Breast cancer is the second leading case of cancer death in women across North Carolina. In an effort to bring light and awareness to the subject, the Sampson County Health Department, in conjunction with the North Carolina Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program (BCCCP), is hosting the 18th annual rally and health fair.
The event will be Oct. 8, from 9:30 a.m. until noon, in conjunction with the Downtown Court Square Festival and Street Fair.
While there is no way to prevent breast cancer, officials from the health department are taking strides to reduce a woman’s risk of developing the disease.
“There is no sure way to prevent breast cancer, but a woman might reduce her risk somewhat by changing certain risk factors that can be changed,” Luke Smith, public health educator with the health department, said. “Regular screenings for breast cancer, such as an annual mammogram or annual breast exam during a checkup, allow a woman and her doctor to ensure that her breasts are as healthy as they can be.”
According to Smith, screenings also increase the likelihood that the doctor will find breast cancer early, when it’s most treatable. The health department and BCCCP partner together to host this rally and health fair to raise awareness, educate, and promote breast health to women in Sampson County as well as show support for and honor all women who are facing, or have faced, breast cancer.
Despite light rain showers at last year’s street fair, nearly 150 participants came out to show their support for awareness of breast cancer during the annual event. According to the American Cancer Society, there are about 246,000 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed in women each year.
Projections, according to Smith, have 67 women in Sampson County receiving a diagnosis of breast cancer in 2016. More than 10,000 women across North Carolina will receive the same diagnosis.
Sampson County resident and native Angela Bowden, who is a breast cancer survivor, will share her story during the rally, followed by a walk down McKoy Street to the Sampson Center Gym. The health fair will be held inside the gym.
“We will honor breast cancer survivors with a breast cancer walk around the inside of the gym and then we will honor all cancer survivors with a cancer walk,” Smith said.
The health fair will be an opportunity for individuals to obtain information on women’s health issues, such as breast and cervical cancer, as well as other important health matters like diabetes.
“Guests will have a chance to visit with various vendors, obtain valuable information and incentives, and enjoy entertainment,” Smith said.
“We want to bring awareness to women,” Smith stressed. “It’s important they receive information and get screened.”
Sampson County Health Department Nursing Director Kathie Johnson said health fairs, especially breast and cervical cancer awareness fairs, are very important — so much in fact, they have been known to help some women learn of medical situations at an earlier stage.
“On several occasions, we’ve had people attend the health fairs and due to the information they received, they chose to come through the BCCCP Clinic at the Sampson County Health Department. As a result of coming through the clinic, health issues were discovered and the BCCCP Clinic was able to assist them with those issues,” Johnson said.
Due to privacy issues, Johnson couldn’t elaborate on the situations, but said that is why it is important for women of all ages to attend health fairs and get educated. The information may apply to them or to someone they love. They can share the information so they can possibly prevent health issues from happening or catching issues earlier because of the education they have received for themselves or their loved ones.
The Health Department provides educational services and events throughout the year, but makes additional efforts during October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month and around Mother’s Day during the month of May.
Other agencies scheduled to be at the health fair are CommWell Health, Plexus Inc., Southeastern Medical Oncology, and Sampson Community College Nursing Department.
“We are encouraging everyone, especially survivors, to come out,” Smith asserted.
With the health fair, Smith said BCCCP and the Health Department are hoping to bring more awareness to women’s health issues, especially breast and cervical cancer.
“We are really excited and we hope we can reach more women in the community,” Smith said.
The Sampson County BCCCP Advisory Board’s purpose is to educate the community on the importance of early detection and treatment of breast and cervical cancer. The state program provides free or low-cost breast and cervical cancer screenings and follow-ups to eligible women. They try to provide service to over 12,000 women yearly.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.