Memorial Hall in Jim Thorpe was a wave of pink Tuesday as the 220 women in attendance at the eighth annual Ladies Night Out lecture wore the signature color of breast cancer awareness.
Ladies Night Out was organized by Blue Mountain Health System, Gnaden Huetten and Palmerton hospitals, to recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Committee members are Mary Lou McGeehan, community education coordinator; Lisa Johnson, director of public relations and marketing; Lucille Hough, director of lab services; Lois Richards, director of imaging services; and Denise Chickilly, public relations assistant. The keynote speaker was Gail David, RN, of Lehigh Valley Breast Health Services.
Richards said the cost of the event was provided by a grant through the Women's 5K Classic. She noted that Ladies Night Out is dedicated to increasing awareness of breast cancer issues, especially the importance of early detection. Richards said that the Classic does more than provide funds for awareness dinners, it also funds mammograms for women who cannot pay.
She also informed the women that BMHS has full digital mammogram imaging services, thanks to the hospital's board of directors, who wanted to provide the best breast imaging equipment available for the local community.
David's lecture focused on breast health and early detection. She emphasized that women need to learn about their breasts, because if they are familiar with their own bodies they will be able to tell when there are changes that need to be looked at more closely.
David said that she started her career in medicine 21 years ago and has worked in many departments at Lehigh Valley Hospital, but enjoys educating and treating women at the Breast Care Center.
She also shared statistics that women need to know. She said that while there are more women being diagnosed with breast cancer, more women are surviving.
"Your breast is ever changing from puberty to menopause," she said. "You need to know what is normal for you." She said that any puckering, dimpling, discharge or bleeding should be reported immediately because it could signal that a tumor is making those changes in their breasts.
She provided diagrams of different parts of the breast and demonstrated how to perform a comprehensive home breast exam that she suggested should be done once a month. She noted statistics of women diagnosed with cancer, one in 210 women aged 0 to 39; one in 25 aged 40 to 59; one in 27 aged 60 to 69 and one in 15 over age 70. She said a women's overall lifetime risk is one in eight.
She said women under 40 have denser breasts and that as the tissue changes as they age, mammograms become more effective. She also praised radiologists as playing the most important role in finding breast cancer. She said the role of the radiologist is often underrated by patients.
"They spend hours and hours every day pouring over mammograms," she said. "They are the people whose role it is to find your cancer." She said that often patients only focus on their doctors, but the radiologists should also be recognized for their role in saving women's lives.
Richards concluded the program by announcing that BMHS has listened to women's concerns and is now staying open until 8 p.m. to schedule mammograms so they do not need to take a day off to get a mammogram. She noted that the night hours are for screenings only.
"If you have a problem, you will need to come in during the day, because the radiologist will be there to help read your report," said Richards.
The Women's 5K Classic is held each October in the Lehigh Valley.