To promote Breast Cancer Awareness Month, UCSB graduate student and breast cancer survivor Lisa Barreto will speak at a free workshop today that is hosted by the Women’s Center.

Barreto, a Regents and Honors Program scholar, will speak at noon in the Women’s Center Library on topics which include her personal struggle with breast cancer and the pressure that society places on women and their bodies. Last year breast cancer affected over 200,000 women in the United States, according to a report by the American Cancer Society.

Barreto, who graduated in May 2004 from Ventura College, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002 during her first semester of college. Following her first semester, Barreto underwent four surgeries to remove the cancer, and said she made it a point to schedule the operations around her classes.

“There was no way I was going to let breast cancer get in the way of studies,” she said.

Barreto said she founded the Ventura College Breast Cancer Education and Advocacy Group after she was unable to find a resource on the Ventura College campus to help her through her illness. The group uses education and advocacy to remove the fear associated with breast cancer and helps support those suffering from the disease.

“I knew I was going to speak for women who couldn’t speak for themselves,” she said.

Barreto said the Women’s Center workshop would focus on coping techniques for women diagnosed with breast cancer as well as dispel misconceptions associated with the disease.

UCSB Women’s Center Programming Director Sharon Hoshida said she thinks it is important that women become better educated about the issues surrounding the disease.

“The most important thing is learning to be proactive in health care and learning to be familiar with your body because you will be the first one to know when something is different,” Hoshida said.

In addition to promoting advocacy, Barreto said she would show what could be done with a little “actitude,” a word she said she invented, which means taking action while maintaining a positive attitude.

Barreto said she would also focus on using humor as a technique for coping. She wants to let others know that adding a positive twist helps to remove the fear associated with a disease like breast cancer, she said.

“For instance I’ll joke around saying, ‘for someone who has lost a breast, I feel like a boob,” she said.

For more information on the workshop contact the UCSB Women’s Center at (805) 893-3778.