Merced's goal to boost breast cancer awareness

yamaro@mercedsunstar.comOctober 12, 2012 

— The community this month is engaging in several activities to help bring awareness to breast cancer, including pink shirts, free screenings and talks about the disease.

Alireza Mahmoudieh, a radiation oncologist at El Portal Comprehensive Cancer Center, said it is providing free breast cancer screenings this month; 25 women have taken advantage of the offer, he said.

The center has presented talks throughout the community and held seminars to provide information about breast cancer, Mahmoudieh said.

"If you detect breast cancer early, then you have a much better chance of (curing it) compared to the time when the patient feels the lump," he said. "Detecting it early will save lives."

The most common type of cancer treated at the center is breast cancer, followed by prostate and lung cancer, Mahmoudieh said.

Women interested in getting a free breast cancer screening can call the center and schedule an appointment, he said.

Women with a history of breast cancer in the family are recommended to start getting mammograms at age 35, and those with no history can start their examinations at 40, Mahmoudieh said.

"I think people should use this opportunity and come for a screening," he said.

Mike McLaughlin, chief of the Merced Fire Department, said the department is having a breast cancer awareness campaign this month organized by the Merced Firefighter's Association.

All employees are wearing navy blue shirts with pink every day. In addition, the department has T-shirts for sale, and all the proceeds will go to Mercy Cancer Center. "All of our money is staying 100 percent locally and going to direct patient care for our local patients," he said.

The department has sold hundreds of T-shirts, McLaughlin said. Costco in Merced bought more than 100 and Mercy Medical Center has purchased a large number as well, he said.

Employees at Costco wear pink shirts every Friday in support of the campaign.

Residents can buy T-shirts during normal business hours at 99 E. 16th St.

The fire department ran a similar campaign last October and raised more than $4,000, McLaughlin said.

The money went to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. This year's goal is to raise $10,000, McLaughlin said.

The campaign is not only giving the fire department the opportunity to raise awareness about breast cancer, but also helps by raising money that will go to members of the community, he said.

Charnese Felix, director of the Mercy Cancer Center, said the center has partnered with the fire department's campaign. The staff at the cancer center will be at events organized by the fire department to provide support, she said.

"We are ecstatic," she said of the proceeds that will to go the cancer center. "We are very happy they thought of us."

Late last month, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that will help improve detection of breast cancer in women with dense breast tissue.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, will require women to be informed of the density of their breast and the screening options available to detect breast cancer, among other things.

It's harder to detect cancer in women with dense breast tissue because it reads white, just as an abnormality or cancer would in a mammogram.

Brown vetoed a similar bill sponsored by Simitian last year.

Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or

For more information about events put on by the Merced Fire Department and about the T-shirts that are for sale, visit www.facebook. com/pages/City-of-Merced-Fire-Department/395342437185522

Or call (209) 385-6891>

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