Breast Cancer Awareness
Breast Cancer Awareness
This post is dedicated to my friends who have “fought the battle of their lives” and to those of us who still don’t know what lies ahead.
Survivors and still fighting…
Angels in heaven
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and all of us have been affected by breast cancer in one degree or another, whether it’s you or someone you know and love. One in eight women will be diagnosed with this disease in their lifetime so early detection and knowing the risk factors are essential. Breast self-exams and regularly scheduled mammograms are important to stay “breast healthy”.
Luckily, this cancer has not invaded my family’s genetic makeup, although I have had my own personal “cancer scare” that proved benign. Unfortunately, I have had many friends who have experienced hearing the words, “You have breast cancer”, and I have been an outsider looking in as they have been involved in the “fight of their lives”. Some have been in the prime of their lives with young children still to raise, while others were grandmas when they heard the dreaded words that changed their lives forever. A few of the women had a family history of breast cancer, whereas others had none of the risk factors. Breast cancer has no boundaries; it doesn’t care how old you are, if you’re wealthy or poor, or what color your skin is…it doesn’t discriminate!
On a personal note, when I was a young adult I did experience a “breast cancer scare”. I found a “lump” in my breast, so I know the uncertainty and apprehension that accompanies this discovery. My mother accompanied me on my initial appointment to our Family Practice Doctor shortly after the discovery was made. I met with our family doctor, the same doctor we saw for colds, infections and the many health issues that my father encountered during his life. I had not yet established an OB-GYN doctor, which was not unusual at that time, since the Family Practice doctor saw you for just about every ailment out there.
The initial appointment with Dr. McCafferey included a lot of questions and some “touchy feely” of my breast, followed by a lot of “what ifs” directed to the doctor by my mom and myself. An appointment was made for the following week, which proved to be the longest week of my life, to remove the 1/2″ lump. During that week many thoughts went through my mind, including me seeing myself as a disfigured 19 year old, months away from my wedding. Unfortunately, when it comes to any medical issue I often think of the “worst case scenario”, so countless tears were shed that week as I tried to come to grips with the possible diagnosis of breast cancer. As the days grew closer to my appointment, I became more anxious and worried of the possible outcome.
The procedure was quick and completed in a few minutes, requiring only a local anesthetic and a few stitches. The area remained tender for about a week, during which time the stitches were removed and the biopsy was revealed…
No cancer!! Those were the words we had prayed for the past month and now I could continue planning my wedding and my life ahead of me.
Evidentially the lump turned out to be an enlarged node, and the only remaining evidence I have from the scare and ultimate procedure is a small scar that runs along my bra line close to my armpit.
This procedure may not have been necessary if a mammogram had been completed, but in the 1970’s mammograms’s accuracy were highly questioned and safety concerns (too much radiation) were reasons not to include this procedure as a diagnostic tool. Over the years mammogram technology has changed, resulting in more accurate results. As with any type of x-ray, radiation is being emitted but, “Strict guidelines ensure mammogram equipment is safe and uses the lowest amount of radiation possible” as written on the American Cancer Society website. According to this site, three different types of mammograms are performed depending on a women’s personal history. If this is a standard screening mammogram (no symptoms), only two views are usually taken whereas diagnostic mammograms usually include additional views. Mammograms for women with breast implants include additional views as the implants make it more difficult to view the breast tissue. According to friends of mine who have breast implants, the technique used with the vise-type smashing machine is altered a bit to maintain the safety of the implants.
Mammograms can be a bit painful but most of the technicians I have had during my many mammograms have been extremely careful, respectful of my body and modesty and very knowledgeable if I have questions. Having a mammogram is certainly not an enjoyable event and I don’t look forward to them, but it’s the best tool currently used to detect breast cancer. For those who love you and for yourself, schedule your mammogram today; it could save your life!
During the past six months I have been receiving Facebook posts from The Breast Cancer site and I am truly moved by the women who post their breast cancer journeys for us to read. These women are incredibly brave and courageous and I have acquired a new respect for these “warriors”, as some of them call themselves. I thank them for sharing their personal accounts of the most difficult, or one of the most difficult fights they will ever endure, and I hope that one day, this monster will no longer exist among us.
Until next time,