Sampson: College and Cancer, Starting the Conversation

Rowan community member particpate in the university's Relay for Life in 2017. - Former Photos Editor / Amanda Palma

October is a month known for all things Halloween. Despite the light-heartedness of costumes and candy, October is also meant to bring awareness to something that is completely rooted in reality — breast cancer. 

Just two years ago, the Breast Cancer Prevention Partners reported that breast cancer affects more women than any other type of cancer. Additionally, it is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women ages 20 to 59. 

Breast cancer diagnoses are more common in women 40 and older, however, breast cancer is something that affects a wide age range and, being that it has the capability to be something so life-altering, college-aged people need to take breast cancer seriously. During breast cancer awareness month, there is no better time to start. 

 It is also important to note that there are plenty of non-traditional students at Rowan as well. So whether you are at Rowan right after high school or an older student going back to school — this is a topic worthy of your attention. 

“Breast cancer in young adults is just different. We are at a different phase of our lives and encounter unique challenges compared to older persons,” The Young Survivor Coalition writes on its website. “In young adults, breast cancer tends to be diagnosed in its later stages. It also tends to be more aggressive. Young adults have a higher mortality rate.”

Certain individuals are more susceptible to breast cancer. The American Cancer Society’s website acknowledges an increased risk for those with a family history of breast cancer, previous chest radiation and gene mutations. 

The American Cancer Society notes that while mammograms are recommended annually for women in the US starting at 45 years of age, breast cancer might not wait until you are 40. Now is the perfect time to start educating yourself on the topic and self-examinations.

There are members of the Rowan community helping raise awareness. Just this past weekend, Rowan’s chapter of Colleges Against Cancer sold shirts to raise money for breast cancer. The club’s president, Amanda Bermo, emphasized how college students can do their part in the fight against breast cancer even at a fun occasion such as the homecoming game. 

“Homecoming is a great event not only to show support for our football team, but all of the great clubs and organizations on campus working hard to add to the Rowan community. Colleges Against Cancer is focusing our efforts towards raising money this Breast Cancer Awareness Month to help fight against cancer,” Bermo said. 

Overall, the club raised $683.00 for breast cancer through this fundraising event. They will also continue to sell shirts through their Instagram page, @rowanrelayforlife

I reached out to the managing physician of Rowan’s Student Health Services, Dr. Marta Diaz-Pupek. Dr. Diaz-Pupek reiterated what the American Cancer Society stated in regard to reducing the risk of getting breast cancer. She highlighted that avoiding smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, eating healthy and drinking less alcohol are all common ways to reduce the risks of breast cancer. 

October may be coming to an end, but it is vital to start doing self-exams now. Even if you don’t find anything right away, you will be more likely to pick up on any differences since your last exam. Young people tend to believe they are invincible, and while breast cancer cannot necessarily be prevented, you can be proactive.

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