Gabriella Lerma was 7 years old when, looking through a box of photos, she found an image of her great-grandmother, a woman she never met. Her mom informed her that breast cancer was the reason she never met her great-grandmother.
The business marketing and management senior said she wants to spread breast cancer awareness and encourage people to do breast self-exams. Lerma said since her family has a history of breast cancer, she makes sure to perform self-checks monthly.
Lerma’s great-aunt also died from breast cancer. During October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, both her great-grandmother and great-aunt are in her thoughts, Lerma said.
“I’m a pretty spiritual person, so I pray for them all the time,” Lerma said.
Lerma, Zeta Tau Alpha secretary, said a main reason she joined the sorority was because of their philanthropy. The sorority brings awareness and raises money for different causes such as Think Pink.
“They tie hand-in-hand with our sorority and help us raise awareness and hopefully, eventually, find a cure to breast cancer,” Lerma said.
When people think of breast cancer, most people don’t think about the illness affecting men, Lerma said.
“We’re raising awareness for both genders at this point,” Lerma said.
Latoya Oduniyi, Health Promotion and Substance Abuse Coordinator, said men should consider breast self-exams to feel if anything feels odd such as lumps, different markings, pain and sensitivity.
Oduniyi said family history of breast cancer should make students proactive and aware since the risk of breast cancer is there.
Interdisciplinary studies senior Emily Carlson said she joined Zeta Tau Alpha for the same reason Lerma did. Carlson said she wants to help educate young people who don’t have much knowledge about breast cancer.
During her sophomore year at UTA, Carlson said her great-aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer. Carlson has a close relationship with her great-aunt since she went to her wrestling matches in high school, and they spent time together shopping and having lunch together.
“It was especially hard for me because she is kind of like my grandma,” Carlson said.
Her great-aunt entered remission in November 2017, but in August they found out the cancer came back stronger, Carlson said. Carlson moved in with her great-aunt in July before she was rediagnosed with breast cancer.
“I haven’t been around much since I’ve been in been in college and I wanted to keep an eye on her,” Carlson said.
She said through the Zeta Tau Alpha events, they go over how to perform breast self-exams and how to look for warning signs.
“No one is telling you to go get checked until you’re, like, 40,” Carlson said.
Oduniyi said she likes the Feel Your Boobies Foundation because it targets women 35 years and under while other foundations focus on older age groups.
Oduniyi said young adults typically have a higher success rate since breast self-exams allow for early detection. If any student has concerns or changes in their breast tissue, Oduniyi recommends them to set up a consultation at the women’s clinic at Health Services on campus.
Carlson advises students who may be dealing the diagnosis of breast cancer in a family member or friend to take it day by day.
“That person is put in your life for a reason and, like, cherish the time that you have with them” Carlson said.