October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and this year I decided to educate myself a little more on this horrible disease that has affected so many of my friends. A couple of weeks ago, I heard that another friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer and it made me realize that the breast cancer rate in Acadiana is rising significantly. In fact, breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer among women in Louisiana and the United States. 1 in 8 U.S. women will get breast cancer. Louisiana has the 3rd highest breast cancer death rate in the country. New Orleans, Southeast, Acadiana, and Southwest, Louisiana have the highest breast cancer death rates in the state. That's right, Acadiana is part of that group.

Often times, after something tragic happens in a family, you'll hear, "I never thought it would happen to me". I started thinking about how Acadiana is like one big family. And if we only knew just how many people are affected by breast cancer right here in our community, it would make us think a little harder about how close this hits home. On average, every 2 minutes, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States.

I reached out to some of my friends here in Acadiana that were diagnosed with breast cancer and asked them to share their story. I figured if just a few people read this and decide to get mammograms, it could possibly save a life. That's what we do in Acadiana. We help each other.  Take a few minutes to read these eye-opening stories from local people. It could be your story one day.

"My name is Edi Comeaux. Working with a large group of women, I have always reminded them about getting mammograms! But sometimes we don’t listen to our own words. I was diagnosed with Invasive Lobular Carcinoma in March of this year! Did I get my mammogram each year – well no. My last mammogram was in April of 2015. Then life got in the way (actually I just forgot)! Each year I was reminding my Mother, friends and team at Spa Mizan, but each year forgot about myself. Our Spa Mizan team also assisted with the Breast Health Symposium each year, so I knew the importance, but didn’t take time for myself! I think as women, we forget that we are just as important as the people around us, the people we love. If something happens to us, who will be there to take our place? We must take time to take care and think about ourselves! - Edi Comeaux, Spa Director of Spa Mizan, From Carencro, lives in Lafayette, LA

Photo credit: Edi Comeaux

Support is a very important part of the healing process for women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Breast Center of Acadiana offers patients internet resources and a variety of brochures and literature to help women and their families deal with the many issues that may be experienced after a diagnosis of breast cancer.

"My name is Faye Cook. The last 8 1/2 years of my life, I've seen so many wonderful events from my oldest son win two state championships coaching with his dad, my second son becoming a father three times, and my grown-up baby boy graduate college, get married, and become a father (with a second one on the way). I’ve proudly accompanied my husband as he was inducted into the "Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame" and the "Football Coaches Hall of Fame". I share this because I wonder if I would have been able to experience such joys had I neglected to do my yearly mammogram. It was 8 1/2 years ago that I went in for my mammogram. I just had my yearly check up six months before and all was well. That mammogram picked up a small tumor. I often rethink that visit and I am so thankful for having that test done. I'm so glad I didn't put it off. Ladies, I'm a proud wife, mom, nana, sister, friend, and retired teacher (after 39 yrs). I am urging you to make time to do your yearly mammogram. Do it for yourself and those you love. I hate to think about what I would have missed out on had I just skipped my mammogram." .... Faye Cook, Rayne LA

Photo credit: Faye Cookcredit: Lisbeth Guilbeau

If You Catch Breast Cancer Early, the Survival Rate is Close to 100%. Even at Stage III, the survival rate is 72%. Regular screenings are the number one way to prevent breast cancer deaths.

"My name is Rose Hoffman Cormier. In the last 5 years, I have had 3 types of cancer: Melanoma In Situ, Stage 3 Colon Cancer and Ductal Carcinoma In Situ. But, I am happy to say I am now a 3-time cancer survivor/warrior! I have had a mammogram every year since I was 40 years old and this past year at age 66, when I had my mammogram, they found that I had Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (the beginning of breast cancer). If I hadn't had my yearly mammogram, it would not have been caught early and it could have been a lot worse. Having a mammogram saved my life!" .... Rose Hoffman Cormier, Lafayette LA

Photo credit: Rose Cormier

You can’t help getting older and can’t change your family history, but you can lower your risk of cancer by taking care of your health. Things like getting enough exercise and maintaining a healthy weight will reduce your risk. There are many, everyday choices you can make to help lower your risk and improve your chances of surviving if you do develop cancer.

"My name is Brenda David.  I had my first mammogram in 2015 when I turned 40. I had another one in 2016. Life got too “busy” so I missed my mammogram in 2017. I never thought having those mammograms would mean so much. In November 2017, I felt a lump on my left breast. I was nervous, but since I don’t have a family history of breast cancer, I thought it was nothing. I went to my gynecologist two days after I found the lump. She sent me for a mammogram and ultrasound. The radiologist looked at my past mammograms and compared them. The “lump” was not there the year before. Since this spot was something that wasn’t previously there, he did a biopsy. The next day on November 28, 2017, at the age of 42, I was diagnosed with Stage 1 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. Our life completely changed forever on that day. I will never forget what the nurse told me as my husband and I were sitting in the doctor’s office in disbelief. She told me through all that I would be going through, I would find silver linings. One silver lining is being able to be the voice of a survivor! I did it! I beat cancer. So, listen to this survivor, get your yearly mammogram! It could save your life!"....Brenda David, Lafayette LA

Photo credit: Brenda David
Breast Cancer risk factors you control:
  • Weight – Being overweight or obese raises your risk.
  • Physical Activity – Not being active raises your risk.
  • Alcohol – Drinking raises your risk.
  • Number of Children – Having had no children or a first child after age 30 increases risk.
  • Oral Contraceptive Use – Certain forms have been found to raise the risk.

"My name is Lisbeth Guilbeau. I am a 2 time breast cancer survivor. Doctors found my cancer both times through a mammogram. Not because I felt a lump. I didn’t even know that I had anything but the mammogram is what found the cancer both times. It is very important to take care of your girls. Early detection is very important. I am now cancer free going on 4 years! Go get your mammogram!" .....Lisbeth Guilbeau, Lafayette LA

 

Photo credit: Lisbeth Guilbeau

If you have a family history and/or are showing symptoms, talk to your doctor as soon as possible about getting screened. Symptoms include:

  • New lump in breast or underarm (armpit)
  • Thickening or swelling of part of the breast
  • Skin irritation or dimpling
  • Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or breast
  • Pulling in of the nipple area or breast
  • Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood
  • Any change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Pain in any area of the breast

I want to thank these ladies for taking the time to share their stories in hopes to educate our community on the importance of mammograms and preventative care. I admire their strength and positive attitude. They are truly inspirational. Yes, it's fun to wear pink to show your support for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But, let's take a moment to realize how many people are affected by breast cancer. Take a moment to realize that it could be you being diagnosed next.