October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and it always reminds me of the importance of early detection. We know that early detection is the key to treatment and survival but still many women do not get physical exams, do self-exams, or get mammograms. The reasons vary but they are truly just excuses, usually based on fear or embarrassment.
When my best friend was in her early thirties, she had her first breast cancer scare. It turned out to be benign but it was a scary time, especially because she was under the age that mammograms were covered or recommended by most doctors. I spoke to my doctor because I had VERY fibrous breasts and she did recommend a mammogram and felt that the age for baseline mammograms should be closer to 35 because when younger women get breast cancer, it tends to be a more dangerous type.
I began annual mammograms at 35. When I told my aunt that I was yearly, not every other year, she told me I must have a diagnosis in my file that puts me on an annual track. 7 years later, I got that scary call to come back in because the doctors had found something. After ultrasounds and surgery, it turned out to be nothing but it was scary. What wasn’t scary was that if it was cancer, I had the opportunity to catch it early.
Another friend of mine was diagnosed with late stage, highly active breast cancer at the age of 30. She was not at the age that anyone was checking her and she did not go see a doctor regularly. Luckily her friends convinced her to go ask her doctor about it. At her appointment, they immediately cleared their schedule, sent her to the hospital, and she began the long road of diagnosis, treatment, and survival.
These are cases where women were too young to be on the radar, but needed to be. So why do so many older women who are more at risk refuse to do these life-saving screenings? For some, it’s embarrassing or it is a cultural issue. For others it is the fear of radiation. Still for others, they just want to bury their heads in the sand and hope for the best.
My husband’s cousin, Lynn, was diagnosed with breast cancer around the age of 47. She had never had a mammogram but her husband found the lump and encouraged her to see a doctor. At the time, she did not have insurance so her journey was an especially difficult one. Being the ultimate teacher and entertainer, Lynn began to document her journey to share with her family and other women. It’s honest and raw but sends a very important message to women about taking care of your breast health and offers support for those on the same journey. You can check out Lynn’s journey on her Facebook page called “Kick the Crap Out of Cancer“.
Some women do not want the extra radiation from the mammogram…now that I understand. In addition to self-exams annual physicals by a physician (medical or natural), there is also Breast Thermography.
Breast Thermography uses infrared to detect temperature changes in the body. Although it may not be as accurate as a mammogram or ultrasound, it can certainly be an additional too or first line option for those who refuse traditional mammograms.
For more information about Breast Thermography and how it compares to Ultrasounds and Mammograms, you can go to the Breast Thermography website. For local readers, you can go to Groton Wellness. They have a very informative brochure on thermography for breasts and other parts of the body. They also have a practitioner who provides the various thermographic services a few days a week.
Ladies, it is really important to take care of your health. Eat right, exercise, deal with your emotional shit, and take preventive measures in areas where you are most susceptible, like your breasts!
Don’t let fear control you!
Let’s Save the Tatas!