The October forecast? Heightened awareness of breast cancer risks

This is a commentary written by Nancy Johnson, executive director of the Nancy N. & J.C. Lewis Cancer & Research Pavilion at St. Joseph's/Candler.

When one thinks of the month of October, images of cooler weather, fall foliage and pumpkin spice may automatically come to mind. Of course, an anthology of top of mind images would not be complete without a few small ghosts and goblins, witches and black cats thrown in for good measure.

In recent decades, the color pink has steadfastly become synonymous with the four weeks widely recognized as breast cancer awareness month.

Rarely however, are hurricanes and tropical storms at the top of anyone’s thought patterns when considering the sights, sounds and events of October.

But, obviously not this year.

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October's start signals the kickoff of the annual Paint the Town Pink Breast Cancer Awareness campaign.
October's start signals the kickoff of the annual Paint the Town Pink Breast Cancer Awareness campaign.

Most all of us have kept a watchful eye on the weather situation, ever-shifting storm tracks and hourly forecasts over the last several days. After years of advancing research, powerful satellite imaging, high-tech geo-physics and other space-age surveillance methods, weather experts can easily provide accurate information early enough that ultimately saves lives.

In many ways, a similar analogy can be said about breast cancer. After years of significant medical advancements, genetic research, dramatically advanced diagnostic and imaging tools and a more heightened awareness of the threat, breast cancer specialists can more easily help patients avoid catastrophic results.

In both cases, awareness of the threat is only part of the equation. Positive outcomes can only be generated through action---whether it’s by heeding perilous warnings and evacuating from a targeted storm’s path or proactively taking responsibility for one’s own personal health.

In both cases, procrastination is not conducive to survival. We must silence the murmurings of fear, embrace the accepted knowledge of experts, ignite our personal power of control and accept the responsibility that we can be the master of our own wellness and ultimate fate---but only through knowledge and action.

That’s why St. Joseph’s/Candler, the Nancy N. and J.C. Lewis Cancer & Research Pavilion and the Mary Telfair Women’s Hospital are once again partnering with the Savannah Morning News to PAINT THE TOWN PINK. This annual campaign, now in its 15th year, is a concerted effort to create community awareness of the disease and the power of early detection through mammography.

Through a month-long series of news articles, daily statistics, profiles on survivors and other feature stories of interest, our PAINT THE TOWN PINK campaign will offer the current knowledge, stress the importance of early detection and encourage everyone to be active in protecting their health, while encouraging those they love to do the same.

As is the case with any impending storm, knowing about the threat provides one with the power to act. Early detection with breast cancer is similarly the key to survival, and mammography remains the best diagnostic assessment tool. Today, the survival rate for those detected with early stage breast cancer exceeds 95 percent.

Unfortunately, there are many in our community who are stymied by lack of health insurance or high deductibles, putting a life-saving mammography screening out of their financial reach. Despite having the knowledge of its importance, the action to do something about it is greatly impeded.

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Nancy Johnson
Nancy Johnson

The solution: St. Joseph’s/Candler’s TELFAIR MAMMOGRAPHY FUND makes mammography services accessible for those who cannot afford it by removing that action barrier and making this critical test possible---because whether someone has health insurance or not, it is vital that those who need a mammogram, get it.

The Paint the Town Pink campaign also encourages all women to schedule their annual mammogram during the month of October. A special Mammography Day at six convenient locations throughout the region has been scheduled for Oct. 31. Schedule your mammogram by calling 912-819-PINK or visit for more information.

Together we can weather the storm of breast cancer, prevent its devastating effects on women and their families and ultimately save lives.

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: October signals heightened breast cancer awareness in Savannah