Early breast cancer detection makes woman a cancer survivor


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Cancer survivor Deb Wise Smith rings the celebration bell after completing her final breast cancer radiation treatment in August.

Brenda Eggert Brader

She felt it and found it — a lump under her left breast. Early self-examination really paid off. After a lumpectomy and 35 recent radiation treatments, she is a breast cancer survivor.

“When it comes to success, it is around 90 percent,” said Deb Wise Smith of her radiation therapy. “The amount of radiation depends on the level of the cancer you have. It goes from zero to stage four. Mine was a stage one. Really radiation is a piece of cake. It is really like having an X-ray. Your skin turns a bit red and can have an itchy rash, but I didn’t have any problems with it. I was tired for a nap only a couple of times and my energy level is fine now.”

Joe Culotta, a director of communications for the American Cancer Society’s Southeast Region, said the American Cancer Society helps nearly one million people touched by cancer each year to get the help they need when and where they need it. 

“Donations help discover new ways to prevent cancer or find it at its earliest, most treatable stage and help people take steps to stay healthy,’ Culotta said. “A portion of the cancers could be prevented if people did what we know works: avoid tobacco, maintain healthy weight through diet and exercise and get recommended cancer screenings. 

“Cancer patients are helped with their most pressing needs by providing free rides to treatment, navigating the healthcare system, dealing with side effects of treatment — whatever the need, we can help.”

Breast cancer death rates have decreased by 40 percent between 1989 and 2016 (the most recent year data was available). The decrease is attributed to improvements in early detection and treatment.

The American Cancer Society’s Epidemiology Research Program conducts large nationwide studies to advance understanding about why cancer occurs, long-term survivorship, policies and guidelines and prevention programs.

The annual Brevard Cancer Society breast cancer walk will be held again this year at The Avenue Viera on the morning of Oct. 24, said Michelle Oesterle, the senior community development manager, fundraising. 

“It’s a walk this year because of COVID-19,” Oesterle said. “We are going to have a pink parking lot party with reservations to reserve a spot for social distancing and wearing masks. They need to sign up at makingstrideswalk.org/brevardcountyfl. Limited to 80 street spots on a first-come basis, the event will be a celebration of music, games and similar to what the opening ceremony looks like. Donations can also be made at the website.”