October is international breast cancer awareness month, and a group of residents in the Sharon area have launched an important initiative to ensure that Israeli women become more alert to the dangers posed by this dreadful disease.
Under the slogan "Awareness can save your life," a 4-kilometer Breast Cancer Awareness Walk is scheduled to take place at Park Ra'anana on Friday, October 16 starting at 9:15 a.m. Same-day registration for the walk will be from 8:30 a.m. onwards.
The event will be followed by a "happening" in the park with lectures, discussions, live music, a raffle and activities for the entire family, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
"The aim of this march is to raise awareness among the public about breast cancer and to inspire women to get themselves tested," said Sarah Freund, one of the organizers. "By educating people about this issue, and stressing the importance of testing and prevention, we can make a difference in people's lives and fight this deadly disease."
The march is taking place under the auspices of the non-profit Tishkofet organization, in cooperation with the Ra'anana municipality, the Maccabi and Clalit health funds and Meir and Tel Hashomer hospitals.
FOUNDED NEARLY ten years ago, Tishkofet has assisted thousands of patients and their families throughout the country in coping with terminal illnesses through a range of innovative programs such as workshops, seminars and retreats.
The walk is dedicated in memory of two local women, Mindy Greenberg and Diane Taragin, both of whom were active and beloved members of the Ra'anana community who fell victim to the disease. The Greenberg and Taragin families have both expressed support for the event.
"According to the latest available statistics, breast cancer strikes one in eight Israeli women," said Tishkofet founder Prof. Ben Corn, MD, who is Chairman of Radiation Oncology at the Tel Aviv Medical Center. He noted that, "in more than a third of the cases, the disease has spread beyond the breast by the time it is detected." As a result, a quarter of those hit by the disease die within two years of being diagnosed.
And while there are differences regarding the incidence of breast cancer among various immigrant groups to Israel, the occurrence of the disease levels out among Israeli-born Jewish women and it does not discriminate whom it strikes.
Some of the more prominent public figures to have been diagnosed with breast cancer include former education minister Yuli Tamir and popular Israeli singer Sharon Haziz. So the disease is not entirely unknown among the public.
Nonetheless, despite breast cancer's appalling frequency and deadly track record, fewer than half of Israeli women over the age of 50 reportedly bother to get a mammogram.
"Early detection and speedy treatment still offer women the best chance of survival - but they need to educate themselves and get tested," Freund said, adding, "We want to drive that point home." Since education is a central part of the struggle against breast cancer, the "happening" immediately following the walk will include lectures by some of Israel's leading experts on the disease.
The line-up includes an impressive array of medical professionals, such as Prof. Moshe Inbar, the Director of the Tel Aviv Medical Center's Oncology Institute, who will address participants about the latest advances in systemic therapy for breast cancer patients.
Tel Hashomer's Prof. Eitan Fridman, who directs the Sheba Medical Center's Onco-Genetics unit, will discuss the genetics behind the disease, while surgeon Dr. Daphna Barsuk will speak about screening procedures.
Other prevention factors, such as eating right, staying physically active and limiting alcohol consumption, will also be highlighted at the event, which will include information tables aimed at making a range of educational materials available to participants.
"Nothing can guarantee that a woman's life will be cancer-free," said Freund, who has a close friend in the US who successfully battled breast cancer. "But if you practice healthy habits and consult your doctor about additional measures you can take, you can reduce your risk of this potentially fatal disease."
"And that is something that every Israeli woman needs to know," she added.
To register in advance for the walk, visit www.tishkofet.co.il. The cost of registration is NIS 50/person or NIS 150/family. All proceeds go to support breast cancer patients and their loved ones.