University encourages student awareness of breast cancer

Every three minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer. Every 12 minutes, a woman in America dies from the disease.

Throughout the month, UM administrators have been informing the community on issues relating to the disease during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

This year marks the 19th year for the breast cancer awareness campaign, entitled “Pass the Word.” The campaign is dedicated to educating women about the importance of detecting the disease early. It also encourage breast self-examinations for women 20 years of age and older.

On Oct. 15 the Wellness Center, Yellow Rose Society and Canes for Cancer Awareness teamed up to celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Day.

Representatives distributed pink ribbons and information and methods for early detection of breast cancer.

“Our goal is to expose students to the reality of breast cancer and its prevalence. The first year we started, we had a great number of female students willing to learn about breast cancer and early detection,” Janet Tiberian, assistant director of student wellness at the Wellness Center, said. “The following year, it was interesting to see that even male students wanted to participate in our awareness campaign.”

Senior Caitlyn Fantauzzi said it is important for students to take advantage of the information being offered.

“The Wellness Center has made a great effort to inform students about health issues on campus,” Fantauzzi said.

While awareness increases, there are also some myths concerning breast cancer that students hear, mainly by word-of-mouth.

“Someone told me that taking birth control pills increases the chance of cancer, especially hereditary cancers like breast cancer,” Leslie Rogoff, freshman, said.

However, scientific evidence proves otherwise. In fact, studies have shown that women using oral contraceptives have a reduced risk of developing uterine and ovarian cancer.

Also, the common notion that “a glass of wine a day keeps cancer away” has been disproved. Evidence suggests that regular alcohol consumption substantially increases the risk of breast cancer.

“I have never heard any of the myths, yet I do feel more information needs to be made common knowledge for people. Breast cancer is an epidemic to which many people have lost a relative or close friend, yet many know nothing about it,” Colin Gallagher, freshman, said. “It’s frightening to think you could have a large risk of being killed by something you know almost nothing about.”

This fear of ignorance is the catalyst for the awareness campaigns and donations towards research.

Last year, Norman and Irma Braman donated $5 million from the Braman Family Foundation to the UM Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center in aims of establishing an avant-garde breast cancer research institute and hiring leading scientists in search of a cure.

The center, named the Braman Breast Cancer Institute, is led by Dr. Joyce Slingerland, a world-renowned breast cancer researcher and physician.

While funding for breast cancer research has increased significantly, breast cancer death rates have begun to decline, dropping 1.4 percent each year between 1989 and 1995 and 3.2 percent annually between 1995 and 1998. Most likely due to early detection, breast cancer death rates have diminished significantly in younger women.

There are over 2 million breast cancer survivors alive in America today.

According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women in the U.S., and it is also the second leading cause of cancer death in U.S. women. This year, it is estimated that about 203,300 American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and for almost 40,000 of these women it will be fatal.

What many people do not know is that breast cancer can affect men as well. This year, an estimated 1,600 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and 400 will not survive.

“I was shocked to hear men could get breast cancer,” Nate Stout, freshman, said. “It is a growing epidemic that needs to be dealt with immediately.”

The sorority Zeta Tau Alpha’s national philanthropic efforts are solely directed towards breast cancer awareness and research. Each April, they initiate the “Don’t Be a Fool” campaign, which promotes breast cancer awareness on campus.

On Oct. 18, they participated in the “Race For the Cure,” sponsored by the Susan G. Komen Foundation. This foundation also sponsors “Bowl For the Cure” and “Cook For the Cure,” all dedicated to eradicating breast cancer.

“We have 120 girls, and we expect 100 percent participation,” Jennifer Pruchniewski, senior sorority member said. “Breast cancer awareness is such an important part of our life, and everybody has been affected by it somehow, whether through a friend or relative.”

“We’re eager to do everything we can to help,” Pruchniewski said.

Also as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, students gathered in Mahoney Residential College on Oct. 19 to learn about breast cancer and early detection.

Windy Johnson, a guest speaker on behalf of the Area Health Education Center [AHEC] of Miami-Dade, imparted statistics, risk factors and methods of early detection.

“People as young as 14 years old have been diagnosed with breast cancer,” Johnson said. “Right now, there’s no cure, only treatments – that’s why we’re promoting early detection.”

Cristina Manieri, a 26-year-old breast cancer survivor, shared her touching story with students who were present at the event.

A resident of Dallas, Manieri was diagnosed with breast cancer at 25, but did not exhibit any known risk factors. However, she did not let this stop her from living her life to the fullest – she continued to work and enjoy life during her chemotherapy.

Manieri is in the process of heading an organization called Invincible, a group of 18 to 34-year-old breast cancer survivors who aim to provide awareness and support for each other and the community at large. Her goal is to help young people realize that they are not invincible to cancer.

“I knew I had to share my story with someone, especially young college students,” Manieri said.

Manieri recently participated in two triathlons with other breast cancer survivors and plans to participate in three this season.

“It’s a beautiful experience,” she said. “There is life after cancer.”

For more information about Breast Cancer Awareness Month, please contact the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 or the National Cancer Institute at 1-800-4-CANCER.

Shalu Patel can be reached at