The Chickasaw Nation Medical Center will host “Indigenous Pink Day” today to promote breast cancer awareness for Native American women.

The event will teach women the importance of regular cancer screenings, early cancer detection and celebrate cancer survivors as “warriors,” because “that is what they are – warriors,” said CNMC radiology case manager Sonya Frazier.

“Whenever we remember our women ancestors, they were very strong and stoic. We are encouraging everyone to wear ribbon skirts, ribbon dresses (in the traditional Chickasaw style) or pink attire.

“We take care of Native American women, and we want them to wear their cultural attire as well. The day is a way of celebrating and honoring Native American women who have endured the scourge of breast cancer and difficult treatment,” she added.

Also planned is “beading for breast care.” Participants may bead a project that will remind them of breast care. 

Dr. Jessica Enix, breast surgeon, and Dr. Chance Cruson, radiologist, as well as two breast cancer survivors will address attendees. Indigenous Pink Day will begin at 11 a.m. and conclude at 3 p.m. It will take place in the Town Center at CNMC, located at the main entrance.

Vendor booths will be available with information concerning healthy cooking, nutrition and wellness to promote a healthy lifestyle.

A CNMC committee is partnering with the American Indian Cancer Foundation to host the event. The AICF is a nonprofit addressing inequities in cancer treatment among Native Americans and Alaska Natives.

Its mission statement said the AICF desires to “eliminate the cancer burdens on American Indian and Alaska Native people through improved access to prevention, early detection, treatment and survivor support.”

The CNMC breast cancer awareness committee includes team members from various departments involved in breast care awareness.

Tamara Quaid, a CNMC breast patient navigator and case manager, said breast cancer awareness and support groups are few in the immediate Ada area.

“We hope that Indigenous Pink Day will spark interest in starting support groups and breast cancer awareness in our area,” Quaid said.

Survivability of breast cancer depends on how quickly cancer is detected and treatment begins, Quaid said. The “American Journal of Public Health” states “breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer and a leading cause of cancer mortality among American Indian/Alaska Native women.”

“All cancers need to be adequately addressed,” Quaid said. “We are concentrating on breast cancer because, if caught early through screening and healthy living educational initiatives, it can be treated effectively. Women can beat the odds and add years to their life if we equip them with the proper tools.”

Teaching, education and providing resources to women is the fundamental goal, Frazier said.

“Early detection is the best prevention. We hope this event will encourage and empower our breast cancer warriors to educate more women and families in their respective communities,” Frazier added.

Eric Swanson is the City Hall and general assignment reporter for The Ada News. He spent 15 years working at the Dodge City Daily Globe in Dodge City, Kansas, before joining The Ada News’ staff in 2012.

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