In a presentation held to honor Breast Cancer Awareness Month, members of Women Exceeding Expectations shared their personal experiences and urged women to be aware of the early signs of breast cancer.
For Cheniya Alston, the effects of breast cancer are personal, as several of her family members have been diagnosed. Alston, a senior nursing major and Women Exceeding Expectations’ chair of education, of Richton Park, Illinois, therefore decided to lead the presentation.
“Personally, a lot of my awareness about breast cancer came from being like ‘Oh, my family has cancer,’ not because this was something that was made evident to me or that someone went out of their way to teach me about it,” Alston said. “So, I wanted to do that.”
The presentation was held Oct. 17 by Women Exceeding Expectations, SIUE’s chapter of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs.
It centered around the importance of knowing risk factors, such as a family history of breast cancer and early menstruation, and recognizing changes in the breast that may be warning signs. According to Komen, an organization devoted to raising awareness for breast cancer, these changes may include swelling or redness, a change in size or shape, new pain in one spot that does not go away or even a lump.
However, Alston also urged attendees to get screened by a doctor regularly, in addition to knowing the risk factors and warning signs, to increase the chances of an early diagnosis. Alston said this is especially important for African American women, who have the highest breast cancer mortality rate, according to Komen.
During the presentation, Alston also showed a video demonstrating how to perform a self-examination and testimonials of breast cancer survivors.
Attendees cited a variety of reasons for coming to the event. Senior political science and theater performance student Avalon Palmer, of Chicago Heights, Illinois, said she came to the event because of the impact cancer has had on her family.
“I came because cancer has been a big thing in my family. I just recently lost my aunt back in May,” Palmer said. “So it’s curiosity, but also kind of me trying to cope and come to terms with certain things that are happening and why they happened.”
Junior nursing major Lauryn Ross, of Edwardsville, said she attended the presentation to better prepare herself for her future career.
“I came because I’m a nursing major, so I’m always trying to get new information about things that go on in the health system and our body,” Ross said. “I want to be a women’s nurse practitioner and a midwife, so I thought it would be good to come to something like this so I could get information because I’m sure I’ll be dealing with patients who have these questions.”
Junior industrial engineering major Tamryn Williams, of Chicago, said she saw the importance of educating oneself on this topic, which led her to attend the event.
“I just feel like it’s very important to educate ourselves because I feel like in a lot of these cases, in women and in men, it comes by surprise or it comes too late, mostly because they’re not aware, they’re not educated about it, they’re not getting themselves checked [or] they don’t know that they should be getting themselves checked,” Williams said.