative had been diagnosed with multiple cancers six months prior.

The next day, I checked myself for lumps in my breast.  I found nothing and told myself, “I’m only 40 years old.  I’m okay.”  I used to consider myself a careful person.  I usually checked myself every month but once in a while I would miss a month.  When I did, I would tell myself that I was fine because I was too young to worry.  This wasn’t something women my age needed to worry about yet.

I checked again in December and found nothing… then, life got in the way.  Three months went by while I helped my husband through major shoulder surgery.  I came home from work one day last March and settled onto the couch to relax after work.

We have three small dogs and usually the moment we sit down, they are in our laps.  Our smallest is a mini-dachshund named Shae.  That day Shae wouldn’t hop up.  She sat in the floor staring.  I called to her again and patted my lap.  Again, nothing… She just stared at me.  After a moment, Shae leapt off the floor and landed on the right side of my chest.  Immediately, pain shot up and down my body.  My first thought was that she had a broken nail and had gouged my skin when she jumped.  I scooped her up and handed her to my husband.  I began feeling around for what I expected to be a scratch and there it was… the lump… and it was big.

My heart stopped.

I thought, “There’s no way.”  It couldn’t be.  I was way too young for this, right?  It had to be something else.  How long had it been since I last checked?  Only three months.  It couldn’t be a tumor, right?  I turned to my husband and I said something to the effect of, “Sweetie, can you feel this?”  I remember his smile disappearing the moment he pressed down.  He said, “Honey, you need to go to the doctor… now.”

Two days later, I was in with Dr. Brian Cline, my primary care physician, explaining what happened.  He told me we would check everything out.  He said, hopefully, he’d be able to tell me that the lump was nothing.  The moment Dr. Cline pressed down, his whole demeanor changed.  He got very serious and said, “I can’t tell you this is nothing.”  He checked the right side and there it was; another lump, about the side of a marble, just below my armpit.

A quick and nearly painless mammogram and ultrasound pointed to the worst case scenario so the doctor ordered a biopsy while I was still on the table.  Dr. Tommy Cupples called with the results the next day; positive for carcinoma… every sample.

Less than a week later, my new oncologist, Dr. James Wells, gave me the verdict:

Stage II Invasive Ductal Metastatic Breast Cancer… two lumps, one in my right breast and one in a right lymph node.

But what did it mean?  Thankfully, Dr. Wells cut to the chase.  It was curable and he already had a plan: eight sessions of chemo, surgery and seven weeks of radiation.  It sounded like a lot.  It sounded like too much.  Dr. Wells said the lumps were big; the one in my breast measured three cm high and five cm long.  It was nearly the size of a grapefruit wedge.  The one in my lymph node was like a small marble.  He wanted to attack the cancer aggressively because of my age.  I was pretty young for that kind of diagnosis.  He also needed to make sure it wasn’t anywhere else.

Mary hoodieSuddenly, my life was in fast forward.

The next day, Friday, was a full body MRI; the day after was a PET scan.  Two days later was more than 10 hours in various doctor’s offices; a root canal I was avoiding, a surgical consult and another oncology visit.  I had to have the root canal to close off any open pathways for infection.  Chemo would require that I minimize any chance of allowing bacteria to make its way into my body.  Two days after all that, I had surgery to place a quarter-sized port in my chest so the chemotherapy drugs wouldn’t destroy my veins.  It was an unimaginably difficult week and we had barely begun.

Sixteen painful weeks followed; weeks where my white blood cell count dropped down to 100, causing me to be admitted to the oncology ward, weeks where the pain and exhaustion were too much for me to even get out of bed, weeks where the skin on my hands and feet came off in sheets.  But I made it through that and then through surgery and now radiation.

Through all of that, I am still one of the lucky ones.  I went through the worst period of my life; it was a painful and exhausting struggle to even feel human.  But if you remember what I said at the beginning, you’ll see the parts of my story that make me feel lucky:

ShaeThanks to little Shae, we found the lumps while I was still curable.

I met so many people along the way who were so much worse off; those in constant pain suffering from terminal cases, those in wheel chairs and using walkers and canes to get around.  A week before I began chemo, while still upset and stressed about what chemo would mean to me; I met a stranger who told that she’d “been going through chemo for two years and was still here.”  It was right then that I realized – with only eight sessions of chemo, I had nothing to complain about.

I had the best doctors and nurses I could have hoped for.

From my primary care physician, Dr. Brian Cline, to my oncologist, Dr. James Wells, to my radiological oncologist, Dr. Quillin Davis, and all the other doctors, nurses and techs in between, I was treated like family.  They got to know me on a personal level; I was not just my symptoms or my disease.  I was a person they cared for as if I were family.  They kept me smiling and hopeful at every step.

I was granted time off when I needed it.

My co-workers and friends who worked for state agencies and even perfect strangers allowed me to take time off to heal and get stronger.  Because DHEC and other state government agencies participate in the Leave Pool program, leave donated from other state employees allowed me to go through the treatments, to heal and to stay strong.

I was blessed enough to have insurance.

Cancer treatment isn’t cheap; multiple surgeries, chemo drugs, medication, radiation therapy and I’m still facing five years of a daily medication called Tamoxifen that will help prevent my cancer from returning.  But I have insurance and we’ve managed to pay off most of our bills.  I’ve met so many women who told me they put off getting mammograms because they can’t afford it.  They don’t have insurance or they don’t have enough to cover a mammogram.  I’ve told every one of them… Don’t wait!  There are resources like DHEC’s Best Chance Network that can provide services for men and women who qualify for free screenings.

I have felt so much love and support from so many.

My husband, my family, my friends… I know they would all be there for me through this terrible, terrible disease and treatment.  What I didn’t know is how many people, complete strangers, who stop me in the street and offer me their prayers and well wishes.

mary hug two

I am lucky.  I am.

I am lucky to still be here to tell each of you that you don’t have to go through what I did.  Be careful.  Check yourselves and check your loved ones.  Do it early and often.  It’s treatable and best to find it early.

If you are diagnosed, don’t lose hope.  Breast cancer isn’t an automatic death sentence.  We can beat it… and if you’re diagnosed, remember that you are not alone.

Mary and Darci

Mary Bright and WLTX 19 Anchor Darci Strickland who recently covered Mary’s story. Watch Mary’s story on WLTX here.

Raising Awareness: Breast Cancer in SC

breast cancer walkBy Jamie Shuster

This year, the American Cancer Society estimates that 3,750 South Carolina women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 670 will die from the disease. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I’d like to share with you a few of the great efforts our agency and individual staff members are taking to help increase access to screening services and raise awareness of this disease that impacts so many South Carolina families.

Best Chance Network

As many of you know, increasing access to services is one of our top priorities at DHEC and one of our most successful access initiatives is the Best Chance Network (BCN). BCN is collaboration between DHEC, the American Cancer Society, and more than 250 health care providers across the state. Working together, this year we’ve helped more than 11,000 low-income, uninsured women access potentially lifesaving breast and cervical cancer screenings at no cost to them.

Women between the ages of 40 and 64 who do not have health insurance and who meet certain income guidelines are eligible for the program. I encourage each of you to take a moment to check out our BCN site to learn more about this important screening program and share the link with your friends and loved ones. Continue reading