Self Care: breast cancer
Get checked today!
This last week, my husband and I lost a former colleague and friend to a long battle with metastatic breast cancer. She was an amazing human being. A truly joyous person who always found the good and looked for the bright side in any situation.
I found out she had passed the morning that I went in for my first mammogram, which was overdue for me due to life and CoVID and juggling all the things. I have been slowly catching up on all of my own medical checkups this year that I had let lapse while I kept up with life and the everyday. Plus, it’s been quite a year, hasn’t it?
As moms, aren’t we all really good at making sure that our kids get their regular checkups? If you’re anything like me, keeping up with your own checkups sometimes just falls through the cracks.
My mother-in-law is a breast cancer survivor. She found a lump doing a self exam, went in to the doctor for further exams and didn’t tell us until she was going in for surgery. They removed the lump, and she had radiation but did not have to do chemo after she submitted to the test that showed she wasn’t genetically disposed to more cancer. She was very lucky.
At the same time as her treatments, one of her good friends was losing her battle. And one of our cousins’ wife also lost her battle a couple of years ago. We truly miss our friends Rachel, Kristi, and Cheyenne. Each of them was a vibrant woman who left a lasting legacy on our lives and communities.
Last year around this time, we lost my former brother-in-law suddenly (and not to cancer), and I talked about how Life is Short. Every time we lose someone who has made an impact on our lives, it is a reminder to all of us to live life to the fullest!
With new technology and good self care, we are doing better about catching the silent killer that is breast cancer early and getting ahead of it before it can metastasize into other parts of a body. But each of us needs to do our part. All of us need to do better about keeping track of our own bodies, and asking questions when something seems off.
Thanks to that technology and modern medicine, my friend Monica, my mother-in-law and countless others have beaten this awful cancer.
When it is detected early, the 5-year survival rate for breast cancer is now 99%. Read that again: when detected early, the 5-year survival rate is 99 percent.
Early detection is key. We all know this.
Friends, I cannot emphasize enough: get checked. Go to your annual exam. Get a mammogram. Know your family history. Take care of yourself!
Did you know? Breast cancer is the second-most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second-most common cause of cancer deaths in American women. But the mortality rate is so much lower than it used to be!
The Prevent Cancer Foundation ® (www.preventcancer.org) and many other health organizations encourage women of average risk to begin annual screening at age 40. Women at high risk may need to begin annual mammograms earlier or be screened more often, or may need to use other screening options like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or 3D mammography.
If your clinic does not have a 3D mammography machine, check with your doctor and ask where you should go for one. Our little town hospital has one, and the tech I worked with last week told me it has a much lower rate of women having to come in for a re-scan than the old machines – and it was quick! I was there for less than 30 minutes.
High risk women include those with a family or personal history of breast or ovarian cancer or those with inherited gene mutations, such as BRCA1 or BRCA2. Other factors that may increase your risk include beginning your menstrual period before age 12 or menopause after age 55, using hormone replace therapy (HRT) with estrogen and progesterone for more than 10 years, or taking any medication that includes hormones. Black women are twice as likely as women of other racial and ethnic groups to be diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, which is harder to treat.
Talk to your doctor about screening options if you are high risk. If you are looking for more information, the American Cancer Society has a great site about risk factors and prevention.
Again, I can’t stress enough: know your body. Talk to your mom, your aunt(s) and grandmother about any family health history issues you need to know about. Knowledge is power – always.
As with all cancers, your risk is reduced if you eat healthy, do not smoke or drink (limit alcohol to one drink per day), and exercise regularly. And, in this age of the pandemic, keeping up with eating healthy, not drinking, and exercising are all easier said than done! Not to mention making the time and making yourself go in for regular exams.
Having lost good friends – genuinely good people – to this horrible disease? Go to the checkup. Get the mammogram.
I put it off too. And then I made myself call for the appointment. Do it today! While you’re thinking about it. Use this Breast Cancer Awareness Month as a reminder to always get your exams in October.