TUSCALOOSA COUNTY, AL (WBRC) - New early detection breast cancer research shows why many women, primarily in rural areas, aren't getting breast exams.
University of Alabama nursing assistant professor and researcher Dr. Mary Ann Kelley said 75-85 percent of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer haven't had a relative battling the disease before.
Yet, there is this myth that if it doesn't run in the family, you might not get it, which she said is simply not true.
"Nobody in my family has breast cancer. Why did my mother have to get it? Basically being a female makes you high risk. Here I am, a nurse and a teacher, and yet I have a mother that doesn't understand breast cancer awareness and things she can do to actually live," said Kelley.
A tough lesson learned for anyone, but it inspired Dr. Kelley's research.
It's intervention based, providing programs for women in rural counties like Greene and Hale.
She shows them how to stay ahead of the disease, but through it, she discovered a cultural problem.
Dr. Kelley said some women hear the word cancer and think death sentence. Which is why getting a breast exam can seem pretty scary but it can potentially save a life.
"The main reason that some women to get early detection is sometimes fear. They don't want to hear about it. They don't want to talk about it," said Kelley.
Dr. Kelley said yearly mammograms are still the number one way to detect the cancer, but you can self-exam yourself monthly too.
"We are emphasizing to go to your health care provider to be trained. You have to know your breast so if there is a change it isn't half hazard you know that wasn't there last month," said Kelley.
Dr. Kelley learned from her own research and she caught the early stages of breast cancer. She is now cancer free.
"I'm a living witness. I'm a survivor along with the 2.8 million women in America," said Kelley.
Dr. Kelley said obesity is also linked to breast cancer incidents.
In her intervention research with women she gives them options on how they can stay healthy, one way she said is through group fitness.