Health center M.D. and Zeta Tau Alpha raise breast cancer awareness

Zeta Tau Alpha hosts a yearly Pink Picnic to benefit breast cancer awareness, and even though it wasn't able to be held this year due to COVID-19, the sorority is still holding profit shares and other creative ways to raise money for its philanthropy. Photo courtesy of Zeta Tau Alpha.

By Mallory Harris | Reporter

October stands as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, to raise education, support and hope for the disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2017, one of every four deaths in the United States was due to cancer. In that same year, 250,520 new breast cancer cases were reported in women with 42,000 deaths from the disease. Despite the statistics with radiation, chemotherapy and possible surgery, women can still survive breast cancer and live their lives.

Dr. Tammie Turner at Baylor’s Health Center shared her own story of surviving breast cancer along with how the Health Center can be helpful to students. Turner explained how multiple risk factors such as smoking, obesity, genes and age can all increase one’s risk of getting the disease. In her experience, Turner had a family history of breast cancer. Because of her history, Turner is a large promoter of self-exams and early detection.

“I’m real big on instructing breast exams — self-breast exams — that really should be done every month, and it just becomes a part of their routine,” Turner said. “Early detection is incredibly important in survival and in treatment.”

During her time at medical school, she realized something different about her body compared to a “normal” breast. Turner realized she had poly-cystic breast disorder and had yearly mammograms in her mid-20s to ensure all was under control. In late 2017, after one specific exam, follow-up appointments and a biopsy, Turner was diagnosed with stage 2B breast cancer. With proper treatment and a strong support system, Turner is now cancer-free.

“I am so blessed to have had the love and support of family and friends and colleagues,” Turner said. “God is good. He never puts more on us than we can handle, and I’m here talking with you about my experience.”

In looking at awareness for breast cancer, Baylor’s Zeta Tau Alpha annually hosts events to spread information about breast cancer and how it affects college students. While COVID-19 prevented their Big Man philanthropy event from happening, the sorority is still having their trademarked Think Pink Week event this month. During this week the sorority tends to hand out pink items, but this year they are incorporating social media into their awareness.

Since COVID-19 stopped their main fall fundraiser, the women of Zeta have written letters to family and friends explaining their philanthropy and how to donate. Also, with the use of social media, their donate link has been a large way many people have supported the organization. Katy junior Jessie Sells, former vice president of philanthropy, explained how breast cancer awareness is about more than just raising money.

“It’s women fighting for other women’s lives. We have many girls in our sorority who have had moms, sisters and grandmas who have been diagnosed with breast cancer,” Sell said. “So raising money is more personal to us because we have people close to us who we know will benefit from our efforts.”

Despite COVID-19, Zeta has raised over $25,000 this month for breast cancer awareness. With partnerships such as the NFL, the American Cancer Society and Bright Pink, this money helps raise awareness on multiple platforms and to a variety of consumers.

To Baylor students, Zeta is hanging signs off-campus to raise awareness and get students’ attention to donate and support to find a cure for breast cancer, Sell said. They are also hosting profit shares with local businesses this week to raise more funds for the cause.

While breast cancer has historically been found in older women, Turner explained that women in college need to be aware of the risks and to participate in self-breast exams. There are multiple elements that can be attributed to the cause of breast cancer, but by keeping a healthy diet, regular exercise and knowing your body can lead to early detection and a lower risk, Turner explained. In the health center, they can do breast exams and teach students how to perform a self-breast exam along with posters and pamphlets for students to learn more about breast cancer.