By Kim Walter
With October being national Breast Cancer Awareness Month, local hospitals are offering incentives for women to get a mammogram.
Valley Health facilities, during this month, are offering a discounted cash price of $60 for the screening. A community celebration honoring all cancer survivors will also take place Monday, Oct. 22 at Victory Church in Winchester, and will feature local breast cancer survivor Susan McGuire.
At Warren Memorial Hospital in Front Royal, women getting mammograms on Monday were treated to refreshments while they were waiting for the procedure. Afterward, they received a water bottle adorned with the phrase, "Detect It, Treat It, Cure It." The hospital will also give out pink carnations all month to those women getting the test.
The hospital also held screenings for extended hours on Monday, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. As a result, the number of mammogram appointments doubled from their typical 12-15, to a little over 30.
"We've had a really positive response to the promotions this month," said director of radiology, Leonard Purvis. "One woman even commented that it was the first time she'd received flowers in years."
Purvis has been with Valley Health for 22 years, and has seen the many changes that have come with breast cancer.
"We've gone from basically zero screenings to digital mammography, which is much more sensitive," he said. "I think awareness has definitely increased as well, with more high profile people sharing their experiences with breast cancer. The personal stories really seem to help, especially when it's coming from someone in the community. It brings it close to home."
Purvis admitted that the screening process can result in discomfort, and even pain, but only for a few seconds.
"It's the pressure. If you don't feel the pressure, then they aren't doing a really good exam," he said. "But any pain associated with it is worth finding cancer early and being treated for it ... that's the mantra for breast cancer. The earlier they catch it, the better the chance is of a complete recovery."
Purvis encourages all women, regardless of family history or whether or not they think something is wrong, to get the yearly exam, especially after the age of 40.
"A lot of breast cancer is picked up when patients don't have symptoms, and that's when it's most curable," he said. "You don't have to have the family history. It does increase the odds somewhat, but you don't have to have it to get breast cancer."
Sharon Utz, a teacher at Warren County Middle School, got the screening done on Monday, but it wasn't her first time.
"Yes, I've done this before ... it's important every time," she said. Utz had a close friend who was in her 40s pass away from breast cancer.
"I haven't had any problems, but when you have somebody you're close with go through all that ... and I'm older than she was ... it just makes a big difference," she said.
Kathleen Crawford, a Warren County resident, said she gets the screening done yearly, even though she doesn't have any known family history of breast cancer.
"I get nervous because it hurts," she admitted. "But it's worth it."
Crawford had a simple piece of advice for women on the fence about getting a mammogram.
"Just get it done," she said. "It's one of the most important tests you can take."
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org