Joanne Goldwater

Joanne Goldwater reads a cancer survivor’s story from a book in May 2018 in front of a small group of volunteers inside a room of the Dr. James A. Forrest Career and Technology Center in Leonardtown.

More Information Breast cancer warning signs: New lump in the breast or underarm (armpit). Thickening or swelling of the breast. Irritation or dimpling of breast skin. Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area or the breast. Pulling in of the nipple. Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood. Change in the size or shape of the breast. Pain in any area of the breast or nipple

A St. Mary’s College of Maryland dean learned a few tips about breast cancer awareness after surviving the disease nine years ago.

Joanne Goldwater, associate dean for retention and student success at St. Mary’s College, shared that information with The Enterprise during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

“The first thing that comes to mind, make sure you’re checking yourself regularly,” she said. That’s how she discovered her breast cancer. “If you find something, you feel something, you’re worried about something, don’t just sit back and wait. Meet with your doctor.”

Goldwater said waiting could lead to longterm danger and the earlier someone receives a diagnoses, the better.

“Screening recommendations for breast cancer vary based on the organization,” Angela Cochran, director of chronic disease prevention and control program for the St. Mary’s health department, said.

She added the American Cancer Society recommends annual mammograms every year for women over the age of 40 and also younger women who have a family history of breast cancer in their families. “Also clinical breast exams should be done every three years for women in their 20s and 30s.”

“Find a doctor you trust and like,” Goldwater said, adding that she met with a number of doctors and didn’t always like them, but found one she loved. Goldwater said trust and comfortability are important.

For those who are diagnosed with breast cancer, the assistant dean recommends having a good support system. She said it’s hard to go through it alone, and having family support and support in the workplace can make life easier.

The breast cancer survivor emphasized the importance of a trusted resource. When she was diagnosed, Goldwater said she made the mistake searching the internet for breast cancer information.

“That was a bad bad idea,” she said. She remembers thinking “I might as well get my coffin now.” Goldwater said she has a lot of faith in the American Cancer Society, and it provided her with information in layman’s terms without scaring her.

“Try to maintain a normal life as much as you can,” Goldwater said about those who are diagnosed. “If you usually exercise, continue exercising.” She noted that exercise can be helpful because it releases “feel-good chemicals in your brain.” She herself is a walker and runner.

“After treatment ends and you’re now in remission … recognize everything doesn’t go back to normal right away,” she said. “It takes a while to get your strength back.”

Goldwater added that survivors still need to have regular doctor’s appointments and recommended not rushing the recovery. She also noted some people have fear or a sense of guilt during this stage and suggested to “be thankful and recognize that you’ve just beaten cancer. Go with the flow. Treat yourself kindly.”

Mammogram appointments are available at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital. This month, the hospital is giving away free pens and journals for those who schedule while supplies last.

“We at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital want to celebrate women who make the choice to put their health needs first and schedule their mammogram, whether it is during Breast Cancer Awareness Month or any month of the year,” Dr. Adele Fields, the hospital’s medical director of breast imaging, said in an emailed statement. “Our annual breast cancer awareness gift serves as a reminder throughout the year that mammograms are an important part of a woman’s health screening routine.”

The incident rate for breast cancer between the years 2011 and 2015 in St. Mary’s are 109.3 per 100,000 women with a death rate of 23 per 100,000 women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Men can also have breast cancer, although it is not as common. The American Cancer Society reports their lifetime risk is one in 1,000 across the United States.

“Also, another stat, about 2,670 men in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year,” Cochran said. She compared it to the 5,290 women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer in Maryland alone.

Cochran said breast cancer in men is less common because the “breast duct cells are less developed than those of women” and there is a lower level of female hormones in men that affect the growth of breast cells. Men with relatives, men or women, who have been diagnosed with breast cancer are at risk of getting the disease.

“Every woman is at risk for breast cancer even if she has no family history or other risk factor for the disease,” Cochran said. “The main risk factors are being a woman and getting older. As we age, our risks do increase.”

She said different people have different symptoms of breast cancer, and some people do not have any signs or symptoms at all. “That’s why it’s so important talk about right screening for them,” she said.

Cochran said screening is about checking the women’s breast before there are signs and symptoms of the disease.

For anyone who needs help getting a screening, Cochran said to contact the St. Mary’s health department at 301-475-4330. Its screening program helps those with or without insurance.

Twitter: @KristenEntNews

Twitter: @KristenEntNews