Community bands together against breast cancer

Day in and day out, the Russellville Fire Department is at work in the community – responding to car accidents, taking on house fires and doing whatever is needed to help ensure safety and save lives in Franklin County. In October, the department takes on a life-saving challenge of a different sort.

Since 2011 the RFD has held a T-shirt fundraiser every summer/fall to raise money in honor of breast cancer awareness. The RFD donates proceeds from T-shirt sales to Russellville Hospital, where the funds go toward free mammograms and breast ultrasounds for women who qualify.

“They had the idea that they wanted to sell the shirts and give the hospital the money,” explained Keri Moody, practice manager at Russellville Hospital

Pam Welborn, director of nursing, oversees all clinical departments at Russellville Hospital – which includes radiology and mammography.

“Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, no matter your race or ethnicity,” Welborn said. “It is also the most common cause of death from cancer among Hispanic women.”

Welborn said it’s estimated that one in eight women in the U.S. – 12.4 percent will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. “It’s recommended that women start getting annual screenings and the age of 40” – or even earlier if they have a family history or, of course, if they discover an abnormality.

Early detection leads to an almost 100 percent revival rate, so it’s no surprise that Russellville Hospital is doing its best to make these screenings as accessible and affordable as possible. During the month of October, the hospital offers a cash special of $40 for a mammogram. A special is also offered in May in honor of Mother’s Day. A woman might be referred to Russellville Hospital for a mammogram or other screening by her doctor, and based on her ability to pay, the hospital can determine if she qualifies to benefit from the free mammogram program funded by the RFD.

The department has donated more than $13,000 to the program since its initiation in 2011. Capt. Randy Seal took over coordination of T-shirt sales this year.

“It’s another way we try to help out,” Seal said. “It’s just a good cause. There are ladies who need help as far as getting tests done for early detection, and this is another way to save lives.”

T-shirts have a unique design each year, and the RFD is still accepting orders for this year’s shirt, although they might not be delivered before the month is over, at this point. Cost is $15 for short-sleeved or $20 for long-sleeved. Visit either RFD Station to place an order.

Buffy Ozbirn and Tina Willis, both longtime employees of Russellville Hospital, are both licensed mammography technologists for the hospital, so they are trained in positioning and operating the mammography machine.

The hospital boasts a new digital mammography unit, purchased in 2016, that provides clearer imaging and easier to read, more accurate results. Patients can be in and out in no more than an hour from the time they walk in the door to the time they leave, with about 20 minutes for the actual mammogram. Welborn said more than 100 people a month take advantage of having their mammogram at Russellville Hospital.

“We really appreciate what the fire department does for the hospital and the community,” Moody said. “It’s a very worthy cause.”

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