Raising awareness

Pink Dress Luncheon celebrates breast cancer survivors and educates women

Cancer survivor Gwendolyn Robinson speaks during the Pink Dress Luncheon.

ERICA BROUGH/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at 2:53 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at 2:53 p.m.

A sea of women dressed in shades of pink for the 3rd annual Pink Dress Luncheon banded together for the purpose of celebrating breast cancer survivors and raising awareness about what to do to fight this killer of women.

The luncheon, which was attended by about 100 women, was held last Thursday at the Senior Recreation Center. The annual event is sponsored by the Twenty Pearls Foundation Inc., the charitable and educational arm of the Mu Upsilon Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Keynote speaker Dr. Judith Lightsey, assistant professor of oncology at the College of Medicine at the University of Florida, discussed breast cancer incidences, risk factors, early detection to improve outcomes, and the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, including exercise and stress reliever such as yoga and prayer.

Lightsey said breast cancer is a killer of women, second only to lung cancer.

Although more white women are diagnosed with breast cancer, Lightsey said African-American women have the highest death rate.

Florida Bridgewater-Alford, president of the sorority, said she was very pleased with turnout. She said next year, they plan to increase the luncheon's attendance.

"The data is clear from our perspective," said Bridgewater-Alford. "There is a dramatic health disparity as it relates to African-American women. Deaths from breast cancer in the African-American female population is 40 percent more than any other race, and that is unacceptable."

Gwen Carriere, cancer program coordinator at North Florida Regional Medical Center, said the American Cancer Society is the best resource for cancer information.

She stressed the importance of getting a mammogram. "Don't let anyone tell you not to do it," said Carriere, adding that women need to become familiar with their breast by doing a self-exam each month so they can detect changes in their breasts that need to be addressed with a health care provider.

Lightsey listed breast cancer risk factors, which included being at least 60 years old, having personal and or family history of breast cancer, having no pregnancies or late pregnancies, menstruating early, having prior radiation therapy, genetic abnormalities and race.

She said white women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than African-American women, but African-American women are more likely to die of the cancer

She also said breast cancer in women younger than 45 years of age is more common in African-American women.

She said early termination of chemotherapy is associated with the poor survival rate for African-American women and the reason may be other illnesses that interfered with treatment, such as diabetes and respiratory disease.

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