Breast Fest to combine education, fun, awareness

WEIRTON – Weirton Medical Center will host the first-ever Breast Fest, an evening dedicated to breast cancer awareness, education and fun, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 3 in the medical center atrium.

The medical center is partnering with Athena’s Closet, a local nonprofit group assisting cancer patients with expenses not covered by insurance. Dr. Carol Slomski, breast surgeon, praised the group’s initiative and work helping cancer patients.

“When we first met, I learned about the work they do in the area, supporting people with cancer, and, of course, I heard the story of Athena,” she said. “It’s a great group.”

Athena’s Closet was formed to honor Athena Ameredes, who died following a long bout with cancer.

“We’re very excited to partner with them,” said Kelli McCoy, medical center spokesperson.

The proceeds of the event will be split between Athena’s Closet and the Weirton Medical Center Foundation to support breast disease programming.

“Basically, we wanted to do something to celebrate and recognize breast cancer survivors and those with cancer,” said Dr. Carol Slomski, breast surgeon.

The evening will have two components – an educational panel and a bra-decorating contest.

Several medical experts will hold a panel to discuss breast cancer and related fields with the goal of dispelling myths, said Slomski.

“There are still a lot of misunderstanding about breast disease,” she said.

The panel will include surgeons, a plastic surgeon, radiologists and pathologists. The panel will break down breast disease myths and discuss breast care facts and advances in the field. One example of a myth is that breast implants cause cancer or makes cancer more difficult to detect, and the panel’s plastic surgeon will address this myth, said Slomski.

“Sometimes, it seems, everywhere you look (in October), there’s pink,” said Slomski. “Sometimes, the reason why we’re doing it gets lost. That’s why we’re not only celebrating survivors, but trying to educate. New advances are happening all the time. The survival rate has gone up to approximately 85 percent.”

Advances in breast care in the past decade can be a source of hope to those affected by the disease, said Slomski. Earlier detection, medical advances and discovering risk factors and preventive measures have made the disease more treatable than ever before.

“If you think of all that has been learned in the last 10 years – back in 2000, 2002, we learned that women taking (hormone therapy) progestin had a higher risk,” said Slomski. “When that hit the press, thousands of women stopped taking it. Four or five years later, we had lower rates attributed to women having stopped taking it.”

Medications have become more effective, with less side effects, and treatments that allow longer and better quality of life. Even chemotherapy side effects have been lessened.

“Within the last year, a new drug has been developed with two parts – one that attaches to the cancer cell and the second part to go in there and kill it,” said Slomski.

Slomski encouraged women to become familiar with their bodies so they can detect changes early and bring them to their doctor’s attention.

“This is something they can easily do for themselves,” she said.

In addition, a healthy diet and moderate exercise can lower the risk of breast cancer.

“Just going for a walk – it’s a means of exercise pretty much anyone can do, no gym membership required,” said Slomski. “It’s something so simple people can do that has extraordinary benefits.”

Slomski noted some women have a higher hereditary risk for breast cancer, such as actress Angelina Jolie, who recently underwent a preventive mastectomy.

“We had a lot of question about that,” said Slomski, noting the type of genetic risk factor Jolie had effects about 5 percent of those with breast cancer.

Test have been developed to determine if a woman is at greater risk because of genetic factors.

“The biggest risk is being a woman. As women, we are all at risk, but if your mother, your aunt or any family members have had cancer at a young age, then you should be tested,” she said.

There also will be a tour of the medical center’s breast care unit and radiology in an effort to make women more comfortable and less apprehensive about breast care visits. The tour will include the medical center’s recently purchased 3-D mammogram unit as well as the area where biopsies take place.

“We want women to know we’re all friends, we’re trying to do this in the best way possible and to make them as comfortable as possible,” said Slomski. “People have this impression of cold, metal, but we want them to know we try to make this as pleasant as possible.”

A question-and-answer session will follow the panel discussion.

“The second part, it’s about women coming together in the spirit of friendship and support,” said Slomski.

The bra-decorating contest has been embraced with enthusiasm by medical center employees and the greater community. Several medical center departments have designed their own entries, as have several local businesses and organizations.

“It’s taken off – we’re very excited,” said Slomski.

Those wanting to make a last-minute entry in the bra-decorating contest can visit the medical center’s website at and register for the contest. The entry fee is $25 per bra.

The event also will include door prizes, food and special nonalcoholic drinks dubbed “Pink Ladies.”

“We’re very excited and proud of what Dr. Slomski and the committee have done,” said McCoy.

“I’m proud this team is so dedicated to educating women and men,” said Slomski. “We’ve got some intensely dedicated people helping put together the programming – radiology, pathology, nursing – everyone is in this together. This is about all women in the community coming together, learning, dispelling some myths, supporting each other and having a good time.”

The medical center is grateful for the community support from the entries in the bra-decorating contest to donations of door prizes, said McCoy.

For information about the Breast Fest, sponsorship opportunities and registration, call (304) 797-6046 or (304) 797-6433.

(Wallace-Minger can be contacted at