By Joel Hall
For the fourth year in a row, hundreds of residents from the Southern Crescent were able to receive free health screenings, and potentially life-saving information during the 13th Congressional District Health Fair.
The annual event took place Saturday at Mundy's Mill High School in Jonesboro, this year with a special focus on breast cancer. More than 100 booths were set up by healthcare providers and community groups to conduct the screenings and disseminate information.
The event also featured the advice of Dr. Rogsbert Phillips, one of the nation's foremost experts on breast cancer, as well as commentary from notable survivors of the disease, including JaQuitta Williams, WSB-TV news anchor and reporter, and Alfredia Scott, wife of U.S. Rep. David Scott (D-Ga), who hosts the health fair every year.
Phillips said fear still deters many women and men from getting checked for breast cancer. However, she said health fairs, such as the one on Saturday, help dispel the myths.
"The most important thing we need to know is that breast cancer is no longer a death sentence," said Phillips. She said recent advances in research have allowed doctors to locate and treat breast cancer in its earlier stages.
"Health fairs are extremely important, because people come out," said Phillips. "A lot of people have health insurance, but a lot of people don't, so this is one way we can address the health disparages."
Most forms of breast cancer feed on estrogen produced by the body, and in recent years, doctors have found drugs that can inhibit estrogen production. One year ago, Williams was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, a less common, deadlier form of breast cancer, which does not feed on estrogen.
Williams urged people to be comfortable with themselves enough to check themselves for breast cancer and receive treatment if necessary.
"Yes, hearing the words, 'you have breast cancer' are difficult to hear, but yes, you can survive it," said Williams. "If I had not been comfortable with myself, I still may be walking around with a tumor."
"If you don't have health, you don't have anything," said Alfredia Scott. "Ten years ago, I had breast cancer. If you can find out early that you have breast cancer, you will be a survivor like myself."
David Scott said giving people a chance to hear the personal stories of well-known cancer survivors may encourage people to seek help themselves. He credited the health fair as being a way for those without means to seek the proper treatment for cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other problems affecting the community.
"This is about doing God's work ... saving people's lives," said Scott. "For those who can't afford to go to the doctor, every year, they know they can go to Mundy's Mill High School and get all the tests they need.
"All of this is free," Scott continued. "That's how you bring down the cost of health care."
Marland Mays, a resident of Fulton County, said he travels every year to Clayton County to take advantage of the health fair.
"I'm in Fulton County, but I always come down every time they have this," said Mays. "I have a diabetic trait, so it's good to know about the diseases, and it's free.
"You can't beat that," he said.