GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. While that means the month should be focused on educating people about the signs and symptoms of this illness, this year people are also worried about COVID-19.

Health experts say breast cancer is the most common form of cancer found in women. Advocates from the National Breast Cancer Foundation say every 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.

“Some changes, dimpling, nipple discharge, bloody discharge, or feeling any lump,” said East Carolina University Physician Dr. Mahvish Muzzaffar.

Dr. Muzzaffar says with breast screenings like mammograms, getting to cancer before signs and symptoms are optimal, to catch it early.

“Majority of breast cancers can be cured if found early and if they get treatment. So one thing you can do for yourself…don’t put this off in order to be there for your family. One thing I remind moms ‘in order to be there for the family you need to take care of yourself,” said Dr. Muzzaffar.

Although less likely, men can also get the disease.

Dr. Muzzaffar suggests women begin getting mammograms when they turn 40. If a person has breast cancer run in their family, early screening is recommended for extra precautions.

Mandy Messerli was diagnosed with an aggressive form of stage 2 cancer at just 36 years old, after finding a lump in her left breast. Breast cancer ran in her family, but she thought she was too young to get the disease.

“You have to listen to your body, and we don’t always do a good job of listening to our body,” said Messerli.

Both Messerli and Dr. Muzzaffar agree that even during a pandemic if you’re worried something isn’t right with your body…go see a doctor.

“Most doctors’ offices have telehealth. You can just call and say “I want my mammogram scheduled. You can just say, ‘I’m feeling fine,’ if you’re not having symptoms,” said Dr. Muzzaffar.

For anyone going through cancer treatment during the pandemic, Messerli says health restrictions in hospitals can make the process lonely.

During her treatment, Messerli would wrap herself in a blanket, with photos of her family. This idea, along with other small reminders of the people she loved, helped keep Messerli positive.

“I consider myself a survivor the day I was diagnosed because from there you really are fighting and surviving,” said Messerli.

Vidant Medical Center is holding free breast and cervical screenings for the rest of October into early November.

BREAST CANCER FREE SCREENINGS –

When:
Tuesday, Oct. 6, from 2-5 p.m.
Tuesday, Oct. 20, from 2-5 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 17, from 2-5 p.m.
Where:
Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Tower at Vidant Medical Center
Register at: 252-847-7867

CERVICAL CANCER FREE SCREENINGS –

When:
Thursday, Oct. 8, from 1-5 p.m.
Where:
Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Tower at Vidant Medical Center
Register at: 252-847-7943

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer is also holding a virtual walk October 31st (Halloween!) here in Greenville. People can join groups, do their own walk that day, and there will also be a costume contest.

To learn more about this event click here.