Students at South Florida State College turned out on Oct. 1 to kick off Breast Cancer Awareness month.

An overflow crowd of more than 200 students crammed into a classroom theater on the Highlands Campus to hear Mary Gardner, a diagnostic radiologist, speak about breast cancer in both women and men.

Gardner, who treats patients at the Breast Cancer Center of Florida Hospital Heartland Medical Center, gave students a crash course on the latest technological advancements in diagnostic procedures designed to detect breast cancer.

SFSC’s Hispanic Students Association and Student Nurses Association sponsored the event with the support of the Student Government Association. Breast Cancer Awareness Month, held every October, aims to increase awareness of the disease and to raise funds for research, diagnosis, and treatment.

SFSC Breast Cancer Event

SFSC students attend breast cancer awareness presentation.

“Our goal is to get more involved in the community,” said Eddie Cuencas, who guides young students toward completing their education at SFSC and serves as an adviser to the Hispanic student’s group.

“We thought breast cancer was the right issue to rally around as a way to connect with the community,” Cuencas said.

After Gardner spoke a female and male nursing student took turns demonstrating how to perform a gender-specific self-examination for breast cancer.

Peyton Elizabeth Sullivan, a nursing student at SFSC who demonstrated the self-examination procedure for women, said the presentation helped her become better aware of the need to educate her patients how to detect breast cancer.

“Those of us in the medical professions have an obligation to our patients to educate them in ways that will reduce their risk for breast cancer,” Sullivan said.

Breast cancer doesn’t just affect women. About 2,350 U.S. males will receive a diagnosis of invasive breast cancer in 2015, according to the American Cancer Society.

“Until today, I did not realize that breast cancer touched men and in such large numbers,” Cuencas said. “Today’s event was a real eye-opener for me.”

Cynthia Acevedo, who lost her mother to breast cancer, painted a picture of family life after cancer strikes. When her mother died after a three-year illness, Acevedo was 17 years old and found herself rearing her younger siblings, who were 15 and 5 years old.

“Cancer changed my life and that of my two younger brothers,” said Acevedo, an SFSC alumna who now works as a program manager for the Highlands County health department. “Being able to share my story and encourage others was a great opportunity.”

The students plan to put on several fundraising events leading up to next April’s Relay for Life, an annual event sponsored by the American Cancer Society that raises money to fund cancer research.

For more information on the students’ efforts during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, contact Eddie Cuencas at 863-784-7161 or email him at CuencasE@southflorida.edu.