About 1 in 8 women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point during her life. After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common kind of cancer in women.
Recently, during my annual GYN exam, my doctor found a large lump in my left breast. My doctor and I had been through an annual routine of lumps in my right breast, but this was something new and very unusual in my left breast. Again, I would have to go through the process of waiting to find out if I had breast cancer. As I moved to the various medical procedures, I was met by some very remarkable women. As I set in my gown with my back side exposed, doctors, nurses, patients and others shared their stories of survival. One nurse shared with me that she was a two time cancer survivor. She looked at my chart and commended me for making sure that I have annual check-ups. She said she had not done annual checkups or self checks. She believed that because her mother and grandmother did not suffer from the disease, she did not feel a need to go for annual check ups even though she is in the medical field.
After all the tests and procedures were completed, I was extremely blessed that I did not have breast cancer. However, I am aware that the results could have been different. Breast cancer remains the leading cancer diagnosis in females proving that there is still much work to be done. Each year, there are so many women and men that suffer from this disease. Maryland has one of the highest populations of people who suffer from breast cancer.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Everywhere we turn we see pink and information about breast cancer signs and symptoms, early detection, and treatment options. Even with increased awareness, many women still do not do self-exams or get checked annually. I encourage you to encourage your mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and other family members to have annual check-ups. Breast cancer can be treated if it’s found and treated early.
Things to do:
- If you are age 40 to 49, talk with your doctor about when to start getting mammograms and how often to get them.
- Women ages 50 to 74 need mammograms every 2 years. You may choose to start getting mammograms earlier or to get them more often.
- At any age, talk to a doctor about your risk for breast cancer, especially if a close family member has had breast or ovarian cancer. Your doctor can help you decide when and how often to get mammograms.