Cancer survivors’ luncheon highlights race to find cure

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Imagine the day when mammograms will be unnecessary.

Imagine the day when celebrating another year won’t seem so miraculous.

Imagine the day when we won’t have to fear for the lives of our daughters.

- Imagine, from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure philosophy.

Breast cancer is personal for Nancy Forgi. Her grandmother, mother and daughter had the disease, and she herself is a survivor.

Next Saturday, local survivors of breast cancer have the chance to stand up and be recognized for their fight, thanks to the efforts of Forgi and Mitzi Fieldler, another cancer survivor.

The event — the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Survivors Luncheon — is scheduled for 11 a.m. Oct. 10 at First Presbyterian Church. The luncheon is free for survivors of cancer, and $20 for supporters. It is sponsored by Re/Max Mountain States and Daniels Chevyland.

“These women have quite a story,” said Caroline Eastman, who is the volunteer responsible for promoting the event. “And we recognize women by how long they’ve been survivors — from the longest right down to someone who was diagnosed this year.”

The event is put on by the local affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, Fieldler’s vision after she went to a race in Aspen.

“She said, ‘why can’t we have one of these in Colorado Springs,’” Eastman said. “And then she made it happen.”

Susan G. Komen for the Cure is a grant-making organization dedicated to saving lives and ending breast cancer by ensuring the availability of quality care for all and providing money for research to find a cure.

The Colorado Springs affiliate is one of a network of 119 throughout the country. The affiliates award grants to organizations that provide breast health and breast cancer screening, treatment support and education to the medically uninsured, underinsured or at risk populations in their area. The Colorado Springs chapter sends money to a three county area — El Paso, Pueblo and Teller. About 75 percent of money generated by fund raising stays in the area.

Colorado Springs has made about $4.3 million in grants to local organizations to fight breast cancer.

An estimated 192,370 new cases of invasive breast cancer will occur among women in the United States this year — and about 40,170 women will die from the disease during 2009. Also, about 1,910 men will be diagnosed with the disease, and 440 of them will die of breast cancer.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among black women and is the second leading cause of cancer death. During 2009, about 19,540 new cases will be diagnosed. And while fewer black women get breast cancer than white women, their survival rates are below that of other groups.

Some groups of women are at a higher risk for breast cancer — the cancer is common among women of Asheknazi Jewish descent — it is estimated that one in 40 women of Jewish descent carry the mutated genes that cause breast cancer.

Until recently, breast cancer rates increased at a fairly slow pace — about 1 percent a year. But during the 1980s, the number of cases rose markedly. In more recent years, the incidence of new cases has declined — due in large part to the drop in use of postmenopausal hormones.

Thanks to research efforts, nearly 90 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer will survive their disease at least five years. Lumpectomy has replaced mastectomy as the preferred surgical approach, and routine mammography is instrumental in reducing mortality.

Amy Gillentine covers health care for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.