Health | National

Vi Waln: More awareness of breast cancer needed in Indian Country






Vi Waln

Breast Cancer Awareness is needed
By Vi Waln
Lakota Country Times Columnist
www.lakotacountrytimes.com

Out of all the different cancers our people are afflicted with, American Indian women are the most likely to die from breast cancer. Today, many women living on tribal lands are being treated for breast cancer. Many must travel long distances to receive chemotherapy or radiation. This causes hardship on their families.

If you have a wife, mother, sister, daughter or grandmother who is being treated for breast cancer, you know the difficult time she is having in her battle to get well. A breast cancer diagnosis can be devastating to our mental and emotional state. The medical treatments many women undergo to overcome breast cancer can be very hard on their body.

Our spiritual self is perhaps the only part of us which will remain strong during a battle against cancer. There are many Lakota people out there today who would not have gotten as far as they have without the power of our ceremony and prayers. There are many of us who remember all the people fighting cancer in our daily prayers.

October is designated National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the United States. Women can reduce their chances of a breast cancer diagnosis by undergoing early screening for the disease. The Indian Health Service hospital at Rosebud does offer mammograms to eligible women at no cost.

According to the American Cancer Society, the most common symptom of breast cancer is a lump in the breast. Other signs or symptoms include: swelling of all or part of a breast (even if no distinct lump is felt), skin irritation or dimpling, breast or nipple pain, nipple retraction (turning inward), redness, scaliness or thickening of the nipple or breast skin. Any discharge, other than breast milk, can also indicate something is wrong.

Breast cancer can also spread to the lymph nodes, an area around the collar bone or arm. A lump or swelling can be present in this area, even before there is any detectable changes or lumps in your breast. As women, we are the most familiar with our bodies. Our awareness of body changes can save our life.

As women, we should all have a mammogram every year. This simple screening is one way to be sure we do not have breast cancer. Being aware of any abnormal changes in your body is another way to detect the early stages of any disease. Ideally, it is recommended that women undergo annual mammogram screenings beginning at age 40.

We have many breast cancer survivors on the Rosebud Reservation. Some have recently been determined to be cancer-free, while others have survived several years after being treated. Cancer survivors are living proof that a cure is possible. Many of them were able to continue their lives through medical treatment, Lakota ceremonies and prayer. They are proof that miracles do exist.

The word cancer conjures fear for many people. Those of us who have lost beloved family members to this disease, know how it feels to have an immediate family member diagnosed with any type of cancer. Sometimes that fear is what stops us from scheduling a medical exam to rule out cancer.


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Those of you who live on the Rosebud Reservation and are eligible to use the Indian Health Service Hospital can schedule a mammogram now. All you have to do is call 605-747-2231 to schedule your mammogram. I recently had a mammography done because I want to be here for my family.

You are important to your family. There are children who are depending on you to take care of them. Please be responsible to yourself and your family by getting a mammogram screening done today.

(Vi Waln is an enrolled citizen of the Sicangu Lakota Nation and is a nationally published journalist.)

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