What should girls know about cancer?
Dr. Zach Nicholas fills them in on screenings
ROCK SPRINGS – More than 80 girls touched the tip of their noses as they listened to Dr. Zachary Nicholas explain what it feels like to find an unusual lump.
“Breast cancer feels like the tip of your nose, not the side of your nose. This is kind of hard and stiff,” he said, touching the tip of his nose. “The side is kind of soft and squishy.”
The Sweetwater Regional Cancer Center oncologist was the guest speaker earlier this month during the Servin’ Up A Cure banquet at Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County. The Rock Springs and Green River high school volleyball teams raise money each October to support breast cancer awareness and research.
Nicholas wanted to thank the girls for their efforts in educating the public and talk to them about the importance of screenings.
“Don’t panic if you feel a little bump,” he told them. “Most breast cancer is going to occur in older women.”
At about age 40 or 45, women should get a mammogram – a picture of your breast on the inside, Nicholas explained.
“That’s how we detect it,” he said. “Most of the time we won’t find anything in someone under 40. It can happen. There are stories of 20-year-olds and 30-year-olds developing breast cancer.”
The screening that’s first on the calendar for girls is for cervical cancer.
“It’s a cancer on the inside, in the reproductive parts,” Nicholas said. “We start that screening at the age of 21 with a Pap test. Those are done because there is a virus that exists – HPV. It is transmitted through sexual contact.
“If you get that virus, it doesn’t mean you’re going to have cancer but it increases the risk of you developing the cancer. There is a vaccine out right now for girls your age to prevent this cancer from happening. It’s something to think about.”
Another thing to think about in the future is a colonoscopy.
“That’s the camera up the bum. Terrible day, right?” he said to a room full of giggles.
However, that screening isn’t needed until age 50, he assured them.
As for the fundraising and awareness education, Nicholas said “There is a worth in what you guys are doing.
“You’re going out and educating the population about breast cancer,” he said. “You’re educating people about how important it is to recognize this thing that is killing women every year.
“But you also have to see the worth in yourselves. The worth to avoid stuff like cigarettes. It’s the No. 1 cause of heart disease, cancer and stroke. Those are the top three killers of women in the United States.
“You’re worth saying to someone ‘I’m worth waiting for’ and ‘I’m worth using protection.’ Because that HPV virus is a killer of women. You’re worth that.
“And you’re worth getting an education,” he said. Many who think they are merely average students could be the ones who come up with something that could one day save hundreds of lives.
Deb Sutton is the marketing and public relations director for Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County.