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Breast Health

The lump in Sabrina Allen's breast turned out to be benign. She urges other young women to practice monthly self-exams. This year Allen and Corey Hopper celebrated their daughter Mie's first birthday.
Breast health is important year-round, not just in October

By Natasha Clark, Reminder Assistant Editor

Depending on how fast you read, one or two women will be diagnosed with breast cancer by the time you finish reading this article.

Breast health is an issue that crosses all color lines, age groups, and genders, since all of the above are susceptible to breast abnormalities.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month 31 days dedicated to reminding the public that breast health is important year-round.

Last year West Springfield resident Sabrina Allen learned, the frightening way, the importance of self-examinations. She knew they were necessary, since her family has a history of cancer. Her fraternal great-grandmother had a breast removed due to the disease, and her fraternal grandmother, at 73, was diagnosed with breast cancer about a year ago.

Her maternal grandmother succumbed to cancer that spread from a tumor near her heart to her brain. So Allen said the thought of finding something in her breasts was so scary she preferred never to check them.

"I knew it was wrong [not to]. I just didn't want to feel anything," she told Reminder Publications.

At age 24, the five-foot-tall freelance photographer had just given birth to a eight-pound, six-ounce baby girl.

At a time when she should have been celebrating the birth of her first child, a daughter she named Mie after her late grandmother, Allen's joy was almost overshadowed by a post-delivery appointment with her doctor that revealed the unexpected.

"I went to my gynecologist for my post-op and that's when she found it, a lump," Allen recalled. "She sent me to get an ultra-sound at the Comprehensive Breast Center [in Springfield]."

Allen said the ultra-sound showed nothing abnormal, but her doctor still wasn't satisfied, so she sent her to see an oncologist. She said the surgeon also felt the large lump and told Allen it was up to her to get a biopsy.

"She explained that it could be a mass of tissue, but that it was abnormal to be that size at my age," Allen said. "I decided to get the biopsy."

In November 2005, Allen's scheduled biopsy showed the lump was benign.

"The doctor said, so I don't worry, that it was best to have it removed," she explained.

This past June, Allen had the lump removed from her left breast.

"We should really check our breasts," she urged, watching her now one year-old daughter playing with toys at her feet. "It's a good thing to do."

Hampden resident Gerri Cimmino, 47, said she's been getting her yearly mammograms for the last six years.

"I went this year and they found something. Two weeks after that my twin sister [Judy Basile] went and got checked and the same thing with her," Cimmino said, adding that four other friends were also diagnosed with breast cancer around the same time.

The sisters decided to go to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

"It was like a safe haven. And we just felt so safe there, from the valet to the receptionist to the doctors, there wasn't one person that didn't treat you [wonderfully], from the bottom guy to the top guy," she explained.

In an effort to give back, the sisters, and others, decided to put together a benefit for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute at the Hampden House.

"We just wanted to give something back. It was a spur-of-the-moment fund-raiser rib roast. The place only held 50 people and we sold out within two days. Everybody had a great time and we ended up raising $8,000," Cimmino said. "We brought the money down and donated it to breast cancer research, you can pick the department. Our plan is to do the event yearly in September. Our hope is to do it at Hampden Country Club so we can double the size."

Cimmino said she wants to give back to the Institute because it's a place where, when patients visit, "you just feel good there. It was a place that after we went to visit, it was very hard to leave, you knew you were okay. We just want to give back."

Cimmino will also participate in the Rays of Hope Walk to benefit breast cancer research.

Rays of Hope's mission is to raise funds to improve the breast health of the people in local communities with quality and compassion in partnership with Baystate Health System's Comprehensive Breast Center. According to them, early detection is key.

"In this country, breast cancer continues to increase alarmingly. When breast cancer is detected early and treated promptly, the chance of remaining disease free is greater than 85 percent," according to information provided at

The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation has an audiovisual, interactive BSE (Breast Self Examination) resource available on its web site,, for anyone with questions on how to properly examine themselves. Women are urged to practice breast self-exams once a month, looking for any changes in breast tissue, such as changes in size, a lump, dimpling or puckering of the breast, or a discharge from the nipple. Every one to two years women 40-49 should have a mammogram, depending on previous findings.

For those looking to volunteer and participate in a fund-raiser, Bare Necessities, a specialty lingerie store located in Springfield, will host its 3rd Annual Charity Day for Rays of Hope .

Bare Necessities of Springfield will donate 20 percent of all sales on Rays of Hope Day, Oct. 14, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The store is located in Haymarket Square, 1704 Boston Road, across from the Eastfield Mall.

All proceeds raised will benefit the Comprehensive Breast Center (CBC) at Baystate Regional Medical Center, supporting cancer patients, survivors and research programs in Western Massachusetts.

The annual Rays of Hope walk-a-thon will take place on Oct. 29, visit for more information.



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