Ad­vo­cates play im­por­tant role in fight against breast can­cer

Walker County Messenger - - Front Page -

ROME, Ga. — Aimee Grif­fin is quick to point to a ded­i­cated, well-trained group of vol­un­teers for play­ing a large role in the suc­cess of the Breast Cen­ter at Floyd.

“Build­ing a com­pre­hen­sive cen­ter, with the best in tech­nol­ogy, staff and provider train­ing and pa­tient cen­tered ex­pe­ri­ences goes a long way, but truly en­gag­ing and in­spir­ing the com­mu­nity is crit­i­cal to chang­ing the statis­tics,” said Grif­fin, who is the direc­tor of the cen­ter. Part of the Floyd Med­i­cal Cen­ter health care sys­tem, the cen­ter is lo­cated on the third floor of the Harbin Clinic Dr. Tony E. War­ren MD Can­cer Cen­ter on the FMC cam­pus.

When The Breast Cen­ter at Floyd opened its doors in October 2008, statis­tics in­di­cated North­west Ge­or­gia had both a higher breast can­cer rate and a higher death rate from breast can­cer com­pared to state and na­tional av­er­ages.

The facility and staff was in place, but en­gag­ing and in­spir­ing the com­mu­nity would be crit­i­cal to chang­ing the statis­tics. The Breast Health Ad­vo­cate pro­gram was de­signed to do just that, Grif­fin said. Be­gin­ning with eight will­ing vol­un­teers, cus­tom de­signed ed­u­ca­tion and two week­ends of train­ing, the pro­gram set out to reach women out­side the walls of the med­i­cal com­mu­nity.

The ad­vo­cates went into churches, civic clubs, arts and crafts fairs, meet­ing women wher­ever they were. They asked ques­tions, pro­vided ed­u­ca­tion, sep­a­rated myths from facts and helped women un­der­stand how they could take con­trol of their breast health.

Rome’s Diane Jus­tice said the ad­vo­cate pro­gram cer­tainly im­pacted her fam­ily in a pos­i­tive way. She said her hus­band, David, was di­ag­nosed five years ago with breast can­cer. He is do­ing well to­day thanks to a visit Diane made to a Breast Cen­ter booth at the Chi­aha Har­vest Fair.

Ad­vo­cates at the fair had mod­els that help peo­ple de­tect by feel what might be a can­cer­ous growth.

Weeks later, David was sit­ting on his sofa at home next to Diane and she no­ticed he kept touch­ing his chest. Diane checked it out and found a small knot the size of an English pea.

It was can­cer­ous. David had a mas­tec­tomy and chemo­ther­apy. He is healthy to­day and goes to his on­col­o­gist pe­ri­od­i­cally.

“Learn­ing what I did from that lit­tle model prob­a­bly saved his life,” Diane said. “I am very thank­ful for learn­ing what I did.”

Re­cruit­ing and train­ing new ad­vo­cates an­nu­ally, the Breast Health Ad­vo­cate team has grown to 46 women. The group is made up of both breast can­cer sur­vivors and women who have never been di­ag­nosed, but they all share a com­mon pas­sion to ad­vo­cate for breast health.

Each ad­vo­cate com­mits to un­dergo 15 hours of ini­tial train­ing with The Breast Cen­ter’s clin­i­cal team. They at­tend quar­terly meet­ings for ed­u­ca­tional up­Oc­to­ber 4s and ac­tiv­ity plan­ning.

They also com­mit to be a voice in their own com­mu­nity and so­cial groups, en­cour­ag­ing breast health and an­nual screen­ing.

October is Na­tional Breast Can­cer Aware­ness month, long as­so­ci­ated with the color pink. That color can be seen ev­ery­where the gro­cery store, so­cial me­dia, net­work tele­vi­sion and foot­ball sta­di­ums.

For The Breast Cen­ter and the Breast Health Ad­vo­cate team, it is a busy month. This year you will find ad­vo­cates at high school foot­ball games through­out the re­gion and at sev­eral com­mu­nity fairs through­out the month. The ad­vo­cate team will pro­vide breast health ed­u­ca­tion, help women un­der­stand their per­sonal risk for breast can­cer, and help women sched­ule ap­point­ments for mam­mog­ra­phy and clin­i­cal ser­vices. In to­tal, the ad­vo­cates will log more than 300 hours in the com­mu­nity across 20 sep­a­rate events this month.

Ef­forts don’t stop af­ter October. The Breast Cen­ter’s mis­sion is a year round ef­fort. Ad­vo­cates can be found through­out the year work­ing to en­cour­age breast health across North­west Ge­or­gia log­ging over 500 to­tal hours each year in the com­mu­nity.

“We knew when we opened nine years ago, that October would be im­por­tant in our over­all strat­egy to reach the com­mu­nity, but we also knew that work­ing all year long would be re­quired to truly im­prove the statis­tics for our re­gion,” Grif­fin said. “Ev­ery event we at­tend, we know there is a least one per­son we were meant to speak with- and as we pack up, we know we made a dif­fer­ence by reach­ing at least one per­son.”

For more in­for­ma­tion about the Breast Health Ad­vo­cate pro­gram or to vol­un­teer as an ad­vo­cate, con­tact Vicki Seritt at 706-509-6232 or

Some of the par­tic­i­pants of the Breast Health Ad­vo­cates pro­gram: front row, from left, Patsy Wade, Sharon Crawford, Dianne Simp­son, Jan Hughes; back row, from left, Ash­ley San­ders, Synetta What­ley, Pa­tri­cia Kidd, Tammy Peach, Miriam Fife, Amy Knitig,...

To show sup­port can­cer re­search and treat­ment, LaFayette fire­fight­ers will wear pink t-shirts for the du­ra­tion of Breast Can­cer Aware­ness Month. From left: Lt. Michael Cook, Fire & Safety Direc­tor Chief Stacey Meeks, Lt. Roddy Den­ni­son, and Fire­fighter...

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