FORT WORTH -- Breast cancer advocates from around the world waved pink glow sticks and tapped to the beat of more than a dozen drums as the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Affiliate Leadership Conference got off to a noisy start Friday.
Dressed in a pink pantsuit, Komen founder Nancy Brinker told audience members that they needed to be louder and bolder in the fight against breast cancer.
"We need more pink, and we need pink to be more powerful," she said.
More than 1,000 breast cancer activists are expected to attend the event, which continues today at the Fort Worth Convention Center. It is the world's largest gathering of Komen advocacy members and gives breast cancer survivors an opportunity to support one another, learn about the latest research and share ways to raise funds to continue the organization's work.
Started nearly 30 years ago with $200 in a shoebox, Komen has grown to raise more than $1.9 billion, Brinker said. Its work has funded research, supported programs for cancer patients and made pink virtually synonymous with breast cancer.
The organization's growth has allowed it to focus more on vulnerable populations around the world and make mammograms available to women who don't have insurance or can't afford them, she said.
Last year, Komen funded some 700,000 mammograms and 85,000 procedures in the U.S., said Elizabeth Thompson, president of Komen for the Cure.
"As a result, we had 5,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer that without those tests might have been missed," she said.
Last year, the Fort Worth affiliate provided 3,000 mammograms for women who could not afford them, said Betty Nethery, a 17-year survivor.
Jennifer Wersal, an 11-year survivor, said she was 30 -- far younger than the age mammograms are recommended -- when she felt a lump in her breast that turned out to be cancer.
Now she tells women to listen to their bodies and get mammograms.
"Don't let a doctor tell you that you're too young for breast cancer," she said.
Brinker said that during her travels she is most often asked whether the war on breast cancer is being won.
"You bet we're winning," she said. "The five-year survival rate has increased from 74 percent in the 1980s to 98 percent today."
Jan Jarvis, 817-390-7664