Tuesday, May 07, 2002

Breast cancer cases increasing in Ky.

By Mark R. Chellgren
The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — Dorothy R. Taylor is a statistical anomaly and an inspiration.

        It was June 26, 1956, when Mrs. Taylor was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was hospitalized for six months, underwent an additional year's worth of treatment past that, had her breast removed and underwent radiation treatments.

        “I've had it all. Been there and done that,” Mrs. Taylor said. “They told me I wouldn't make it. And God said I would.”

        Ten years after her own diagnosis, Mrs. Taylor's husband was found to have breast cancer. They survived and prospered, another statistical aberration. Black females such as Mrs. Taylor get breast cancer less often than whites. Males almost never get breast cancer. Her husband died in 1997 and Mrs. Taylor now is active as a counselor and supporter for those with breast cancer in her native Paducah.

        “I find myself now counseling men and women,” said Mrs. Taylor.

        And celebrating, too. Mrs. Taylor, along with more than 600 others, attended “Celebration of Hope,” a breast cancer survivors' reception on Monday at the Frankfort Civic Center. Among those attending were actress and director Anjelica Huston and 2002 Miss America Katie Harman.

        Breast cancer is the second-most common form of the disease among women in Kentucky, trailing only lung cancer. And the incidence is growing, with statistics rising steadily in the last decade, according to the Kentucky Cancer Registry at the University of Kentucky. Kentucky's breast cancer rates are approaching national averages, which they have long lagged.

        The reasons for the increase, much like the causes of the disease, are hard to pin down, said Dr. Tom Tucker, director of the cancer registry.

        A small part of the increase might be attributable to the increased emphasis on detection of the disease. The Kentucky Cancer Program at the University of Louisville has been where the emphasis has gone. This year, with special funding from the state budget, the program is concentrating on ensuring that public education conveys similar messages.

        “Different organizations are giving out different information and it's confusing the public,” said Connie Sorrell, director of the Kentucky Cancer Program.

        The program is also trying to get a registry for mammograms. “We don't know who's been screened and who has not been screened,” Ms. Sorrell said.

        The center is also in the midst of creating a standard of care for facilities outside of urban areas. Next year, the effort will be to produce informational materials for people with low literacy skills. Ms. Sorrell said there is some concern that lack of information has led the southeastern United States to have relatively higher rates of mastectomies, rather than less-radical treatments, such as lumpectomies.

        Meanwhile, Taylor, who says her age is between her and God — “I've passed the 60s way beyond.” — has her own plans. She is already looking forward to next year's Celebration of Hope and expanding her counseling.

        “I feel like I've touched lives,” she said. “I feel like the Lord has kept me here to pass this wisdom on. It's not a death sentence.”

        But there is one other matter for Taylor, who isn't going to let the threat of breast cancer prevent her from living.

        “I'm looking for a husband,” she confided.


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