Measured in minutes, Jackson County's Breast Cancer Solidarity Walk -- a symbolic Monday afternoon stroll around the courthouse grounds in downtown Kansas City -- was short, lasting only about six minutes. But measured in terms of how often a woman in the United States is diagnosed with breast cancer, that brief walk equates to another three women somewhere in the U.S. being told they have the potentially deadly disease.
"Every two minutes a woman in the United States is diagnosed with breast cancer," Jackson County Mike Sanders pointed out. "It is the second most common form of cancer overall."
He credited his Senior Advisor Cathy Jolly with starting the Jackson County Solidarity Walk a year ago and for raising awareness about the disease throughout the Kansas City region. (Two Solidarity Walks were held Monday, one at the Historic Truman Courthouse in Independence, then the other at the courthouse in Kansas City.)
Jolly is a breast cancer survivor.
"I am a former member of the Kansas City Council, a former state legislator and now a senior advisor to Mike Sanders," she said during Monday's rally on the courthouse steps in Kansas City. "The reason I mention my affiliations is to underscore that breast cancer can happen to anyone. There's no bias based on education, occupation or ethnicity. In fact, one out of eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime. Breast cancer is the leading cause of death in women ages 15 to 54."
Breast cancer is, according to the American Cancer Society, 100 times less common among men than among women. The disease can strike anyone, however, and at any age.
Early detection is crucial to survival. If discovered while still localized (i.e. before it has spread), breast cancer has a 98 percent survival rate. But many insurance plans won't cover mammograms for younger women, and doctors don't routinely order the crucial diagnostic procedure for women under 40.
"I think as a nation we can do better," said Jolly. "Today, we can communicate with people across the world through the internet. We can solve decades-old crimes through DNA samples. We can even plug a car in at night and then drive it in to work in the morning.
"So I do believe we should be able to solve breast cancer. The nation must be committed to finding a cure."
Jackson County Legislator Ken Bacchus joined Jolly and County Executive Sanders for the Solidarity Walk in Kansas City. He stressed the need to "get yourself checked out."
"Breast cancer awareness is something more people need to talk more about," Bacchus said. "This month, I am celebrating with my sister her fifth year as a breast cancer survivor."
Monday's walks, Sanders emphasized, were "all about raising awareness."
"This is incredibly important for all of us," he said. "There isn't a family in America that hasn't been impacted by cancer and specifically breast cancer."