Falls City Woman Wraps Up 36 Years of Volunteering for the American Cancer Society

In 1974, Evelyn Burns was diagnosed with breast cancer.  At that time, a breast cancer diagnosis meant something different than it does today.  Fewer women were surviving the disease and the treatments were more extreme so emotional support was greatly needed.  Following her diagnosis and subsequent radical mastectomy, Evelyn was visited by a Reach to Recovery volunteer, a program from the American Cancer Society that matches newly diagnosed breast cancer patients with trained survivors to offer one on one support. 

“I was so impressed with the Reach to Recovery volunteer that came to visit me that I wanted to help others.”  And that’s exactly what the 86-year-old has done for the past 36 years as an American Cancer Society Reach to Recovery volunteer.

Burns notes that the women she’s visited over the years have all been very receptive and happy to receive the one on one support.  They especially appreciate the volunteer’s ability to help direct them to receive breast prosthesis as well as their emotional support.

“You have gone through a very similar experience to what these newly diagnosed patients are going through now,” said Burns about her Reach visits.  “You’re apparently healthy and going strong and they can see that in their future when the volunteer comes to see you.  Cancer kind of seems like a death sentence in a way until you get into treatment and find out there is life ahead of cancer.”

Burns, a retired nurse, has visited newly diagnosed patients both young and old in communities all overSoutheast Nebraska.  For most of her 36 years, she was the only Reach to Recovery volunteer in the area, making her services even more important.

“Evelyn has shown a true dedication to helping others battle cancer,” commented Dawn Vosteen, community manager for health initiatives for the American Cancer Society.  “All of our volunteers are outstanding here inNebraskabut being able to commit to helping others for 36 years takes a very special person.  We truly appreciate everything Evelyn has done for the patients she’s helped and for her willingness to help the American Cancer Society save lives.”

When asked what her 36 years of service has meant to her, Burns replied simply, “It meant something to me that I was able to give other women some encouragement.”

InNebraska, there are currently more than 115 Reach to Recovery volunteers visiting newly diagnosed breast cancer patients and offering support and comfort during this difficult time in their lives.  This is just one of the many support programs offered by the American Cancer Society.  For anyone interested in volunteering for any one of the American Cancer Society’s programs or events, call 1-800-227-2345.


National Women’s Health Week is May 8-14

National Women’s Health Week and Mother’s Day are perfect opportunites to remind female friends and family members about the importance of talking to their doctor about getting tested for cancer. Early detection is the best way for women to stay well and celebrate more birthdays.

Mammography can detect breast cancer at an early stage when treatment may be more effective. Mammography x-rays are quick, easy, and safe. In fact, mammograms use less radiation than a dentist’s x-ray. Recent evidence has confirmed that mammograms offer substantial benefit for women starting in their 40s. Women can feel confident about the benefits associated with regular mammograms for finding cancer early.  Often a woman and her doctor may not feel a lump until it is the size of a pea. But a mammogram can find cancers when they are very small, often several years before a lump or change can be felt. As women grow older, their chances of having breast cancer will increase. Almost half of all breast cancer occurs in women 65 and older; more than three-quarters of them occur in women 50 and older.

According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 207,090 new cases of invasive breast cancer occurred among women in theU.S.in 2010, and approximately 40,230 deaths were expected. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer for all women regardless of race. In 2010, 26,840 African American women and 14,200 Hispanic women were expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer. African American women have the highest death rates from breast cancer. Although the incidence rate for Hispanic women is lower, breast cancer is the most common cause of cancer death for Hispanic women due to a lack of early detection. 

Another disease women should talk with their doctor about is cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is one of only two cancers (colorectal is the other) that can actually be prevented through screening. An estimated 12,200 cases of invasive cervical cancer were expected in 2010. Incidence rates have decreased steadily over the past several decades. As Pap screening has become more common, pre-invasive lesions of the cervix are detected far more frequently than invasive cancer. As a result, mortality rates have declined steadily due to prevention and early detection.

Numerous studies have shown that early detection saves lives and increases treatment options. The following Society guidelines are for the early detection of cancer for people without symptoms. Some people are at higher risk for certain cancers and may need to have tests more frequently. Talk with your health care professional to find out how these guidelines relate to you.

Cancer-related Checkup for Women

This exam should include health counseling and depending on a person’s age, might include examinations for cancers of the thyroid, oral cavity, skin, lymph nodes, and ovaries, as well as for some nonmalignant diseases.


Ÿ         Women age 40 and older should have an annual mammogram and clinical breast exam (CBE) performed by a health care professional during a periodic health exam. Women in their 20s and 30s should have a CBE about every three years. Breast self-exam is an option for women starting in their 20s. Any changes that are detected should be immediately reported to a health care professional.

Ÿ         Women at increased risk (family history, genetic tendency, past breast cancer) should consult their doctor about the benefits and limitations of starting mammography screening earlier, having additional tests, or having more frequent exams.

