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Brunswick County, Va two-time breast cancer survivor stresses screening, early detection

Oct 26, 2022

Elisha Hicks

Like many women, Elisha Hicks figuratively wears many hats. The 47-year-old is a wife, mother, grandmother and graduate of Brunswick High School. She is also a two-time breast cancer survivor.

“In January 2014, I noticed that my nipple was leaking,” Hicks remembered. “At first, the doctor thought it was a cyst, and I had it removed. Two weeks after my surgery, I went for my checkup before returning to work and found out I had breast cancer. Then in June 2017, I was diagnosed for the second time after noticing my breast was sore and tender. Both times, the cancer was caught at the beginning stages.”

For October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Hicks recently took part in an interview with Teya Whitehead, coordinator at the Massey Cancer Resource Center - Lawrenceville. The Brunswick Times-Gazette published it as part of the ‘Your Health, Your Community’ column, a partnership between VCU Massey Cancer Center, Central Virginia Health Services (CVHS) and Brunswick Health Ambassadors (BHA).

Between 2015 and 2019, more people died from breast cancer in Brunswick County (25.6 deaths per 100,000 population per year) than the mortality rate for Massey (23.7 deaths per 100,000 population per year), Virginia (20.9 deaths per 100,000 population per year) and the United States (19.9 deaths per 100,000 population per year).

The incidence of breast cancer for Brunswick between 2014 and 2018 (150 cases per 100,000 population per year) is higher than rates during the same time period for Massey’s entire catchment area (136.2 cases per 100,000 population per year), all of Virginia (126.4 cases per 100,000 population per year) and the United States (126.8 cases per 100,000 population per year). 

Brunswick has a lower mammography screening rate (46%) for 2019 than that of the entire Massey catchment area (48%), which consists of 66 counties and cities, spanning the eastern, central and southern portions of the state.

“It is important for women and men to do monthly self–checks to stay ahead of the game. The key factor is catching cancer early,” said Hicks about why she stresses the importance of screening and early detection. “The more I talk about it with friends, family and the community, I feel like they can learn and understand the importance of timely doctor appointments and self-examination.”

Hicks, who has worked locally for the Department of Corrections for more than 20 years, described herself as a “tough cookie” who took on her diagnoses and treatments head on. She now shares her experience with as many people as she can to help others.

“Do your yearly checkup, that’s for women and men,” Hicks recommended. “Know resources in your community. VCU Massey Cancer Resource Center – Lawrenceville (CRC) and Brunswick County Cancer Association (BCCA) have been a tremendous part of my journey, and I thank them both. But, the most important factor is knowing your body. If something does not feel right, go to the doctor. If you need a second opinion, get it.”

The CRC – Lawrenceville is available to help individuals in Brunswick and surrounding counties schedule screening appointments and overcome other barriers related to financial assistance, transportation and more. For more information, contact the CRC – Lawrenceville at engagemassey@vcu.edu or (434) 532–8190.
Written by: Amy Lacey

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