By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Physician speaks about risks, symptoms, surviving
Luncheon marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month
door prize winner
Lee Tolbert celebrates Monday after winning the grand prize during the Breast Cancer Awareness Luncheon at Liberty Regional Medical Center. The prize bag included a mug, candy and $25, compliments of The Heritage Bank. - photo by Photo by Alena Parker.

    Dr. Zorana Sifford said women with breast cancer don't have to battle the disease on their own. Victoria Ten Broeck, community manager for the American Cancer Society Savannah office, said free wigs and breast prosthesis are available any time at no charge.
    A local "Road to Recovery" free transportation service also is in the works for county patients who need transportation to Savannah for treatment.
    "What good is it to have life-saving treatment if you can't get there?" Ten Broeck asked.
    The American Cancer Society also organizes mentoring partnerships for newly diagnosed patients and women who already have battled breast cancer.
    These and other services are available largely because of Relay for Life donations.
    "This is your donations at work," Ten Broeck said. "That's where your money is going."
    For more information, call the local ACS at (912) 355-5196.
During the third annual breast cancer awareness luncheon Monday at Liberty Regional Medical Center, only one woman raised her hand when speaker Dr. Zorana Sifford asked the crowd of about 30 if anyone had personally battled breast cancer.
However, one in eight women will develop the disease in her lifetime, according to Sifford, an obstetrician/gynecologist at the Comprehensive OB/GYN Health Center on Main Street. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death among women in the United States.
With awareness of the disease at an all-time high, even women who aren't afflicted may still feel the effects of breast cancer, having offered support to a stricken friend or relative.
Seeing her mother-in-law lose her fight with cancer about a year and half ago brought the issue close to home for Barbara Siefken, who said she now makes screenings a high priority.
"I get mine (mammogram) every year," Siefken said during the luncheon. A pink ribbon pinned to her shirt symbolized Siefken's support for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Lee Tolbert has a cousin who survived breast cancer more than 10 years ago. Tolbert makes sure to remind her nieces, sisters-in-law and five sisters to take preventive measures, but she said she understands why many women don't.
"Something has to happen to someone who we love before we open our eyes and go get ourselves checked," Tolbert said.  
She has been a registered nurse for more than 20 years and now works part-time.
"Breast cancer, at the time when I was in oncology, it wasn't as widespread," Tolbert said. "The mammograms and [other tests] weren't pushed as it is now."
During her medical career, Sifford said she has noticed the same progressive movement toward prevention.
"Women didn't used to just go get a mammogram," Sifford said. "But through education, women have learned, 'If I go ahead and do this, I might be able to get it treated sooner, diagnosed sooner and then live a more productive life.' "
Sifford stressed the importance of monthly self-examination to women at the luncheon, reminding participants that 90 percent of breast cancer cases are found by women who performed self-exams and reported irregularities to their doctors.
"You know what's normal for you and what's not," she said. "That's the whole purpose of the breast self-examination — to realize sooner when something is not normal in there."
Sifford recounted breast cancer risk factors, some of which pertain to ethnicity and age, but reiterated the necessity to educate all women about the symptoms and implications of the disease.
"Make sure that you talk to your friends (and) family if they're not up-to-date," Sifford said. "That's the only way that we'll find things earlier and get them taken care of earlier and increase our survival rates."
While mammograms are the most conventional method to test for the presence of breast cancer, Sifford said MRIs can sometimes detect abnormalities better than mammograms. However, many health insurance companies do not cover the costly procedures under normal circumstances.
Sifford said she thinks any screening method decisions should be up to doctors, not insurers.
"Eventually, hopefully, the insurance companies will realize it's much easier to catch an early breast cancer than if it develops at a later stage," she said.
 "It's not selective in who it targets," Sifford said. "It can happen to any one of us. So don't think, 'It can't happen to me' because it can."
Food for the luncheon was provided by Baldino's and Chili's.
Sign up for our e-newsletters