Breast cancer awareness hits campus

“Mammovan” and Medical Faculty Associates offered free mammography and tips on early detection of breast cancer in recognition of National Mammography Day Friday.

The event was hosted at the MFA building on 22nd and I streets. President Bill Clinton created National Mammography Day which is on the third Friday in October, which is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Its aim is to get women over 40 to start having annual mammograms.

This year, the MFA expected about 100 women to come for a mammogram or to learn how to do a self examination.

The MFA developed the Mammovan – a large RV often parked behind the Warwick building at 23rd and K streets – to give free mammograms to women on the vehicle’s tour stops. The Cancer Research Prevention Foundation provided the grant money for the vehicle, which is turning 10 years old this year.

“The GW Mammovan is a mobile unit that goes out into the community to service women by providing screening mammograms for early detection of breast cancer,” said Laverne James, manager of Mobile Mammography Operations.

The van includes a digital mammography suite, two changing rooms and a reception area. It drives to destinations in D.C., Maryland and Virginia four days a week, year-round and is often seen around government agencies and community events, James said.

While not many college students attended Friday’s event, Amy Shockley, a nurse practitioner at the MFA, said younger women would benefit from the services as well.

“The college age is the perfect age for women to start having the idea to start gaining self awareness of their breasts,” Shockley said. “By establishing a routine of doing monthly exams, you’re going to be on the right track to prepare for the prime age.”

The age of 35 is a critical time in which contracting breast cancer becomes much more likely than in younger women, Shockley said. Although less than 5 percent of cases are found among college students it is important to start learning methods for self-exams early on because they can help in early detection.

“A lot of breast cancers are detected by women by themselves,” she added.

Even though self-examinations have been proven to detect cancer earlier, many women don’t perform them, Shockley said.

“I think a lot of women are nervous to find something; often it can be painful for some women and often they just don’t know what they’re feeling,” she said. “Everything feels lumpy, everything feels bumpy, so they’re just kind of confused about whether it’s something they should be concerned about or not.”

Contemporary and soft rock station 97.1 WASH-FM promoted the event from the MFA building. They advertised the free mammograms and self-exam guidance to their listeners, who the station said are mostly women in their 30s. Pfizer Pharmaceutical Company contributed refreshments to the event.

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