Painting the town pink all through October

Published 7:00 am Saturday, October 1, 2016

From a gala party in Picayune to a football field in Hattiesburg, Saturday will prove that pink is truly a fall color.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the signature color of the movement will be everywhere, from ribbons and T-shirts to fire trucks and airliners.

The campaign was established in 1985 with the aim of promoting mammography as the best weapon in the fight against breast cancer, which the Centers for Disease Control said is the most common cancer among women in the United States, after skin cancer.

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In Picayune, the sixth annual Puttin’ on the Pink gala will be held Saturday night at the Henry Smith House. Money raised through the local program helps finance mammograms and patient travel during cancer treatment.

Last year’s event raised enough money to provide 40 vouchers for mammograms for uninsured or underinsured women and transportation vouchers for at least eight patients undergoing treatment, said Abbie Turnage, a radiology technician at Highland Community Hospital and the campaign’s chief organizer.

The American Cancer Society estimates about 246,660 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women this year, and the disease will kill about 45,450. The state Department of Health says that toll will include about 410 Mississippi women.

Mammography is still the most accurate and cost-effective way of diagnosing the disease, said James Turnage, director of radiology at Highland.

While some health-care systems have raised the age and schedule for women to begin routine mammography,

“Here at Highland, we still follow the American College of radiology recommendations, because they are our accrediting body,” Abbie Turnage said. “It still recommends starting at age 40 and having them annually.”

She said patients should speak with their doctors, because those with any family history of the disease might want to start even younger.

Mindy Sanders, a mammographer for 10 years at Highland, said the hospital performs an average 10 to 12 mammograms a day, five days a week, and offers appointments every other Saturday for patients whose work schedules don’t allow weekday visits.

During the month of October, Highland hospital is offering a cash price of $55 for a mammogram and $25 for a bone densitometry scan, a test for osteoporosis, James Turnage said. More information on the offer is available by calling the department at 601-358-9500.

On Saturday afternoon, when Southern Miss plays Rice in Hattiesburg, the school will honor survivors of the disease, football players will wear pink wristbands, and coaches and staff will wear pink visors or hats. The volleyball and soccer teams also will wear pink during the month to show support for the cause.

Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of death among non-white women nationwide and the third-leading cause among white women, according to the state Department of Health.

Nationwide, the probability of developing breast cancer in a lifetime is 1 in every 8 women, according to the National Cancer Institute.

About 80 percent of all breast cancer cases are found in women over age 50. Other groups at risk include women whose mothers or sisters have had breast cancer, women who are childless or who start their families after they are 30, women who’ve already had cancer in one breast, and overweight women, the state Department of Health said.

The success of Breast Cancer Awareness Month worldwide helped generate a campaign for men’s health awareness called Movember. During November, men will grow mustaches and encourage research into prostate and testicular cancers, better mental health and physical activity.

It began in 2003 in Australia and has raised over $650 million and helped fund more than 1,000 men’s health programs in 21 countries.

Mammomgrapher Mindy Sanders of Highland Community Hospital and a vital weapon in the war on breast cancer.

Mammomgrapher Mindy Sanders of Highland Community Hospital and a vital weapon in the war on breast cancer.