When you think of educating yourself about cancer, you probably don’t think about having fun. However, The Rivkin Center, a Seattle based non-profit organization for breast and ovarian cancer research, is hoping to change that. They created CanCan, a non-profit dedicated to educating both men and women on the symptoms of cancer through parties that create a fun, safe atmosphere for learning about our bodies. The team at Her Campus here at the University of Utah had the opportunity to host our own CanCan party, and this is what we learned!
Each CanCan campus party is hosted by an instructor, a facilitator and a campus ambassador. CanCan has a campus ambassador at every single Pac-12 university. We were excited to have Elizabeth Crouch as our instructor, Gail Fay as our facilitator and Sarah Czaja, who serves as the CanCan ambassador for the University of Utah. “My previous experiences with people in my family having cancer were overall very negative. I never wanted to assess my own risk and I sort of blew it all off, but then I found CanCan,” Sarah shared with the group. She also said that having parties such as the ones CanCan provides can help get rid of the dark stigma that breast and ovarian cancer tend to have.
Gail Fay, the facilitator, is also a cancer survivor from Southern California. When she was diagnosed with uterine cancer, many of the doctors didn’t want to run the tests for her because they believed her to be too young. What Gail learned from her experience is that you can never be too young to pay attention to the changes in your body.
In fact, that’s the first rule that instructor Elizabeth Crouch provided for staying smart about cancer: Know Your Body.
“You have to be able to tell your doctor, ‘There’s something going on here that’s not right for me,'” Crouch informed us. One of the best ways to know your body is to do frequent breast exams. This video from the Rivkin Center discusses some of the best methods for examining your breast for abnormalities. Many of the symptoms for ovarian cancer (urinating more than usual, abnormal eating patterns, bloating) can also be identified as something that is out of the norm for your body, which only you can identify.
Rule #2 is to Get a Doctor, especially one that you trust. If your doctor treats you with dignity and respect, they are more likely to listen to you when you bring up concerns you have about your body.
Rule #3 is Know Your Family History.
Genetic markers for cancer such as BRACA 1 and 2 can often help assess your risk of getting cancer. Knowing the cancer history of your family members is also important, especially their age of diagnosis. If your family member had cancer, it’s important to start getting tested at the age that is ten years younger than they were at their age of diagnosis. So if your mother contracted breast cancer at age 38, you should start getting mammograms at age 28.
For more information about Can Can, and how it’s changing the conversation surrounding breast and ovarian cancer, you can visit their website here, or check out their page on Facebook to learn more about hosting your own party!