I know firsthand the importance of routine mammograms. Doing my due diligence, as soon as I turned forty years old, I scheduled a mammogram. My second annual mammogram changed my life completely. After I completed my exam, I was asked to stay in the waiting room. The doctor came out and asked if they could take some additional x-rays. This was not sounding good. The doctors proceeded to tell me that they would like to do a biopsy because they were concerned about a tiny area on my left breast. I kept thinking to myself, “I am way too young for this and no one in my immediate family has ever been diagnosed with any breast issues.” My thoughts raced between emotions of anger, fear and sadness. The biopsy results were positive, but fortunately, I was told that I would be fine with an outpatient procedure which called for the removal of a very small tissue area. Whew…I was relieved to hear that, but as it turned out, I went back a second time for the removal of a little more tissue. The tests that went along with these procedures were painful and scary. I cried, I prayed, I imagined the very best and the very worst of this outcome. I went from praying that I simply wouldn’t need chemotherapy to watering my prayers down to, “God, just please let me live to raise my son.” My doctor called me back in after the second set of tests and proceeded to give me a very lengthy explanation of the outcome, til I finally cut her off. I asked her if she removed the entire breast would I need any more tests? Radiation? Anything? She stated, “no, you wouldn’t.” I said, “let’s do that then.” There were a few surgeries involved but I walked away cancer free and have never looked back. Every year, an overwhelming ocean of fear envelops my spirit when it’s time for my annual exam. I sit on pins and needles until the doctors tell me everything is fine. I burst into tears of joy. It gets easier every year to get checked. It really does.
I am so thankful that I followed suggested medical protocol and went for my annual mammogram because had I chosen not to; I may be writing something entirely different…if I’d be writing anything at all. I hope my personal testimony convinces you to get your boobies checked each year once you turn forty, or if your parents or siblings have/had breast cancer. That goes for both men and women. Here are some critical statistics to know about the disease:
· About 1 in 8 U.S. women (about 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.
· In 2019, an estimated 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 62,930 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.
· About 2,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in men in 2019. A man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 883.
· Breast cancer incidence rates in the U.S. began decreasing in the year 2000, after increasing for the previous two decades. They dropped by 7% from 2002 to 2003 alone. One theory is that this decrease was partially due to the reduced use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) by women after the results of a large study called the Women’s Health Initiative were published in 2002. These results suggested a connection between HRT and increased breast cancer risk.
· About 41,760 women in the U.S. are expected to die in 2019 from breast cancer, though death rates have been decreasing since 1989. Women under 50 have experienced larger decreases. These decreases are thought to be the result of treatment advances, earlier detection through screening, and increased awareness.
· For women in the U.S., breast cancer death rates are higher than those for any other cancer, besides lung cancer.
· Besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women. In 2019, it's estimated that about 30% of newly diagnosed cancers in women will be breast cancers.
· In women under 45, breast cancer is more common in African-American women than white women. Overall, African-American women are more likely to die of breast cancer. For Asian, Hispanic, and Native-American women, the risk of developing and dying from breast cancer is lower.
· As of January 2019, there are more than 3.1 million women with a history of breast cancer in the U.S. This includes women currently being treated and women who have finished treatment.
· A woman’s risk of breast cancer nearly doubles if she has a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Less than 15% of women who get breast cancer have a family member diagnosed with it.
· About 5-10% of breast cancers can be linked to gene mutations inherited from one’s mother or father. Mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are the most common. On average, women with a BRCA1 mutation have up to a 72% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. For women with a BRCA2 mutation, the risk is 69%. Breast cancer that is positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations tends to develop more often in younger women. An increased ovarian cancer risk is also associated with these genetic mutations. In men, BRCA2 mutations are associated with a lifetime breast cancer risk of about 6.8%; BRCA1 mutations are a less frequent cause of breast cancer in men.
· About 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. These occur due to genetic mutations that happen as a result of the aging process and life in general, rather than inherited mutations.
· The most significant risk factors for breast cancer are gender (being a woman) and age (growing older).
Live longer and stronger for yourself and those you love and those who love you. For some, it takes courage to go to the doctor. It took a lot of courage for me to write this article because I have remained silent, sharing my story sparingly, until I recognized the importance of educating others through my own experience about Breast Cancer. Live healthy and aware.