Published on 10/23/08

Cooking class teaches about cancer

By April Sorrow
University of Georgia

Each year, 410 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed in Georgia, and 120 women die from it. Almost 5,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in Georgia, and 1,014 die from it every year. Specialists with University of Georgia Cooperative Extension want women to know the benefits of cancer screenings. Early detection can make all the difference.

“We help women understand the regular screening tends to help detect any changes in the breast or cervix before they get serious,” said Connie Crawley, a UGA Extension health and nutrition specialist. “We also teach that lifestyle can reduce risk. This includes eating more fruits and vegetables, controlling calories to achieve a healthy weight, not drinking alcohol and being as physically active as possible.”

Crawley and UGA Extension agents from across the state deliver the Cooking for a Life Time Cancer Prevention Cooking School. The classes are taught by a team with members from the BreasTest and More staff and the American Cancer Society. They are led by UGA Extension family and consumer sciences agents.

The schools are taught in counties with the highest incidences and death rates associated with breast and cervical cancers. Twenty-three schools were offered in sixteen counties in 2006 and 2007. The ACS helped fund classes in 20 additional counties in 2008.

“For many women, once they are no longer having children, they begin to skip regular Pap tests and breast cancer screenings,” said Crawley. “Also, many women do not realize that they can get their services through the BreasTest and More Program if they do not have insurance.”

Through the school, 429 women have been referred to BreasTest and More. Eighty-three women received clinical breast exams, 81 got mammograms and 44 had Pap tests. Many of these women had rarely or never been screened for cancer. Two women were diagnosed with breast cancer.

The school refers women to the Cancer Screening program established by the Georgia Department of Human Resources. The program offers Pap tests to low-income, uninsured women between the ages of 18 and 64 and mammograms to women between the ages of 40 and 64.

UGA Extension along with other state extension services partner with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Cancer Institute and ACS to increase screening for breast and cervical cancers in women who rarely if ever get screened. These women are often poor and live in counties with high rates of cancer-related deaths.

In 2006, 12 percent of Georgia women over the age of 18 did not get regular Pap tests and 21 percent over the age of 40 did not get mammograms. Nationally and in Georgia, the less money a woman makes annually, the less likely she is to get regular cancer screenings, according to the CDC.

In 2006, 18 percent of Georgia women earning less than $15,000 a year did not get Pap tests, twice the percentage of those earning between $35,000 and $50,000 annually.

For more information on healthy life choices, cancer classes or the cooking school, contact a local UGA Extension office at 1-800-ASK-UGA1.

April R. Sorrow is a science writer with the University of Georgia Public Affairs Office.