ROCK SPRINGS – Things must be revealed before cancer can be treated. That may mean detecting cancerous cells hidden among healthy tissue, dispelling myths that discourage checkups or finding financial and emotional support to take up the fight. Those topics and more were explored at the second Ladies Night Out, which had the theme “Unmasking Cancer.”
There were masks galore Saturday night at Bunning Hall at the Transfer Station in Rock Springs. In addition to the mask-shaped treats and decorations, lots of information was available to educate the public and promote awareness. Displays, handouts and experts were available on topics including services available from Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County; healthy eating; programs available to help people get regular cancer screenings; and complete decongestive therapy available for those who develop lymphedema, a progressive, lifelong condition that can develop after breast surgery or treatment.
According to the Wyoming Breast Cancer Initiative, every single day a Wyoming woman or man receives a breast cancer diagnosis. Every year, 650 Wyoming residents are diagnosed with breast, cervical and colorectal cancer alone. Since most of these cancers don’t have symptoms in early stages, knowing the risk factors and getting screenings are vital to detecting cancer early.
James Cummings, a social worker at the hospital’s cancer center and the emcee for the evening, noted events like this were no good if they were speaking to an empty room.
Memorial Hospital CEO Irene Richardson praised those who turned out for the event, especially those who dressed up.
“You guys look amazing. Thank you so much for participating,” she said.
While she acknowledged the work done to turn Bunning Hall into a place fit to host a Renaissance masquerade, Richardson said the best thing they had to offer was the amazing hospital staff, who care so much.
Many people came dressed in gowns or sporting personal masks. Dr. Phoebe E. Freer, a guest speaker from the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, said “I never thought I would walk out of the hospital … in medieval attire.”
Dr. Freer spoke about the need to get regular screenings. She said there are a lot of mixed messages, such as when to get screened and the frequency.
She advised those 40 and older to get screened every year, because that saves the most lives. Freer said everyone should get checked, regardless of risk, because about 75 percent of people with breast cancer have no risk other than being female.
Wyoming and Idaho have some of the lowest screening rates, which are related to reduced access, according to Dr. Freer. The good news is that there are many resources available to local residents to get free screenings available.
Guest speaker Dr. Jane Porretta, who is also from the Huntsman Cancer Institute, said she is most commonly asked what can be done to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. She first listed factors people can’t control, such as family history, breast density and the age women first had their period.
On the other hand, proactive steps people can take include maintaining a healthy body weight, possibly by partnering with a doctor or nutritionist; considering alternatives for hormone replacement therapy; and limiting smoking or alcohol consumption. Porretta said consuming two or three drinks a day puts people at a higher risk than those who don’t drink. She said a healthy amount of alcohol is less than one drink a day.
Doctors Freer and Porretta had never been to Rock Springs before, and they got to tour Memorial Hospital prior to Ladies Night Out. Porretta said the hospital was modern, clean and welcoming. She said she shares a lot of patients who are from Sweetwater County, and they often ask her if they can get chemotherapy and radiation treatment locally. After visiting the facilities, Porretta said she can confidentially tell patients that they can get treatment in Rock Springs.
Freer said the fact that the hospital invited them to the event showed that the staff was dedicated to getting people the best care and information.
The doctors said they were trying to learn more about Rock Springs, and as part of that they joined the medieval dancing led by Western Wyoming Community College students. Dance instructor Rebecca Mayer talked people through their take on a medieval masquerade dance, which incorporated steps from different pieces.
Other events included a corset ball toss, face painting, and a “kNight’s Quest” information scavenger hunt.
The push to promote breast cancer awareness didn’t end this weekend. Businesses in Rock Springs and Green River are decorating storefronts as part of the Paint the Town Pink campaign in October to show their support. Judges will determine the best designs, which will be awarded trophies at city council meetings in November.