Ÿ         Women should report any breast changes promptly to their health care providers.

Ÿ         Screening MRI is recommended for women with an approximatley 20-25 percent or greater lifetime risk of breast cancer, including women with a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer and women who were treated for Hodgkin disease.


Ÿ         Cervix — Annual testing with regular Pap tests or every two years using liquid-based tests should start approximately three years after a woman begins having vaginal intercourse, but no later than 21 years of age. At or after age 30, women with three or more consecutive normal test results, may get screened every two to three years. Cervical cancer screening with HPV DNA testing and conventional or liquid-based cytology could be performed every three years.

Alternatively, cervical cancer testing with HPV DNA testing and conventional or liquid-based cytology could be performed every three years. Doctors may suggest regular screenings if a woman has certain risk factors, such as HIV infection or a weak immune system. Women age 70 and older who have had three or more consecutive normal Pap tests in the last 10 years may choose to stop cervical cancer testing. Testing after total hysterectomy (with removal of the cervix) is not necessary unless the surgery was done as a treatment for cervical cancer.

Ÿ        Endometrium — Beginning at age 35, women with or at high risk for hereditary non- polyposis colon cancer should be offered endometrial biopsy annually to screen for endometrial cancer. At the time of menopause all women should be informed about the risks and symptoms of endometrial cancer and strongly encouraged to report any unexpected bleeding or spotting to their physicians.

Colon & Rectum

Beginning at age 50, women should follow one of the examination schedules below:

Tests That Detect Adenomatous Polyps and Cancer

  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years, or
  • Colonoscopy every 10 years, or
  • Double contrast barium enema (DCBE) every 5 years, or
  • CT colonography (CTC) every 5 year


Tests That Primarily Detect Cancer

  • Annual guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) with high test sensitivity for cancer, or
  • Annual fecal immunochemical test (FIT) with high test sensitivity for cancer, or
  • Stool DNA test (sDNA), with high sensitivity for cancer, interval uncertain.

People at moderate or high risk for colon cancer should talk with their doctor about a different testing schedule.

Because of their greater potential to prevent cancer, the tests that have a higher likelihood of finding both polyps and cancer are preferred if patients are willing to use them and have access to these tests.                                                                                                                                               

For more information on cancer prevention and early detection, contact your American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 or visit cancer.org.

American Cancer Society Stands by Its Screening Guidelines; Women Encouraged to Continue Getting Mammograms

ATLANTA 2009/10/21 -“Today’s New York Times article ‘In Shift, Cancer Society Has Concerns on Screening’ indicates that the American Cancer Society is changing its guidance on cancer screening to emphasize the risk of overtreatment from screening for breast, prostate, and other cancers.

“While the advantages of screening for some cancers have been overstated, there are advantages, especially in the case of breast, colon and cervical cancers. Mammography is effective – mammograms work and women should continue get them. Seven clinical trials tell us that screening with mammography and clinical breast exam do reduce risk of breast cancer death. This test is beneficial in that it saves lives, but it is not perfect. It can miss cancers that need treatment, and in some cases finds disease that does not need treatment. Understanding these limitations will help researchers develop better screening tests. The American Cancer Society stands by its recommendation that women age 40 and over should receive annual mammography, and women at high risk should talk with their doctors about when screening should begin based on their family history.

“The bottom line is that mammography has helped avert deaths from breast cancer, and we can make more progress against the disease if more women age 40 and older get an annual mammogram.

“Since 1997 the American Cancer Society has recommended that men talk to their doctor and make an informed decision about whether or not prostate cancer early detection testing is right for them. This recommendation also still stands.

“Cancer is a very complex and complicated disease. The American Cancer Society makes evidence-based cancer screening recommendations, and strives to provide clear messages about cancer screening to patients and doctors. Our guidelines are constantly under review to evaluate them as new evidence becomes available. Simple messages are not always possible, and over-simplifying them can in fact do a disservice to the very people we serve.”

The American Cancer Society combines an unyielding passion with nearly a century of experience to save lives and end suffering from cancer. As a global grassroots force of more than three million volunteers, we fight for every birthday threatened by every cancer in every community. We save lives by helping people stay well by preventing cancer or detecting it early; helping people get well by being there for them during and after a cancer diagnosis; by finding cures through investment in groundbreaking discovery; and by fighting back by rallying lawmakers to pass laws to defeat cancer and by rallying communities worldwide to join the fight. As the nation’s largest non-governmental investor in cancer research, contributing about $3.4 billion, we turn what we know about cancer into what we do. As a result, more than 11 million people in America who have had cancer and countless more who have avoided it will be celebrating birthdays this year. To learn more about us or to get help, call us anytime, day or night, at  1-800-227-2345  1-800-227-2345 or visit cancer.org.