DR. MARK PORTERIE — Take advantage of every breast cancer screening opportunity

Published 12:08 am Saturday, October 7, 2023

Autumn has arrived, and we are definitely grateful for the rain showers and cooler weather we have experienced during the past few days.

October ushers in many observances and celebrations: Dyslexia, Down Syndrome and Cybersecurity Awareness; Bullying Prevention; School Custodian Appreciation, Child Health Day, Red Ribbon Week; and through October 15, Hispanic Heritage Month.

We also globally promote Breast Cancer Awareness this month. I would imagine that someone who has had some form of cancer has affected each one of us.

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No matter how often we are faced with the disease, or caring for someone who has/had cancer, when the word directly impacts us, it brings on a new meaning.

My mother and father battled cancer for a short time. In both cases, by the time it was detected, it was too late to move forward with any aggressive treatment.

In the aftermath of those experiences, I began to look back over the months that preceded the diagnosis. There were so many symptoms and warnings I felt I should have caught. The weight loss, the slowness in their steps and just being their son, I should have known.

One lesson that I will never forget happened with my dad. There came a time that he did not want to eat. Well, I felt he needed to eat to keep up his strength; so, I constantly encouraged him to eat. And he would just hold the food in his jaw.

I did not think about the possibility that he could aspirate when he would try to swallow. I realized that at some point, a person just cannot eat; and it is so unfair that we try to force them to eat because of what we feel is best for them.

There are times that we care for people and do for them what we feel is right, and not what is actually right for the person we are caring for. We must come to the realization that we must put the patient’s thoughts and feelings first and allow our common sense to prevail.

Early detection is one of the best remedies for fighting cancer. This month, we are focusing on breast cancer. Breast cancer screening means checking your breast for cancer before there are signs or symptoms of the disease.

A mammogram is an X-ray picture of the breast. Doctors use a mammogram to look for early signs of breast cancer. Regular mammograms are the best tests doctors have to find breast cancer early.

Many people fear the pain they believe is associated with mammograms so ultrasounds can also be requested to check for signs of breast cancer.

When we hear of someone having breast cancer, a large percentage of people automatically think of women; however, men are at risk of breast cancer, too.

Peter Criss, founding member of the rock band KISS, calls himself “the luckiest man on the planet” after he survived a breast cancer scare. Moreover, those of us that came up in the 70s remember the movie, “Shaft,” with actor Richard Roundtree. Yes, Richard Roundtree is a breast cancer survivor; and there are many more men that have been diagnosed with breast cancer and are survivors.

There are many support groups in our area that screen for breast cancer and fundraise to provide free mammograms for qualifying people. The Julie Rogers Gift of Life organization hosts year-round screening for men and women.

It is up to us to take advantage of every opportunity to screen and address the results. If you feel or see something that concerns you, please say something to your doctor or any physician. The sooner cancer is diagnosed, the better the chances for survival.

We must move away from being afraid to get tested or seek medical help when we suspect or know something’s not right with our health. When faced with a cancer diagnosis, the battle is just as much mental as it is physical. It’s mind over matter.

If you are currently in the fight, believe you will beat the disease and do everything you can to treat it so that we can celebrate your survivorship.

The first nine-week period will end on Friday/Oct. 13; but report cards will be issued the following Friday/Oct. 20.

We encourage each and every one of our 8,200+ parents to review the report cards using the online parent portal, Home Access Center, found under the PARENTS menu on our website, paisd.org, and if there are questions about your child’s progress – or lack thereof – please do not hesitate to contact your child’s teacher(s).

We wholeheartedly encourage parental involvement and open communication with our campuses.

Happy Fall, y’all!

Dr. Mark Porterie is superintendent of schools for the Port Arthur Independent School District. He can be reached at mporterie@paisd.org.