Breast cancer awareness educator moves throughout the county to share information
By By Krishana Davis and Times Staff Writer
Oct 14, 2014 | 12:13 AM
During Breast Cancer Awareness Month every October, Ann Boyles travels around the county to inform women and men about the importance of breast health.
For the past few years, Boyles, a registered nurse, has been working as a community educator for Carroll Hospital Center. In conjunction with the Carroll County Health Department, Boyles travels to schools, colleges and retirement homes to share the risk factors of breast cancer, but also to share information with people on how to keep their breasts healthy.
Last week, Boyles took an interactive breast and cervical cancer awareness display to Carroll Community College's Well-Mart health fair to inform college-age students of the risk of the two estrogen-based cancers.
While the American Cancer Association recommends women start getting annual mammogram screenings, which check for abnormalities, at the age of 40, Boyles hands out cards to younger women showing them how to check themselves for lumps.
"For the younger college-age population, I talk to them about the importance of getting to know your body and becoming familiar with your breast," Boyles said.
Boyles also has a plastic breast with lumps so students can become familiar with the feeling, so they know what to watch out for.
"If there is anything abnormal that you feel or discharge from the nipple, you know that's not normal for you," Boyles said. "It's about getting familiar with your body and reporting signs and changes to your doctor immediately."
Boyles also has a wheeled-trivia game she plays with students to bring awareness to the support offered in the county to people suffering from breast cancer.
"I ask questions like, 'Do you know where you can find free wigs in the community?'" Boyles said.
The students typically do not know the answer to the question — which is at the Carroll Hospital Center — but now they have a bit of little-known information they can share and pass on, she said.
A larger concern with the college-age population is the genetic link for breast cancer, Boyles said.
"If there is a family history, I encourage students to think about genetic counseling and testing," Boyles said.
The Carroll Hospital Center partners with the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore offering genetic counseling to people with a family history of cancer, she said.
Through the teleconference, the patient reveals family history and fills out a packet of information to be reviewed with them,Boyles said. If warranted, the hospital center will move forward with genetic blood testing, she said.
Boyles said her conversations with the public differ a lot depending on the age group.
For women who are of mammogram age, Boyles said she pushes for them to remember to get their annual screenings and to do self-exams.
"The people I am talking to are not getting their annual mammogram the way they are supposed to," Boyles said. "Some have not done it for four or six years — that's when I really hammer home the importance."
The reason Boyles believes some women do not get their annual mammograms is partially out of fear, but also hectic schedules and affordability.
The Carroll County Health Department's Breast and Cervical Cancer Program helps women to offset the cost of the mammograms depending on income level, she said.
Boyles also talks with the public about breast cancer prevention, which includes good nutrition, physical activity and avoiding obesity, she said.
"I hope that they are learning the importance of screenings in general," Boyles said. "The earlier they learn it the better it will help serve them through life."