Doctors concur on early detection's key role in surviving breast cancer ANNE ARUNDEL HEALTH

June 01, 1993|By Monica Norton | Monica Norton,Staff Writer

Grace Shapiro remembers the day she found the lump in her breast. And she remembers just how she felt.

"I was terrified," Mrs. Shapiro said. "It was just a very terrifying moment. But as soon as I discovered the lump I went to my [gynecologist]."

Mrs. Shapiro's early detection more than 17 years ago led her to become one of a growing number of cancer survivors.

Anne Arundel Medical Center will honor more than 200 cancer survivors like Mrs. Shapiro this Sunday when it plays host to "A Celebration of Life." The celebration will be held in the Oncology Center at the medical park on Jennifer Road from 1

p.m. to 3 p.m.

The medical center's celebration is part of a national celebration sponsored by the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship and Coping magazine. With Maryland having one of the highest overall cancer mortality rates in the country and Anne Arundel County having a death rate higher than most other Maryland counties, the need to celebrate the successes may be greater here than anywhere else.

But oncologist Dr. Stanley Watkins said great strides have been made in curing and managing cancer. Some of the successes are attributable to new developments in medicine, others to lifestyle changes.

"We could decrease the cancer rate by 35 to 45 percent today if we could just stop everyone from smoking, said Dr. Watkins, who also treated Mrs. Shapiro. "It's not fair to blame the county or the state. A lot of the cancer we get is a direct result of lifestyle habits: smoking, alcohol, diet.

"But the cure rate for cancer has changed very dramatically since I came here [in 1970.] The success rate for lung cancer is not appreciable, but when we talk about breast cancer or leukemia, we're talking about curing. If we talk about Hodgkin's, we expect a cure," he added.

Lung cancer remains difficult to cure because it is difficult to identify in the early stages, and it has a propensity to spread, Dr. Watkins said.

Still, Dr. Watkins said, in the oncology business one can never say never. There are plenty of patients who he believed would never survive, and they proved him wrong.

"That's what keeps you going," he said. "That's what keeps patients trying not to be the average but be the exception."

The "exceptions," who are now becoming more of the rule, will attend Sunday's reception with their families, doctors, nurses, social workers, therapists and volunteers. These county survivors and their friends and families will have an opportunity to share their experiences, said the oncology center's manager, James Young.

"This entire celebration was created to honor some estimated eight million people worldwide who live with and beyond cancer," Mr. Young said. "We plan to host more of a social-type event that will allow are survivors an opportunity to share their experiences."

Mr. Young said survivors will be honored with proclamations from local and state officials, and given T-shirts with "A Celebration of Life" imprinted on them. The reception also will feature guest speakers who are cancer survivors.

Also, survivors will have an opportunity to sign their name on a permanent, tile mosaic wall hanging which will alternately hang in the Oncology Center or in the oncology ward of the hospital.

Mrs. Shapiro said more people could become cancer survivors instead of cancer victims if they could learn to manage their fear.

"More and more women are doing self-exams and having mammograms," Mrs. Shapiro said. "But there are so many women who have found a lump and wait because they are afraid.

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