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Author and speaker Colletta Orr is a public health professional that has a great passion for preventive and survivorship methods for those living with or affected by breast or ovarian cancer. Her organization, Colletta Orr & Associates, is focused on educating and promoting health care for women. She’s a graduate of Voorhees College and Capella University with research trainings at Georgetown University and the National Cancer Institute. She’s currently a doctoral student of public health at Walden University, a mother, and wife.

How did your passion for public health begin?

I was first passionate about doing cancer research and I felt I needed to do something more specific for the community. I wanted to make a bigger impact and do something that could reduce breast or ovarian cancer on a community level.

Why did you specifically choose breast and ovarian cancer to focus on?

I’m a Breast and Ovarian Cancer Research Scientist and the reason why I got into the field is because my grandmother passed of ovarian cancer. When I studied ovarian cancer, it was difficult to not talk about breast cancer because they are so tied together. When someone close to you dies, it makes you wonder why did they have to pass away? So when I was an undergraduate, I dove into Bio Chemistry and took it to the next step. [Also] her mother died from breast cancer so that was the genetic link.

How important is it to educate the community on preventive care?

It’s very important because it’s so many risk factors when it comes to breast and ovarian cancer. There are controllable and uncontrollable risk factors. When you look at gender for example, breast cancer occurs 100 times more in women than in men. Your race is a factor because breast cancer is diagnosed more often in Caucasian women compared to any other race. However, African-American women die from it more often because of lack of going to the doctor and health insurance issues. Another factor is genetics, for example I am more at risk because my grandmother and mother had cancer. So I am able to get a mammogram twice a year since I am more at risk. Risk factors you can control are diet, exercise, alcohol consumption, or if you’re overweight after menopause, that can be a hormonal risk factor. So if you have the information and education, you’re able to make better decisions about your health.

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When did you decide to write your book Cancer Doesn’t Always Win?

When I decided to step away and get more into the community, I wanted to provide a resource. Something that people could grab with tangible steps to reduce their risks of developing breast or ovarian cancer. It’s an easy read about prevention. I talked about how I got involved, living with cancer, and creating a “new normal”. You want to know how I can get to my “new normal” because things won’t be the same as it was before the diagnosis. Especially, if you have to have your ovaries removed because then you go straight into menopause immediately or the effects of having your breasts removed. I talk about breast cancer in men and how to protect our daughters from breast cancer at a young age. How to get the most out of your doctor visit, even if you are cancer-free, but you have a family history, and I have a form on my website about questions you can ask your primary care physician. I know a woman who speaks that is 94 years old and she’s been a Breast Cancer Survivor for 56 years now.

How important is spirituality when it comes to being diagnosed with cancer?

It’s very important to be focused in your spiritual walk. I have spoken at churches and cancer ministries that it is so important to plug-in spiritually because you’re so drained physically from what you’re going through, so you need that spiritual connection. You need a church family or spiritual people around you because it offers you hope. Your doctor will not be able to tell you about that so it’s important to be connected in your community with your church or cancer ministries.

For upcoming events and more information about the book Cancer Doesn’t Always Win, visit CollettaOrr.com

Follow on Instagram & Twitter @CollettaOrr