Two hundred small flags were planted on Zerger Field at the weekend Relay for Life, each representing a person in Pratt County who will be diagnosed with cancer during the next year.


Two hundred small flags were planted on Zerger Field at the weekend Relay for Life, each representing a person in Pratt County who will be diagnosed with cancer during the next year.

Cancer is a battle, and some people can win it. Some will win after an early skirmish; others may apply evasive tactics.

Dozens of Relay for Life participants signed a personal pledge to do something to win the battle. Greg Brenzikofer, a visiting “Hero of Hope” from Newton, described his own battle with non Hodgkins lymphoma. Early detection was the key to his survival, he said at a 1 a.m. Fight Back ceremony at the Relay.

Entertainment chair Jack Ewing shared his pledge .

“I’ve been doing this for 15 years and I’ve never had a prostate exam,” he said. “I’m going to do that this year.”

Event co-chair Christine Brenner pledged to have a mammogram every year and help her son quit smoking.

Brenzikofer related a story from the Harvey County Relay, where an 8-year-old pledged to “get Grandpa off the couch and make him start doing some exercises.”

“Cancer takes guts; cancer takes determination,” the Rev. Fred Pinkerton said, charging those present with encouraging the people they love to get checked.

The same could be said of making lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of developing cancer. Breaking a smoking habit, learning to eat less or differently or starting and maintaining a regular program of exercise also take determination.

Fight Back with Facts

Much of the suffering and death from cancer could be prevented by more systematic efforts to reduce tobacco use, improve diet and physical activity, reduce obesity and expand the use of established screening tests.

• Tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the U.S. Most smokers become addicted before they can legally buy tobacco. Twenty-three percent of high school students smoke, and almost half say they smoke frequently. Quit smoking at age 30 can add 10 years to your life; gain three years by quitting at age 60.

• Overweight and obesity contribute to 14 to 20 percent of all cancer-related deaths. Recent studies show losing weight may reduce the risk of breast cancer. Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese; 17 percent of adolescents are overweight; and 35 percent of adults are obese.

• The vast majority of skin cancers are caused by unprotected exposure to ultraviolet radiation, primarily from the sun. Skin cancer is responsible for a small percentage of cancer deaths, but the ACS predicts 1 million cases of basal and squamous skin cancers and 62,480 malignant melanomas in 2008. The risk of melanoma among people with a history of sunburns doubles.

• Sixty-one percent of breast cancers are detected at the localized stage, for which the 5-year survival rate is 98 percent. Only about two-thirds of women over the age of 40 reported receiving a mammogram in the past two years and the rate has not changed since 2000.

• Ninety percent of people who have colon cancer but do not yet have symptoms can be cured if polyps are detected and removed during a colonoscopy, recommended every 10 years beginning at age 50.

Source: American Cancer Society