Monday, October 19, 2009

Breast Cancer Awareness - All Year Long

"You have breast cancer"

These words are spoken to 1 out of every 8 women. My doctor gave them to me and my mother's doctors have given them to her - three times now. What about those other 6 women?Are they at risk too? Below are some known risk factors:

• being a woman
• getting older
• having a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2
breast cancer gene
• having a personal history of breast or
ovarian cancer
• having a family history of breast or ovarian
• having high breast density on a
• having a breast biopsy showing hyperplasia
or carcinoma in situ
• never having children
• having your first child after 35
• radiation exposure, frequent x-rays in youth
• high bone density
• gaining weight as an adult or being
overweight after menopause
• current or recent use of postmenopausal
hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

Most women have more than one of the above risk factors and will never get the disease. Some women have only the fact that she's female. While we do have control over some of these issues, many we don't.

I was 39 when I was given the news. I had two very small lumps on the side of my right breast. While my mother had already had two mastectomies, there was no connection between our cancers. The tests for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 markers was done with a negative result, so it wasn't hereditary. The doctors were actually rather stumped by my case. I was very fortunate in that I only had to have a lumpectomy and radiation treatment. A genetic test was performed that indicated the chance of my cancer reoccurring was about 4% so my doctor advised no chemotherapy. I am very lucky that it was caught early.

Mom's was much farther advanced and required much more radical treatment: mastectomy, radiation, chemotherapy, and hormone drugs after the fact. She went through this in 1994 and again in 2003. Unfortunately, she is battling it yet again as they have found a spot in one of her lungs that is the breast cancer returned. But, the good thing is that there is hope and optimism, due to the amazing advances in research that have occurred in the last few decades.

While we would not have chosen it, Mom and I have had front row seats to see this progress up close and personal. I had been trying to prepare myself to go through all of the things that I had witnessed Mom dealing with while fighting the disease. My doctor started discussing all of the new procedures and options available to me that weren't around when Mom was dealing with this three years prior. He said that there would probably be something new out there before I was even done with my treatment. And there was...and will continue to be as long as we all support the research that needs to keep being made until they cure this monster.

Besides offering financial support and doing everything we can to help the organizations listed at the bottom of the page all year long instead of just in October, women need to take the first step and take care of themselves. Educate yourself, do your self-exams, get your mammograms, take responsibility and control of your breast health.

From the site:

• Talk to your family about your family health
• Talk to your doctor about your personal risk of
breast cancer.
• Be aware of the risk factors — such as being a
woman, getting older, never having children or
being overweight after menopause.

When breast cancer is found early and confined to
the breast, the five-year survival rate is 98 percent.
• MAMMOGRAM: X-ray of the breast that can
find breast cancer in its earliest stages. Have
one every year starting at age 40 if you are at
average risk.
• CLINICAL BREAST EXAM: Physical exam by a
health care provider who checks for any lumps
or changes. Have one at least every three years
starting at age 20, and every year starting at 40.

• BREAST SELF EXAM: A tool that may help you
learn how your breasts look and feel. Report any
changes to your health care provider right away.

• Maintain a healthy weight
• Add exercise to your routine
• Limit alcohol intake

Please ladies, GET YOUR MAMMOGRAMS. I don't want any of you to have those front row seats like Mom and I have had.

For more information:


  1. Thanks for writing this post.

    Sorry to hear both you and your mom have to deal with breast cancer. I was diagnosed with a non-melignant cyst 4 years ago, but I’ve lived throug some terrible months not knowing how or what.

    It made me start taking even better care of my body, having some extra risk factors.

    Take care!

  2. Thanks for helping to increase awareness about breast cancer and writing this insightful post.

    While I wish you and your mom had never had to deal with breast cancer, I'm happy to hear you are both Survivors.

    Let's carry the torch of awareness forward, until there is a cure available to everyone!


  3. It's awesome that you posted this. Thank you for educating the masses. It's an important subject and I'm very sorry you and your mom have gone through this fight multiple times.

    You are two very strong women.


  4. Thank you all for reading this post and your kind words. It is obviously something near & dear to our family.

    I figure if I can get just one woman to get herself checked out, then I have helped in a small way.


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