Promoting Breast Health Awareness on College Campuses

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Promoting Breast Health Awareness on College Campuses

Lillie D. Shockney, RN, BS, MAS, ONN-CG 

Many any young women, ages 18 to 22, are away from their parents, living on college campuses and exposed to lifestyle behaviors that can increase their risk of getting breast cancer. Now that they have come of age, this is also a group that begins to fear this disease, joining the millions of women worldwide who are afraid that one day they will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Many attempts have been made in the past to educate college-age women about breast health issues and most particularly breast cancer. The goal of these educational programs has historically fallen short due to low attendance and lack of measurable knowledge learned. Given that this is a challenging consumer group to reach and teach, in 2001, alpha Kappa Delta Phi, a small sorority at the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Homewood campus, partnered with the Johns Hopkins Avon Foundation Breast Center to create a unique method of education and called it a Breastival™.

Eighty flash cards were created (true/false and multiple choice), and 8 breast cancer organizations were recruited to have booths where the flash cards would be shown. When a student answered a question correctly, she advanced to the next booth. Students who answered a question at all 8 booths were rewarded with “booby prizes.” Not only was this first event successful, its success was measurable. We knew the number of students who came to the event (more than half of the students living on campus), which questions they answered correctly and incorrectly, how many visited every booth, and whether they wanted to receive e-mail reminders to mark their calendar each month to perform their breast self-exams. A list of the myths that students assumed were true (such as antiperspirants being the cause of breast cancer) were recorded and incorporated into teaching activities provided later.

Just a few days after this first Breastival was held, students from other college campuses across the United States (who were actually siblings of JHU students) began calling the Director of the Breast Center inquiring how they could hold a Breastival on their campus. This resulted in the Breastival program being trademarked under Johns Hopkins Medicine. A Breastival Resource and Planning Kit was created and distributed for a nominal fee to sororities, other breast centers, nursing schools, and other cancer organizations that wanted to replicate this “learn and earn” model of educating people about breast health and breast cancer.

Over the past decade, more than 250 college sororities, breast centers, and breast cancer organizations have purchased the kit and held a Breastival in their geographic area. Many have continued to hold the event annually. These events have also been held in other countries, including Canada, New Zealand, and the United Arab Emirates.

Recently, St Jude Medical Center (SJMC) in Orange County, California, conducted 2 Brestival events. On the following pages, we present a report by Danelle Johnston, RN, BSN, OCN, CBCN, detailing the SJMC Breastival experience.

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