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placeholder October 21, 2013   •   VOL. 51, NO. 18   •   Oakland, CA

More than 30 women gathered Oct. 5 to attend a Women's Health Body & Soul event at St. Columba Parish in Oakland. The parish's health ministry group organized the event, which honored breast cancer survivors.
Courtesy photo

Day of prayer, dance for breast cancer survivors

Oakland's St. Columba Parish officially kicked of Breast Cancer Month on Oct. 5 by staging its first Women's Health Body and Soul event. Local breast cancer survivors were honored with a day that featured prayer and praise dancing.

The event, held in the parish hall, included an informative power point presentation on breast and cervical health by Dr. Andria Johnson, also honored the group of survivors and encouraged their family members and others in attendance to take a more proactive role for their own individual health.

Since the establishment of its "health cabinet" several years before, St. Columba Parish has been presenting events, providing information and encouraging the community to take better care their bodies.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women, according to the American Cancer Society. Recent statistics show that nearly 12 percent of women in the U.S. — or 1 in 8 women — will develop invasive breast cancer during her lifetime. One in 1,000 men will develop breast cancer in his lifetime.

Despite such grim figures there is good news — the breast cancer incidence rate has been on the decrease since the year 2000. From 2002 to 2003 alone, there was a 7 percent drop in the breast cancer rate. The decrease may be due to the declining use of hormone treatments after menopause.

The death rate from cancer has also been declining — it is estimated that about 39,620 women will die of cancer this year. The largest drop has been among women under 50, a sign that early detection and awareness has been working.

The bad news is that black American women are more likely to die of breast cancer than white American women, even though more white women are likely to develop breast cancer. Breast cancer is more common among black women under 45. Asian, Native American and Hispanic-American women have a lower risk of developing and dying from breast cancer, said statistics from the American Cancer Society.

A diagnosis of breast cancer comes as a shock to most women. Breast cancer support groups have been set up at various hospitals and by other organizations to give emotional support to those living with breast cancer.

In the Bay Area, churches have been a source of support for those who have been diagnosed. An informal survey of parishes in the Diocese of Oakland found that besides St. Columba, only St. Isidore Parish in Danville specially reaches out to those with breast cancer.

The support group provides a place for Catholic women seeking spiritual support. This ongoing ministry is held twice a month, on the first and third Thursdays. For further information contact Marla Hartung at marlahartung@yahoo.com or 925-831-2475.

Meanwhile, St. Columba Parish will continue "to the end of October and beyond to raise awareness of breast health, cancer research and prevention," said Elizabeth Mack, a registered nurse who is involved in the health ministry as a "faith community nurse." This year St. Columba will campaign in support of "Blankets for the Cure," the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk scheduled for Oct. 26 in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.

The health cabinet will raffle off two crocheted blankets "in an effort to increase funds for our sponsor, the American Cancer Society," Mack said. "The blankets will be on display at various events in the parish through October."

Another important component of St. Columba's Health Ministry is its affiliation with the Ethnic Health Institute at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center as well as the Multicultural Breast Institute which provide "outreach, follow-up care and emotional support to those diagnosed with breast cancer," Mack said. Both are at the Markstein Cancer Center Summit campus in Oakland.

To reach the health cabinet group at St. Columba Parish contact nurse Bonnie Lovette at NICU18@aol.com or call the parish office at 510-654-7600.

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