WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- Too many black women in the U.S. are still dying from cancer. A local support group is enlisting area hair salons in raising awareness. It's called the "Big Chop To Stop Cancer" campaign.
Buddy Check 9 has shown you the lengths some women with breast cancer will go to keep their hair from falling out like freezing the scalp. The Penguin Cold Cap works on all hair types but breast cancer survivor Tychesia Thompson is going short and staying natural. The style change comes as she begins the next phase of her cancer journey. Earlier this year, the 33-year-old university English teacher thought the lumps she felt in her breasts were just cysts -- she was wrong.
"I have DCIS, intermediate grade 2. I have two masses in my right breast. I'm about 4 centimeters apart," said Tychesia.
She credits early detection for not needing chemo or radiation therapy after her mastectomy, which means no hair loss. Still, Tychesia's voluntarily in the chair at JAHA Studio in Silver Spring getting a very short cut in solidarity with other young black women facing cancer.
She told us, "I hope by my doing this other women aren't apprehensive about being tested, about touching their breasts to detect something."
It's all part of a national campaign called the "Big Chop To Stop Cancer." Putting beauty and health together in a salon setting to raise awareness about getting screened, early detection and survival was the idea of Zuri Works For Women's Health founder and executive director Andrene Taylor. At 34, she is a three-time Hodgkins Lymphoma survivor.
"Our hair is part of our identity," said Dr. Taylor. "... The idea that you're not going to have control over that hair because of something like cancer can be devastating."
It's so devastating that some women don't get screened or they delay their cancer treatments. That, says the National Cancer Institute, contributes to the higher than average cancer mortality rates among black women compared to white women.
So Zuri Works For Women's Health partners with area hair salons, training stylists in how to nurture women going through treatment and how to engage others about staying on top of their health.
"The salon is a trusted place within the African-American community," said Taylor. "... This has been proven to be a space of great influence and change."
JAHA owner Susan Peterkin-Bishop agrees. "A woman chooses a hair salon, a woman chooses her stylist...there has to be a connection, nurturing, level of trust, has to be trust," said Peterkin-Bishop.
Big Chop doesn't end today. Tychesia can come back for four-more sessions. Zuri Works also offers oncology massages, acupuncture, nutritional counseling, small financial assistance, even house cleaning.
"These women are doing a style change to create change. They are walking billboards and spokespersons for letting people know that 70% of all cancers are preventable. 90% of all cancers are curable if caught in Stage 1," said Taylor.
Best wishes to Tychesia Thompson who's recovering this morning. On Wednesday she underwent a mastectomy and immediate reconstruction with a tissue expander.
While the "Big Chop To Stop Cancer" is aimed at black women, all women, with any hair texture are invited to participate. If you're a stylist and want to partner with ZuriWorks, you can sign up at their website, www.zuriworks.org.
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