As women, we often hear this message. It's a message that bears playing over and over again. For women who are not diligent in doing this, I want to challenge you to make a new year's resolution that may very well save your life. I think I speak for most if not every member of ChristianBlog.Com in saying that we want each of you to be around as long as possible!
On December 2, 2007, I learned that I had a spiculating mass in a breast. It had started out as an ordinary day. I was getting ready for work and decided to check for messages. In a moment, my world was completely shaken.
A spiculating mass is generally malignant. A short time later, it was confirmed that I have Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC). IDC accounts for 80% of all breast cancers making it the most common form of breast cancer. As a result, there has been more research done on it than any other form of breast cancer.
It is estimated that 1 out of 8 women will get breast cancer. That's 12.5% of all women or 1/8.
After my diagnosis, I thought about my first mammogram when I was in my 30's. I had to fight for that. I'd wanted to start having them because my paternal grandmother had breast cancer. I was told over and over again that it was passed through the mother. I was told I didn't have a family history. I didn't have lumps, I didn't have any risk factors, etc. I was didn't care. They found what they expected...nothing. I didn't care. I had fairly regular mammograms from then on.
Three years ago, a maternal cousin developed breast cancer. Like me, she had no risk factors. However, there it was. Now, you have to understand that there are a lot of women in my maternal family. My grandmother had four sisters and one brother (stillborn). My mom had five sisters. None of them had breast cancer. I have 14 female maternal cousins. Twelve of us are related through sisters meaning we have the same maternal bloodline. That's the same bloodline breast cancer is supposed to be genetically linked to. Two of us have now been diagnosed with breast cancer. We are now above the national average of 12.5%. Our family average is now 16.6% and half of the female cousins are younger than the two of us who have breast cancer. Interestingly enough, our environment is drastically different although our lifestyles are similar. We've always lived 200 miles apart. I'm urban, She's a small town girl. We've both been following Christ since we were children as have our spouses and our children. Neither one of us have ever smoked, drank or did drugs. We had our children in our mid-twenties, nursed our babies, etc. My dad did have colon cancer but that's a different cancer family and is not related at all. Remember, this is in a family where cancer did not show up until three years ago.
As a result, I consider every woman to be at risk, period. This disease is treatable. If you visit some of the breast cancer websites, you will find women who have survived it for 20 years or more. It can even be caught while it's still contained within a milk duct or gland. Actually, that's a pre-cancerous state and although you need to be screened regularly, your prognosis is excellent that it will never happen again.
So, if you're not doing so already, consider adopting the following habits in the new year:
Learn how to do breast self-exams and do them regularly each month. A good tip is to do them on the date of your birthday each month. The younger you are the less likely cancer will be detected with a mammogram. You need to know what is normal for you.
Report any and I mean any changes to your doctor and make sure it is taken seriously. This is where I made a mistake. Since it didn't feel round, I was readily convinced that what I was feeling was due to perimenipausal changes.
Have regular mammograms. Don't let anyone tell you to wait because you're not at risk. A lot of times, screenings can be obtained for free. Check out the American Cancer Society for more information. If possible, try to find a doctor who specializes in women's health issues. That was one of the best things I ever did. She made sure I stayed current in my screenings. Sadly, she had to take a leave about two years ago which is when I sort of fell through the cracks a bit. If you can't find a doctor who specializes in women's health issues, talk to your gynecologist. When I was originally looking for a new primary doctor about 10 years ago, my gynecologist was the one who recommended my previous doctor to me.
Remember, breast cancer is not just a disease that hits older women. To my surprise, where breast cancer is concerned, I'm actually considered young. That view is slowly beginning to change. With better screening and more education available, breast cancer is showing up in women younger and younger.
I'm seeing women in their early 20's with breast cancer. The good news for younger women is that it is usually being caught at stage 0 (pre-cancerous).
Breast cancer does not have to be a death sentence. Do regular screenings and get educated. Most of all, talk about it. Women are finally bringing it out of the closet and shining a light on this deadly disease. As a result, more and more women are living in spite of cancer.
Always remember that you are lovely, beautiful daughters of the King no matter what anyone else may try to say to you. That means that you are a royal princess Do everything you can to take care of yourself. We love you and need you. Don't let anyone tell you anything different!
I noticed this "commercial" promoting screenings for breast cancer popped up as I wrote it a year ago. I thought it was fitting to put this up again. I really hope younger women see it as well. Since writing this last year, I became acquainted with a young woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after me. She was a sophomore at Purdue and was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 19.
It can be particularly deadly for younger women as so often their doctors dismiss it as nothing and often refuse to check it out...until it is too late. I want to reiterate that if something doesn't seem right to you, insist on it being checked out! If your doctor won't do it, find one who will. If you need help finding one, contact the American Cancer Society or you can also check out the Susan G. Komen survivors board. There are a lot of women there who have been through this and are happy to share their experiences, doctors they've seen, etc.
Have a blessed new year!