Community wages fight on cancer

Photo by Nate McCullough

Photo by Nate McCullough

CONYERS -- Pink will edge out fall colors this month as local businesses, volunteers and others bring attention to the fight for breast cancer cure and prevention during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the annual awareness campaign for breast cancer held every October. The effort both locally and across the country is partly to raise funds for research to find a cure but also to encourage preventive measures such as breast examinations and mammography procedures.

Incidences of breast cancer spiked in the 1980s due to increased screenings. The rate of new breast cancer cases leveled off in the 1990s and dropped between 1999 and 2006, according to the American Cancer Society.

Despite the encouraging trend, about 207,090 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in the United States this year.

In Newton County, the annual Portraits of Hope exhibit will kick off the local breast cancer awareness campaign today from 5 to 6:30 p.m. on the Square in Covington.

Participating merchants will display portraits of those in the community who have passed away from or survived breast cancer. The exhibit is a collaboration of Main Street Covington and the Newton Medical Center's Women's Diagnostic Center and Volunteer Services.

Survivors with their families and friends are invited to view the portraits. Refreshments will be served and merchants will offer special promotions for the month. Proceeds and donations will support the Hope Boutique and Cancer Support Groups at NMC.

Kay Goff is a seven-year breast cancer survivor and coordinator of the Hope Boutique and Cancer Support Groups at the hospital. She said Portraits of Hope helps keep those support and counseling services available to breast cancer patients and survivors.

Newton High School is encouraging students to wear pink to school today and also hopes that everyone else will help "pink out" Homer Sharp Stadium for breast cancer awareness during the Newton Rams' football game tonight versus East Coweta High School, according to school officials.

In Rockdale County, the Kimberley Chance Atkins Foundation is heading up local breast cancer awareness efforts. The non-profit organization has placed pink light post banners in Olde Town Conyers and is encouraging merchants to decorate their shop windows with a breast cancer awareness theme.

Also, the foundation is sponsoring a fund raising challenge among local hair salons. Pink piggy banks will be placed in the salons and the business with the most donations will be recognized with a lunch and other gifts.

The foundation's goal is to raise enough money to purchase a mobile mammography screening clinic that will serve the east metro Atlanta area. Foundation Co-Chairwoman Susan Paul Smith said $500,000 is the estimated cost for the mobile clinic. Although October is designated Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Smith said the foundation's work is a year-round effort.

The annual Kim Chance Atkins Tennis Tournament held in August raised $39,000. Also, plans are set to hold a fund-raising walk in conjunction with Conyers' annual Cherry Blossom Festival in March.

"October just gives us the national exposure, and we try to get the word out," Smith said. "People find out about us and what we are trying to do locally and just want to help in our initiatives to promote education and prevention."

The Rockdale Citizen and Newton Citizen newspapers are also joining local businesses, volunteers and others to bring attention to the fight for a cure for breast cancer and prevention with today's special "Read Pink" editions.

Both newspapers are donating a portion of the proceeds from today's newspaper to three local organizations that support breast cancer research, treatment and prevention -- the Kimberley Chance Atkins Foundation, Newton Medical Auxiliary/Hope Boutique and LifePoint Community Foundation/Rockdale Medical Center.

"The Citizen chose to print today's newspaper in pink to help heighten awareness of breast cancer in our community. The earlier breast cancer is found, the better the chances that treatment will be effective," said Citizen Editor/Publisher Alice Queen. "Every year, more than 5,000 cases of female breast cancer are reported in Georgia, according to the Georgia Department of Community Health, and more than 1,000 Georgia women die from breast cancer. With the help of the advertisers who supported this edition of the Citizen, we hope to aid in the fight against breast cancer so that those numbers are drastically reduced."

Also, look for profiles of local residents who will share their story of hope in facing and beating breast cancer each Wednesday in October in the Rockdale Citizen and Newton Citizen.