Group vows to continue breast cancer awareness beyond October

Contact Reporterhbridges@vagazette.com

It's November at Beyond Boobs!, a local nonprofit supporting women with breast cancer. The phone has begun to ring a little less frequently.

The boil of October has begun to simmer.

But beyond October, beyond the month where breast cancer awareness takes a national spotlight, the realities of breast cancer persist.

"October's great, but women get breast cancer 12 months out of the year," said Mary Beth Gibson, co-founder and executive director at Beyond Boobs!.

"We want to get beyond just awareness to the health – what do you need to do, what are the actions you need to take," Gibson said.

Since its designation as National Breast Cancer Awareness month, the October campaign has increased awareness, support and funding for research toward a finding a cure. Other diseases might not have an awareness month, and Gibson said Beyond Boobs! feels, and appreciates, the month's positive effects.

But, "it doesn't just have to be October," Gibson said.

The organization, as the name suggests, was started nine years ago to reach beyond.

"Our focus has never been breast cancer. It's been breast health," Gibson said. "And of course we work with women who have cancer … and our goal is to help them heal and regain health and along their journey be stronger in all ways."

And for all the good awareness brings, Gibson admitted she's conflicted. Is there too much pink? Is there too much noise?

"Everybody's thinking about it, but they're not necessarily doing something about it," said Vicki Vawter, marketing and events manager for Beyond Boobs!.

"It's turning that awareness into action," Gibson said.

The action could be exercise, eating a healthy diet or learning strategies for early detection. For others, it could be volunteering or fundraising.

Dr. Christina Prillaman, an oncologist with Virginia Oncology Associates, acknowledged both sides of October.

"We need to advance the science and the understanding," she said. And highlighting breast cancer during October can draw funding, for example.

Still, "We need to be focusing in on prevention," Prillaman said. "I think that we need to empower ourselves by living our lives in such a way that we're reducing risk."

Prillaman referenced vigorous exercise, the Mediterranean diet and limited alcohol intake as examples.

"They're things that are within our control," she said. "(Prevention) needs to be a big issue moving forward."

"If you're taking care of your breast health, you're going to be taking care of the rest of your health too," Gibson said.

Bridges can be reached at 757-275-4934.

Breast health tips from Beyond Boobs!:

Move – Get four to seven hours of moderate to intense exercise per week.

Repair – Get seven to nine hours of sleep per night.

Eat – Eat nutritiously. Unprocessed foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole greats, beans and lean meats, are best.

Drink – Lots of water, limit alcohol.

Go Green – Breastcancerfund.org and ewg.org offer tips on reducing exposure to environmental factors linked to breast cancer.

Visit beyondboobs.org or call 645-2649 for more information.

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