AdventHealth shines a light on breast cancer with annual walk

Cove Leader-Press

AdventHealth Central Texas held its third annual Shine the Light Breast Cancer Walk to celebrate survivors and bring awareness to the deadly disease. 
Volunteers, cancer survivors, friends and family gathered together to shine the light on the heinous disease that affects so many people across the world. 
Following a countdown, the participants then watched as the hospital’s lights along the perimeter of the roof switched from white/yellow to a glowing pink. The hospital lights will remain pink for the duration of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
In 2020, due to COVID, the event was a drive-up event, with participants remaining in their cars, according to Sarah Kennedy, the Community Wellness Coordinator for AdventHealth Central Texas. 
“We’re expecting that this third event is actually going to be the largest so far,” Kennedy said. “It’s just been so special to see all these men and women in our community who have survived cancer or are currently fighting breast cancer, and just watching them just celebrate all the hardships they’ve been through and come through to kind of see the light at the end of the tunnel as we shine the light on this horrible disease.”
Kennedy said that the other purpose of the event is to raise money for the hospital’s free mammograms program. 
“It’s important to keep pressing forward to raise awareness of breast cancer because we believe that early detection is the best way to stop cancer, and so we encourage everybody in our community to talk to their doctor to see if it’s appropriate for them to have a mammogram,” Kennedy said. 
Teresa Manuel attended the walk. Manuel went in for her routine mammogram in May 2020, and it showed something of concern. Within a few days, Manuel had to have a biopsy done and then received the news that she had breast cancer. Manuel underwent a double mastectomy and reconstruction surgery that July and since then has been doing great. 
“I had a good support group: a good friend, my family. Without them, I couldn’t have done it, and Jesus- Jesus was a big factor,” Manuel said. “My doctors were unbelievable, and without them I couldn’t have done it.”
Manuel was excited to be at the walk this year, because she was unable to attend last year’s walk due to her surgery. 
“I’m excited because [the mammogram] saved my life,” Manuel said. “It truly did, and my doctor said that, so to be here to raise money for some woman that might be in the same predicament because I had no idea when I went for my mammogram. I was just there for my yearly thing. ‘Hurry, just get it done.’ I am thrilled that they raise money to do [mammograms].”
Sripriya Santhanam, an oncologist at the Baylor Scott & White Cancer Center located adjacent to AdventHealth Central Texas, spoke about how far the United States has come in terms of research regarding breast cancer, and how much still needs to be done.
With mammography, there has been a 40 percent decrease in the mortality rate associated with a breast cancer diagnosis, since the 1990s, she said. 
“It’s very important to know some of the risk factors, and it’s important to also know that there are demographic differences, ethnic differences in the prevalence of this disease,” Santhanam said. “For example, African Americans and Ashkenazi Jews are at higher risk for breast cancer- they are going to be a higher risk for getting it, and higher risk of dying from it, and so it’s important to know and recognize that fact so we can make some concerted efforts in that direction.”
Santhanam also touched on the advances made in cancer treatment with the research. 
“Just because of the sheer amount of research that’s being done on breast cancer that we have come to a point where we can offer really, really cutting-edge technology care for breast cancer, whether it be the surgical techniques we have now under plastic surgery, and we have tremendous advancement in radiation techniques where we can shorten the duration of radiation for certain women,” Santhanam said. “We have made huge strides in the systemic treatment of breast cancer, whether it be in early stages, or late stages for metastatic breast cancer as well, where we can incorporate things like immunotherapy, targeted therapies, and enzyme pathways. There’s lots of research being done in cancer vaccines. These were not available to us to offer to our patients, and so being part of Baylor Scott & White Cancer Center in conjunction with the partnership with AdventHealth, we are able to really provide a comprehensive care for breast cancer patients here.”
AdventHealth has already begun booking appointments for this year’s free mammogram program, and they are set to do 123 mammograms for patients this month so far, according to Kennedy. 
For those who might qualify and are interested in a free mammogram, please call the AdventHealth Central Texas Imaging Department at 254-680-0004. 

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