McDuffie County ranks in the top ten counties in Georgia for high mortality rates from breast cancer, and Team Up is not going to take it lying down. Locally, Team Up is a partnership between the American Cancer Society, The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, and the McDuffie County Health Department.
The local Team Up held cooking classes on Tuesday, Sept. 19 and 26 at the Senior Center. The purpose of the classes was to teach women how to prepare meals and snacks to reduce their risk of cancer and other chronic diseases.
The recipes were provided by the Extension, and the ACS paid for the food. Celebrity Chef for both evenings was McDuffie Sheriff Logan Marshall.
County Extension Agent Caroline Richardson said she and Viriginia Bradshaw, the director of the health department, were thinking of possibilities for the celebrity chef, when the Sheriff's name came up.
"I said 'That's perfect, I don't know if he cooks, but we'll make him look good.,'" Ms. Richardson said. "So when I called him, he said yes right away with no hesitation."
The Sheriff showed the group how to make Zucchini Italian Style and Apple & Grape Salad.
"The food was just so healthy for you and tasty, I really thought it was good," Sheriff Marshall said. "I like cooking anyway, and that gave me some experience to try new recipes...It was great for the extension agent and the health department to do that in conjunction with the awareness of breast cancer. And I just thought it was just a good idea."
Before the cooking demonstrations, Nurse Kathy Linebarger from the health department taught the ladies about self breast examination, mammograms and types of breast cancer. Ms. Bradshaw explained the BreasTEST & More program, which provides mammograms for uninsured women who are 40-64 years of age. Ms. Bradshaw said not all of the women in attendance were eligible for the free program, "but that's okay, because they are getting educated anyway."
"Our goal is to get women who are uninsured or who have rarely been screened or never screened. We are targeting those women. We feel like the statistics are high because women are not going in to be tested, to catch the problem early. So our goal is to get those women in and get those women tested and we are doing that through the cooking school," Ms. Richardson said.
McDuffie County was the sixth top county in the state for breast cancer mortality rates, with 39 reported cases and 22 deaths in 2000, according to the Georgia Cancer Registry. Ms. Bradshaw said the county also has one of the highest rates of mammograms performed, so she doesn't understand the statistics.
"We are real surprised we are one of the counties on the list...Sometimes these numbers can get skewed. I don't know that our rates are any higher than anywhere else, but if they give us money to do a program, then we don't complain," she said.
The second class focused on education about cervical cancer. McDuffie County was not listed as having a high rate of this type of cancer, but Ms. Richardson said she still feels impressed to educate women about it.
"Because I just learned that cervical cancer, that no one has to die from it, because it's caused from a virus, and if it's caught early, then it doesn't even have to turn into cancer," she said. "So that's where we feel like we can make a difference is to get women in to get tested."
The classes were free and literature was given away at each class, along with the prepared food and cash door prizes. Ms. Richardson said she hopes to offer more cancer awareness classes in the fall of 2007. For more information, call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345, or the McDuffie County Health Department at 706-595-1740.