Today is the final day for Lincoln County churches serving African-American populations to register to participate in the annual cancer awareness event known as “Pink Sunday.”
For the fourth consecutive year, the local effort is being sponsored by the Lincoln County Health Department in conjunction with Susan G. Komen Charlotte, an affiliate of the non-profit organization Susan G. Komen For the Cure.
Slated for April 27, the effort raises awareness about breast cancer among the African-American community, including discussions of the illness’s higher mortality rate among that particular population of women, Health Department official Mary Elaine Knight, BSN, said.
An assessment that Susan G. Komen Charlotte conducted in 2010 discovered that African-American woman are not only twice as likely to be diagnosed with the illness during a late stage, but are also more likely, than other populations, to die from the disease, according to Knight.
Susan G. Komen Charlotte carries out the 13-county assessment every four years.
Knight said the most recent assessment also ranked Lincoln County fifth in the region regarding the number of African-American breast cancer deaths.
She noted the reason for the group’s higher mortality rate remains a mystery but that some medical professionals believe it stems from a lack of screenings.
“Some statistics suggest that African-American women do not seek screening at as high a rate as other populations,” she said. “In some local areas, only 52 percent of African-American women over age 40 reported having a mammogram in the past year.”
Health Department officials further revealed that one in eight women in the county will learn they have breast cancer during their lifetimes, and that nearly 40 percent of Lincoln County women do not get an annual mammogram, perhaps prompting the significant increase in local breast cancer rates from 13.8 percent in 2007 to 33 percent in 2010.
Knight described a mammogram as “the best available test at finding early stage breast cancer.”
“Early detection is the key,” she said. “While many women will be affected by breast cancer in our community, 95 percent of women diagnosed at an early stage are cancer-free five years later.”
Despite some of the area’s discouraging statistics, Health Department officials are confident the numbers can change by simply educating the community and reminding them of the importance of getting screened.
“The goal (of Pink Sunday) is to educate women within their faith home,” Knight said.
Last year, 20 Lincoln County churches participated in the affair and comprised 1,400 of the more than 30,000 participants across the region.
Nearly 260 total churches took part, Knight said.
The event specifically educates African-Americans through a variety of activities including guest talks from professional health speakers and survivors, a special balloon release and survivor recognition.
Of course, the entire day is inundated with the color pink — the national color dedicated to breast cancer awareness. With pink lemonade, pink cake, pink shirts and pink décor, the message of breast cancer health is evident to everyone involved.
If requested, churches are given scripts on breast health for their separate events and are encouraged to incorporate a number of the activities into the event day.
“Church families choosing to participate in Pink Sunday are provided with breast health educational information provided by Susan G. Komen and the Lincoln County Health Department,” Knight said.
The Health Department will also hand out breast health information to any church wishing to administer the statistics to members but not participate in Pink Sunday.
For more information or to register for the event, call Mary Elaine Knight at (704) 735-3001 or visit komencharlotte.org.
Women, both insured and uninsured, may also contact the Lincoln County Health Department to schedule a mammogram.
The facility uses community grant funding from Susan G. Komen Charlotte and the Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program to cover the cost of screenings, diagnostic services and breast biopsy services for local residents, Knight said.