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Sunday, January 24, 2021

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Alpha Kappa Alpha spreads breast cancer awareness

"The worst thing you can probably think about as a college student is, 'When can I make time to do this paper?' and not being diagnosed with something as serious as breast cancer," said Jeanine Mowbray, president of University of Richmond's chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.

In 2008, a member of AKA received a diagnosis of breast cancer and survived.

Monday night, Oct. 28, the sorority held an event in the student's honor to spread breast cancer awareness among current Richmond students. BRAvo was a two-hour event where students decorated bras, listened to a volunteer speaker from the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation and watched male students model the decorated bras in a fashion show.

Mowbray said that since a college-aged member of AKA had been given a diagnosis of the sorority had developed a strong interest in spreading breast cancer awareness.

"It takes something happening close to home to impact people sometimes," said Danielle Lahee, chairwoman of AKA's breast cancer awareness month committee.

At the end of the night, the sorority presented awards to the most expressive models and to the students with the most popular bras.

Thirteen teams of two students each decorated bras and had to donate $5 to the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation to participate.

"At first, we started off partnering with the Susan G. Komen Association," Mowbray said. "But we've been with the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation for a few years because we wanted to make sure that the money that we're actually raising will help the area that we're in now."

Jackie Condelli, the speaker from the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation, said that college-aged women did not typically receive diagnoses of breast cancer.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, from 2000 to 2009 just 5.2 percent of overall breast cancer cases in the United States were among women ages 20-39. About 18 percent of breast cancer cases were among 40 to 49 year-old women and 45 percent were among women ages 50 to 69.

"Young people do get it but it really isn't that common," Condelli said. "I mean, they don't even tell you to get a mammogram until you're 40."

Condelli said that even though breast cancer was rare among young women, it was important for students to be aware of their family history and know about what they can do to prevent breast cancer.

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A portion of the event was also dedicated to educating men about their risks of getting breast cancer.

"The numbers are much smaller, but it's an issue and it's becoming something that is of more interest because men are getting it and not understanding why they have it," Condelli said. Mowbray said that AKA had chosen the creative format of the BRAvo event to bring together a diverse group of students.

"Most people can say, 'I've been affected by breast cancer, or any kind of cancer for the matter,'" Mowbray said. "I think that this will definitely be an event that we will continue next year."

Editor's Note: The AKA alumna that was mentioned in this story was not named out of respect for her privacy.

Contact staff writer Brennan Long at brennan.long@richmond.edu

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