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Gift of Life: Early detection is the best protection

ORANGE — Julie Rogers “Gift of Life” Program with Sabine River Ford held the annual Celebrate Survivorship breakfast on Thursday to honor breast cancer survivors of Orange County.

Gift of Life is also celebrating 20 years of serving underserved women in Southeast Texas with the Gift of Life Gala with Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons as the featured entertainment in Beaumont on Thursday, October 29.

Beverly Perry, a 21 year 10 and half-month breast cancer survivor, said she can recall one of the first ‘gatherings’ for Gift of Life.

“It started with three card tables,” Perry said. “The first one was for signing up, the second with punch and cookies and the third with prosthetics.”

Ross Smith, owner of Sabine River Ford, he enjoyed the organization holding the event at the dealership each year.

“My son is a cancer survivor,” Ross said. “We love supporting the organization and will continue to support Gift of Life.”

Regina Rogers, Gift of Life founder and chair, said she was concerned with the message women may receive with the new American Cancer Society (ACS) mammography guidelines. It is the first time since 2003 has changed the guidelines.

The Julie Rogers “Gift of Life” Program, in a press release, urges women to continue breast cancer screenings beginning at age 40, despite new guidelines provided by the American Cancer Society. The recent changes include raising the age that a woman of average risk begins regular screening from 40 to 45 and a recommendation against routine clinical breast exams.

“We will continue to screen medically underserved Southeast Texas women who are at least 40 years of age, or earlier if they have a family history,” Rogers said. “Like Dr. Therese Bevers, medical director of the Cancer Prevention Center at MD Anderson Cancer Center, we are concerned that the new guidelines will confuse many women. When presented with such conflicting messages, these individuals might elect to do nothing for their breast health, which can have serious consequences. Our organization, which has discovered breast cancer in nearly 200 women through mammography, clinical breast exams and additional diagnostic tests since its inception 20 years ago, has witnessed firsthand the importance of early detection. Mammography and clinical breast exams combined present the best defense in the fight against breast cancer.”

Rogers said she strongly disagrees with the new guidelines and is concerned with the message women may perceive.

“All of our clients are low income and have no insurance, Medicaid or Medicare. With no physician to provide medical advice, these women look to us for guidance,” Rogers said. “Each day, our organization deals with the realities of cancer. Our experience has taught us that the disease does not always play by the rules. In fact, we have seen women in their 20’s who have sought our help because they have discovered a lump through breast self-exam. Now that the American Cancer Society has said routine breast exams during annual physicals are no longer necessary, we think that women of all socioeconomic backgrounds will be discouraged from performing self-exams. This could be detrimental to their health.”

The Gift of Life Program stands with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Radiology, the Society of Breast Imaging and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, all of which state that breast health screenings should begin at age 40 for women of average risk.

To schedule a mammogram or for more information, please call the Gift of Life at 409.833.3663 or visit giftoflifebmt.org.