October 1 marks the start of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Did you know . . . .
* Breast cancer is the most common kind of cancer in women after skin cancer.
*About 1 in 8 women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point.
The good news is that most women can survive breast cancer if it’s found and treated early.
- If you are a woman age 40 to 49, talk with your doctor about when to start getting mammograms and how often to get them.
- If you are a woman age 50 to 74, be sure to get a mammogram every 2 years. You may also choose to get them more often.
Talk to a doctor about your risk for breast cancer, especially if a close family member of yours had breast or ovarian cancer. Your doctor can help you decide when and how often to get mammograms.
MY PERSONAL STORY
Today, on my way to hot yoga, I wore pink as part of my sorority’s — Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated — Breast Cancer Awareness Community Impact Day, and share my story:
For about 20 years or so, each annual mammogram was followed by phone call. A phone call from a concerned health care provider — who wanted a closer look at the scans — just to be on the safe side. The first time I received the call, I was a nervous wreck. I wouldn’t allow myself to contemplate the question: what if I had cancer? Year after year . . . phone call after phone call . . . all ended with fabulous news!! NEGATIVE FOR CANCER!! What they saw was just dense, noncancerous, fibrocystic breast tissue. The problem with such tissue type is that it makes it almost impossible to immediately distinguish between MY normal tissue and the onset of potentially cancerous cells. Nevertheless, I continued to go for my annual mammograms, as prescribed by my physician, and slowly, I became de-sensitized to their inevitable follow up calls. Once, I even suggested scheduling the follow up screening at the same time as the mammogram (to cut out the extra steps . . . reviewing the original scans . . . waiting for the phone call . . . scheduling the next appointment). I did not take the “need to be sure” for granted – but truthfully – I had grown accustomed to the same positive outcome. Until I got THAT call in 2007. POSITIVE FOR BREAST CANCER.
However, that call did not come from my healthcare providers, but from my sister; she had been positively diagnosed with breast cancer. It was an early diagnosis; she completed her treatment regime and is to this day, she is a breast cancer SURVIVOR and has been for nearly 11 years. I do not intend to minimize her physical, mental, emotional, spiritual journey while battling breast cancer, yet simply, the details of which are not mine to share — they are hers.
Yet because of her breast cancer diagnosis and other factors such as the age I began menstruating, the number of pregnancies, my race and ethnicity, even my weight, I just recently learned that the likelihood of me getting diagnosed with breast cancer is actually 3x higher (yikes) than the 1 in 8 noted above.
Thankfully, for the past 20+ years, I have been blessed to be cared for by a team of medical professionals in Virginia, Texas and Arkansas, who have taken the most vigilant approach to screening, detection, analysis and follow ups. These girls have been pressed, pinched, scanned, radiated, biopsied, aspirated and tagged. That’s a good thing!
Because I have adult daughters, I have undergone genetic testing to determine whether my girls are at an even higher risk of a breast cancer diagnosis.
It was NEGATIVE!!
I now participate in a high-risk Cancer Awareness and Risk Evaluation protocol, which means I have either a mammogram/sonogram combo or MRI every six months (the technology keeps on getting better).
I have to get my weight to a number that is LESS than what it is now. Which means, I have to be even more dedicated to my fitness and diet regime – because my life very well depends on it.
I am grateful for the opportunities that have afforded me access to quality health care and recognize that, since no one person is greater than another, such access should be available to all. See the Screening Guidelines for more information and resources that may be available in your area.