All Hail the Pink Warriors

The following editorial was written by Amy Haywood Hughes and published in the Savannah Morning News. Hughes serves as president of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Coastal Georgia Board of Directors.

Pink. Pink. Pink.

Pink newspaper. Pink ribbons. Pink ink. Pink yogurt lids, cell phones, vacuum cleaners, even pink cat food. Everywhere you look this month, there’s a plethora of pink.

This sea of pink represents a purposeful and blatant attempt to brainwash you. Eventually, the color pink will evoke a Pavlovian response in which your brain subconsciously associates pink with breast cancer.

The message is simple: Get an annual mammogram and do a monthly breast self-exam.

The reason is clear: Early detection saves lives. A woman diagnosed with early stage breast cancer has a 98 percent survival rate.

With the town awash in a Pepto-Bismalish hue, one would think everybody already knows this and willingly complies.

Sadly, too many women in coastal Georgia ignore the allure of the pink. Far too many women present themselves for treatment with disease that has already spread beyond the breast tissue to lymph nodes and distant organs like the lungs and liver.

Once the disease has spread, survivorship rates plunge dramatically.

The ridiculously high breast cancer mortality rates in our region are simply not acceptable. We have lost too many mothers and sisters, aunts and grandmothers, friends and neighbors, wives and co-workers. Enough already!

According to the 2009 Community Profile Report of Breast Cancer recently released by Susan G. Komen for the Cure Coastal Georgia, six of the eight coastal Georgia counties have breast cancer rates well above Georgia’s incidence rate.

Chatham and Bryan counties have the highest rates.

To learn more about breast cancer in coastal Georgia, download the 2009 Community Profile Report at:

The findings will also be presented to the public on Oct. 21 at 5:30 p.m. at the Armstrong Atlantic State University Continuing Education Center.

While some women never get around to scheduling their mammograms, some choose not to have them. “No-show” rates for free mammograms can be as high as 50 percent.

Local focus groups reveal that some lower income women skip mammography because they fear losing their jobs if they took time to have a mammogram, missing work if diagnosed with breast cancer and being unable to afford treatment.

A late-stage breast cancer diagnosis can be financially devastating. Medical fees for treatment regimens for patients with regional and advanced disease can escalate rapidly beyond $50,000 to over $100,000. Early detection saves money.

In Georgia, women with breast or cervical cancer can qualify for Medicaid coverage if they annually earn less than $36,000 for a family of four or $18,000 as an individual. Since 20 percent of women lack health insurance coverage, a lot of women are left in limbo.

In the national debate concerning health insurance reform, we must remember cancer. Eliminating discrimination for pre-existing conditions, prohibiting caps on lifetime benefits and ensuring access to clinical trials must be addressed.

This October, our community is waging war on breast cancer with the Savannah Morning News leading the charge through the “Paint the Town Pink” campaign.

How will you join the fight?

One way to make a difference is to participate in Savannah’s second Race for the Cure on April 17, 2010. On-line registration begins today at

Over 6,000 participants are expected in this beautiful event, which raises money for breast cancer screening, treatment, education and research. Most importantly, it honors and celebrates the women and men who have battled breast cancer.

You can also rock out with Candy Coburn at a free concert on Oct. 15 at American Legion Post 135. Candy’s “Pink Warrior” song is a call to arms for Pink Warriors everywhere. Check it out on I-tunes to listen or download.

Consider this your invitation to drink the pink Kool-aid and join the cause. All hail the mighty Pink Warriors.