Columbia, SC (WLTX)-- When Lucy Spears was 37-years-old she felt a suspicious lump in her breast. She brought it to the attention of her doctors, but even after a second and third opinion she was told it was nothing to worry about.

Two years later she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

The type of cancer cancer she was diagnosed with was slow growing. It required surgery, chemotherapy and radiation but nearly 14 years later Spears is doing well.

As the Lowcountry director of missions programs for the Susan G. Komen Foundation she spends her days promoting awareness and and helping women find the resources they need in order to deal with a diagnosis of breast cancer.

When Spears says to a woman diagnosed with breast cancer, "I know how you feel." she really does.

She works closely with the South Carolina Cancer Alliance to provide assistance for mammograms through grants. Saluda and Orangeburg counties in the Midlands have the highest rates of deaths associated with breast cancer. According to research from the SC Cancer Alliance, white women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than African American, Hispanic and Asian women. But, African American women are more likely to develop aggressive, advanced stage breast cancer diagnosed at a young age. Women with close relatives who've been diagnosed with breast cancer have a higher risk of developing the disease. Doctors say getting regular exercise may decrease the risk of both developing breast cancer and dying from the disease.

Health experts say early detection is the key to saving your life.

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