Women's health event stresses early testing for breast cancer

COLUMBUS — Lynn Vollbracht isn’t afraid to call herself a statistic.

Three years ago, she found out she had breast cancer and became one of the thousands of women diagnosed with the disease in the United States each year.

She also has become one of the millions of women in the country who call themselves a breast cancer survivor.

“Even though I don’t like being a statistic, I like being a statistic of one of those 3 million cancer survivors,” Vollbracht said Sunday during an event that celebrated women’s health.

Woman to Woman — Celebrating Health & Happiness was held at the Immanuel Lutheran Family Life Center and featured vendors promoting health and guest speakers.

The first-time event was funded through a grant from Susan G. Komen Nebraska. Central Nebraska Community Services was awarded the grant to put on women’s health programs in seven counties, including Platte.

“The message is education, and that early detection saves lives,” said Susan Bochart, health promotion coordinator at CNCS.

Vollbracht coordinated the event with Marilyn Murray, who is also a breast cancer survivor.

Breast cancer is a treatable disease, and catching it early is key.

“When my mom was diagnosed 30 years ago, 74 percent of women who had early-stage breast cancer survived. Now that is 99 percent. That goes back to early detection. We have to start with the fundamental with education,” said Karen Daneu, executive director of Susan G. Komen Nebraska.

Performing self-exams and getting mammograms is stressed by Dr. Ron Ernst, a general surgeon in Columbus, as a proactive approach to detecting breast cancer.

Strides have been made in genetic testing to help predict who could get cancer. Treatments have also improved. But the best course of action still remains exams and mammograms.

“The best anyone can do is identify it early. Do your monthly exams. If you think there is something unusual going on there, let your doctor know. Let him or her check it out. Get your mammograms. Early identification is the best we can do right now,” Ernst said.

With continued research, headway is being made to find a cure. But researchers are playing catch-up with a disease that has a long history.

“A lot of people say, ‘Why haven’t you found a cure? You’ve been working on this. We’ve had the war on cancer for 40 years.’ To tell you the truth, breast cancer has had a leg up on us for thousands of years. We know in the Egyptian times, women had breast cancer. Research is getting us ever so close, every week, to get us closer and closer to a cure,” Daneu said.