LANHAM, Md. (DC News Now) — Maryland data shows Prince George’s County has one of the highest mortality rate when it comes to breast cancer especially within African-American women.
Shalita Lyons dedicates her time supporting and inspiring women battling breast cancer and those who’ve survived through her non-profit She Still Smiles Inc. Lyons was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in 2016.
“[My doctor] broke the bad news, and I went numb. I went in the house and my husband immediately knew and what he told me was go ahead and get your crying out because it’s time to fight,” she said.
6 months after her lumpectomy surgery, Lyons felt pain in the same area of her breast again. Her doctor determined the cancer had returned.
“This time it was just like, if that is the case, we’re gonna cut both of these off, you know, so and that’s what I did. I had a double mastectomy with reconstructive surgery,” she said.
Lyons story is one of hundreds, but some people lose their battle to cancer. The 2021 cancer data shows D.C. suburb has a 25.6% mortality rate for breast cancer in women from 2014 to 2018. Charles County ranked number one at 26.8%, and Baltimore city following at 26.4%.
Dr. Regina Hampton, chief of breast cancer surgery at Luminis Health Doctor’s Community Hospital sees breast cancer patients everyday. She says majoity of her patients are African-American.
“When we look at breast cancer in African American women, One we do get breast cancer at younger ages. We typically get it under the age of 50 compared to our white counterparts, who tend to get it over the age of 60. We also tend to get a more aggressive form of breast cancer called triple negative breast cancer. And so this really presents many challenges because unfortunately, a lot of providers just don’t understand and know the statistics,” said Dr. Hampton. “A young woman who may be in her late 30s may come in with an abnormality. She’s seen by a provider and is told well you’re too young and you’re not 40 yet, so we shouldn’t get a mammogram, come back when you’re 40. So these women tend to go misdiagnosed or under diagnosed and subsequently present at later stages.”
Hampton is encouraging everyone to go the extra mile to get screened and seek a second opinion if you feel it’s needed.
“If there is something that you know, is wrong, it doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t look right and even if someone says oh, don’t worry about it to go knock on another door, until someone hears you and takes you seriously and takes action,” said Hampton.
As for Lyons she plans to continue to make a difference in women’s lives across the DMV through her non-profit.
“My goal is to turn that frown into a smile and just let them know that all you need is a small mustard seed of faith. We also educate, inspire hope, provide more support, as well,” she said.
She Still Smiles Inc. also provides smile care packages which includes different items beneficial survivors undergoing treatments and surgical procedures.
“So pretty much taking a holistic approach and factoring on your well being which is included of exercise and eating well, your psychological being and things like that,” she said. “My goal is to turn that frown into a smile and just let them know that all you need is a small mustard seed of faith.”
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month Luminis Health Doctor’s Community Hospital “Pink Ribbon Rally” is returning this Friday for the first time since the pandemic. The event will offer FREE breast cancer screenings, bra fittings, and information regarding symptoms signs and early detection.
“We’re excited to welcome our community back to the Pink Ribbon Rally after the pandemic forced us to cancel the event the last few years,” said Deneen Richmond, president of Luminis Health Doctors Community Medical Center. “With breast cancer being one of the leading causes of death among women in Maryland, especially in Prince George’s County, this event is needed now more than ever.”
The Pink Ribbon Rally will take place at the top level of the Emergency Department garage on Friday, October 14 from 8 am to 3 pm.