PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — October marks the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. There are now more breast cancer survivors in the U.S. than ever, with four million and counting.
It’s all about early detection and better treatments aiming to save even more lives.
The American Cancer Society is reminding women to grab your girls. That’s about holding friends and family accountable for mammograms. It’s a message being shared by two special sisters.
Side by side, these South Jersey sisters have stepped through the ordeal of breast cancer together.
“I was scared, I was really scared,” Charmella Roark said.
Charmella Roark was diagnosed last summer, four years after her sister, Kiki.
“I saw three doctors and they told me it was nothing,” Kiki Roark said.
She was just 37 at the time with a lump in her breast and in spite of what doctors said, she insisted on a mammogram.
“You have to be an advocate. Yes, we trust doctors. Yes, we listen to doctors, but listen to your body. I say this all the time,” Kiki Roark said.
Through different treatments, the sisters helped each other navigate the physical and emotional rollercoaster of breast cancer.
Now they’re happy to be part of the American Cancer Society’s “Grab Your Girls” campaign, encouraging women to hold each other accountable for screenings.
“It’s bringing someone that you love and you care about, holding her hands through something that could be scary,” Charmella Roark said.
“Tell your friends, tell your family, everyone — it’s so important to get these mammograms,” Kiki Roark said.
Doctors say mammograms are still the best way to find breast cancer early, the American Cancer Society said they should start at age 45.
“We know outcomes are so much better when cancers are detected earlier,” Karen Knudsen with the American Cancer Society said.
Knudsen said there’s still work to do, however.
“A combination of early detection as well as improved treatments have helped us reduce the breast cancer rate by 43% percent,” she said.
For the Roark sisters, it’s now about helping other women and staying healthy. They’ll be out here at Cooper River Park for the annual Making Strides Walk.
“All walks of life here to celebrate life,” Charmella Roark said.
The 25th Annual Making Strides of Greater Philadelphia will take place at Cooper River Park Jack Curtis Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 15 at 8:30 a.m.
The American Cancer Society has more information about how to get a cancer screening.