HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- It’s that time of year again. The weather is getting cooler, the leaves are falling, and football season is in full swing. That can only mean one thing: Breast Cancer Awareness Month has arrived!
Every October, we hear the catchy slogans, wear the pink ribbons/clothing/bracelets, and maybe even participate in a Breast Cancer Awareness community event. This year, I hope to entice you to participate, spread the word, and do your part to help find a cure for this horrible disease.
Breast Cancer Awareness month has a whole new importance to me. In September 2021, a lump was found in my breast, and after a whirlwind of mammograms, ultrasounds, scans and biopsies, I was diagnosed with two different types of breast cancer. Unfortunately, it is likely a few people who are reading this article are going to get diagnosed with breast cancer this year; others will have loved ones and/or coworkers get diagnosed. The sobering fact is that one in every eight women will get breast cancer in her lifetime. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an estimated 42,000 women and 500 men die each year because of breast cancer.
So, what can you do about it? We all need to stay up to date on our annual physicals and the recommended tests that come along with them (mammograms, colonoscopies, stress tests, bloodwork, etc.). We need to be proactive and make sure to catch the symptoms early, get diagnosed and begin treatment. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to your health. That scary symptom you are ignoring and hoping will go away could be growing and getting worse.
Yes, the initial diagnosis can be scary. Many of us know someone who has died due to this disease. Most of us are aware of, and witnessed, loved ones go through the typical breast cancer treatments: chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. However, breast cancer treatments have progressed over the years. Many types of treatment advances, including immunotherapy and targeted therapies, can treat certain types of breast (and other) cancers without the severe side effects that may occur with chemotherapy. Breast cancer is highly treatable, especially when caught early. According to the American Cancer Society, the overall five-year survival rate is 90% for all breast cancers. If caught early and the cancer stays localized, the five-year survival rate is 99%!
As for my breast cancer battle, I was not up to date on my mammogram when I unintentionally came across the lump. As fate would have it, the scary lump I found was not cancerous; however, two other lumps that I couldn’t feel ended up being diagnosed as two different types of primary breast cancer (Stages 1 and 2). Luckily for me, after 12 months filled with three biopsies, six rounds of chemotherapy, surgery (double mastectomy), radiation, immunotherapy, blood transfusions, scans and countless medical appointments, I completed my last treatment on September 29, 2022. Thanks to the doctors, research, and the men and women who have fought for a cure before me, I am now cancer-free.
I have been forever changed for the better by having fought this battle and will always be a supporter of all things breast cancer related. Don’t make the same mistakes I made and fall into complacency. I assumed my age, lack of cancer in my family history, semi-active lifestyle, etc. were protecting me. That was not the case. Please join me in supporting this cause. Make sure your loved ones keep up to date with self-exams, mammograms, and other cancer screening options that are available to us.