While the Georgia Cancer Center can help those diagnosed with many different forms of cancer, the team also has a program available to help you lower your risk of cancer.
Your Health Matters is a series of classes created to educate people about cancer, the risk factors for specific cancers such as breast, kidney, lung, skin and others, and ways to lower the risks. Your Health Matters classes also offer educational materials that participants can share with others.
“We are a resource to the various communities we serve,” said Christine O’Meara, community outreach coordinator and the creator of the Your Health Matters series. “We know that people have gone for screenings based on classes we have given, such as skin cancer screenings.”
There are six, one-hour classes, where O’Meara and Amy McIntyre, community program coordinator for the Georgia Cancer Center, educate church groups, students, business leaders and community influencers on steps they can take to stay healthy. O’Meara and McIntyre also share information about screening opportunities and discuss ways to detect cancer early or reduce the risk of developing cancer.
“People come to us requesting topics and we will present information to their groups,” McIntyre said. “We did a community needs assessment this past year to gauge what the community identifies as the needs around cancer, cancer information, cancer care, what are the barriers to care. We were able to tap into this vast network to say we need your input.”
While there is no order to the classes, the core topics are:
- Prostate Cancer: What You Didn’t Know
- Sun Smart and Skin Safe
- Kidney Disease & Kidney Cancer: Is There a Connection?
- Fingers, Forks and Feet: Obesity and Cancer
- Tobacco and Electronic-Cigarettes: Reality Check
- ABC’s of Breast Cancer
Multiple churches in Augusta’s River Region have partnered with O’Meara and McIntyre to bring the Your Health Matters series to their congregations. One of those was Moses Missionary Baptist Church. Vivian Carpenter, director of the health ministry at the church, went through all six classes starting in January 2019. The collaboration with Moses Missionary Baptist Church is an excellent example of helping the health ministry meet its goals of educating the congregation and community.
“Our pastor likes for us to do community outreach service and since we are a health care ministry,” Carpenter said. “Ms. O’Meara and Ms. McIntyre did a wonderful job presenting the information throughout all six classes. Their presentations were very thorough and truly captured the audience’s attention.”
O’Meara and McIntyre can present to audiences of varied ages and literacy levels to share user-friendly information and to create practical action steps.
“During the tobacco presentation, we had three people make life-changing decisions,” Carpenter said. “Two members of our congregation said they were giving up smoking. We are working with a third person who is determined to quit.”
O’Meara and McIntyre are always looking to collaborate with other churches that want to educate their congregations about cancer. They can also work with businesses interested in improving the health of their employees. Or, civic groups looking for educational information during monthly meetings.
“We found in the community that there’s still a lot of stigma with cancer,” O’Meara said. “But, education helps address this stigma. When we tell people that we’re here to promote health, people’s antennas go up because they want to be healthy and stay healthy.”
There have also been numerous times when cancer survivors attending the classes speak up to share their stories. “We welcome them sharing their experiences so that we all learn about the impact cancer has, how they managed, and how they are doing now,” says O’Meara.
“There’s rarely a time where we present to a group and don’t hear a cancer survivor story,” McIntyre said. “I know I hear them all the time. We are honored that they choose to share their stories with us. We hope that in sharing their stories, they are able to continue to move through their process of survivorship.”