Bright pink took up a corner of the Greenway Sunday afternoon as the Bradley County Health Department kicked off Breast Cancer Awareness Month with a family-friendly event.
“Bradley County has a high morbidity rate of breast cancer,” said Roxanne Wooten, BCHD supervisor of community programs. “When we got the data on that, we realized we needed to come together to push on the things that contribute [to breast cancer prevention], which is exercise, proper diet, nutrition and early screening and prevention services.”
Three tents stood beside the playground behind the First Tennessee Bank off Raider Drive. Parents with their children and pedestrians were welcomed to play games like corn hole.
“Instead of walking in Chattanooga, we are doing it for our community,” Wooten said. “The Susan Komen bus comes to the health department and provides free mammograms to women who are uninsured. So this is our way of giving back.”
Employees of the health department and their family members participated in a walk for breast cancer. A registration fee raised money for the breast and cervical program offered through BCHD.
“This program has been created between the state of Tennessee and CDC to provide services for those ladies who have no health care insurance and whose income is limited,” said Jacqulyn Diggs, physician and head of the breast and cervical program.
According to Diggs, the program provides free pap smears and mammograms. Any problems discovered by the two tests are covered through the program. Additional studies and diagnostic tests are covered, as well.
“If the diagnostic studies lead to a situation that requires a surgical intervention, for example, then we are able to get them presumptive TennCare and TennCare will cover the treatment process,” Diggs said. “They will stay on TennCare until the proglem is resolved.”
Bradley has the highest breast cancer rate out of the 10 counties serviced by Diggs. She said it is important for uninsured and low-income inviduals to utilize the program. More information can be found by either visiting the department on Dooley Street or calling 423-728-7020.
“We are seeing quite a few cases of breast cancer. I think if patients had acted sooner, they might have prevented the cancer from getting to the stage we caught it,” Diggs said. “We as women tend to take care of our families first. We put everyone ahead of ourselves and this is so much more true for ladies who know their family’s income will not support a study like the mammogram or pap smear.”
Several of the walkers in the breast cancer promotion included employees’ children. Eleven-year-old Maggie Maples was happy to be a part of the fundraiser.
“I just wanted to help,” Maggie said. “I just really wanted to help. I have known a lot of people who have lost their parents to it and I know people who have it now. I would just really like to help.”
She added, “We will try our best to stop breast cancer and we will try our best to prevent it.”
Maggie’s mother, Desha, said it is important her children know about the far-reaching effects of cancer.
“Any time there is an opportunity to do anything like this, then we try to take part. I lost my mother when I was 12 [uterine cancer],” Maples said. “...We do anything we can for any type of cancer. I encourage my girls to participate, also.”
Additional events will be hosted by the health department throughout October. All fundraising will go toward continuing operations of the breast and cervical screenings and breast cancer awareness.