Photo by Kelly White
Advocate Christ Medical Center’s Cancer Institute hosted its 14th annual Paint the Town Pink on Saturday. The free event took place in the Robert N. Stein, MD Auditorium and Conference Center, 4440 W. 95th St., in Oak Lawn.
By Kelly White
October is not just about Halloween. It also recognizes the importance of understanding breast cancer. During this month, awareness is raised by taking a stand against breast cancer by walking, donating, and simply wearing the color pink.
Breast cancer survivor Connie Avila wore pink Saturday at Advocate Christ Medical Center’s Cancer Institute’s 14th annual Paint the Town Pink. The free event was open to the public and took place in the Robert N. Stein, MD Auditorium and Conference Center, 4440 W. 95th St., Oak Lawn.
“It’s important to stay positive,” said Avila, of Chicago’s Mount Greenwood neighborhood. “When you are going through all of the testing and all of the treatment, and you think it’s never going to end — it will. Stay positive and think positive.”
At the age of 56, Avila was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 and had a double mastectomy the same year. She went into remission in 2007. She said her husband, Mario, and her three children were her support system during treatment, and she reminds others just how important breast health education really is.
“I have been coming to Advocate’s Paint the Town Pink event for the past three years,” Avila said. “I like all of the information they give you. Every year I attend, I learn something new.”
Advocate breast specialists agreed with Avila, including Charisa Spoo, D.O., breast radiologist.
“You need to pass on the word to your family, your friends, your neighbors and your community about how important it is to understand breast health,” Spoo said.
All of the 250 attendees at Saturday’s Paint the Town Pink were able to listen to educational lectures about breast health from Spoo, who presented on the relationship between dense breasts and breast cancer, and also learn about the relationship between nutrition and cancer from Elizabeth McGreal, a medical center nutritionist and breast health education from medical director of the breast cancer program at Christ Medical Center.
Discussing treatment and an in-depth understanding of breast cancer was Barbara Krueger, M.D., breast cancer surgeon, and talking about the health and diet correlation to breast cancer was Raquel Jex Forsgren, a certified resilience coach, certified yoga therapist and healthcare consultant.
According to the America Cancer Society, every one in eight women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime. While the long-term prognosis for breast cancer outcomes has improved, early detection remains a key factor for receiving the best outcomes, Krueger said.
“All of you who are survivors and going through treatment; you are strong,” Krueger said.
Advocate Breast Cancer specialists stressed that there is a substitute for early detection and diagnosis in breast cancer treatment. Through the hospitals leading-edge technology, results are delivered to patients quickly providing access to the most advanced imaging technology and an expert team that includes fellowship-trained breast imagers.
There are several detection methods available, including MRI, 3D mammogram, contrast enhanced mammogram, whole breast ultrasound, image-guided biopsy, and L-Dex, anon-invasive assessment of fluid in arms and legs.
Monthly self-breast exams are also an important part in early detection. This quick self-exam takes about five minutes and should be done by every woman age 20 and up.
“If you can predict that something’s going to happen, you can stop it from happening,” Krueger said. “We hope that in the future, surgery will not be needed in the treatment of breast cancer.”
Highlighting the event was keynote speaker Eva Moon, a screenwriter, internationally produced playwright, one-woman performer, and composer.
Upon learning she had the BRCA genetic mutation, which spikes the risk of breast cancer to 87 percent and ovarian cancer to 55 percent, Moon had to make a life-altering choice: Remove her healthy breasts and ovaries or face terrifying odds of cancer. She discusses this in her solo musical performance, "The Mutant Diaries: Unzipping My Genes."
“I think this is awesome,” said Terri Gray, of Tinley Park. “It’s an event that is fun and wonderful to list the spirits of women and men who are, have been, or know someone who has been affected by breast cancer.”
Saturday’s event featured a question and answer session with panel discussions led by various health care professionals from Advocate Christ Medical Center with topics including breast health, nutrition, genetic risk, treatment, and exercise.
With a wide array of educational information available, Saturday’s event also gave attendees the opportunity to mingle through a complimentary breakfast and a vendor fair featuring breast cancer items. All money raised was donated directly to the Center for Breast Cancer at Advocate Christ Medical Center.
“I enjoy the camaraderie,” said Ruth Sievers, breast cancer survivor from Oak Lawn. “It’s reassuring to hear other women’s stories that have gone through the same thing you have.”