Women: check breasts

One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime; more than 43,000 will die this year. Are you the one in eight women? Will you survive? Early detection may be the deciding factor.

A barrage of information advises you to be proactive in breast care. Are you listening? Will you take action?

If detected early, the five-year survival rate for breast cancer exceeds 95 percent. Mammograms are among the best early-detection methods, yet 13 million U.S. women 40 years of age or older have never had a mammogram.”

Though more older women are diagnosed, breast cancer is often more aggressive in younger women because of the higher level of the hormone estrogen produced by their ovaries, which feed some forms of the cancer.

There is no sure known cause of breast cancer, there is no full-proof test. There is, however, the fact that it kills. Why not take the simple steps that increase the likelihood of detecting a lump and get prompt treatments, and possibly be a part of the 95 percent who survive for at least five years with early detection?

My friend Susan had never done breast self-exams. During a shower she was surprised when she noticed a lump in her breast. She went to her doctor. He didn’t seem alarmed as she was only 28-years-old. He did not recommend any action.

A year passed; the lump continued to grow. With a false sense of security, she ignored the change, until pain got her attention. She went back to the doctor, who upon examining this now larger lump, sent her immediately to have a biopsy. Susan was diagnosed with breast cancer. At age 29, she was the youngest breast cancer patient whom the doctor had seen.

Susan is now 37 years old; her cancer has metastasized to her bones, putting her into the most severe level of the disease – Stage 4. I talked to her about this article and asked what she would like other women to know from her experience.

She offered the following: Do breast exams. If you discover a lump, pursue treatment. Learn about your cancer. Get opinions. Insist on having tests you think you need. Pursue hard. If a doctor is not taking action, find one who will. Be proactive.

Some women use excuses for not doing self-breast exams or getting mammograms-they don’t have time, they can’t afford it. I used to be one of those women.

St. Elizabeth Medical Center rolls their mobile mammography van to several locations throughout the year. The mammogram takes 10 minutes, most insurance covers the test, and if one’s deductible is unmanageable, or there is no insurance, financial assistance is available through a grant from the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

I now have no excuse and neither do most of you. I have a mammogram done yearly on the, “Mam Van;” I hope you will too.

St. Elizabeth Medical Center’s Mobile Mammography Service distributes a card that lists dates and locations of mobile mammography unit stops and financial aid info. On the cover is printed, “Your time is precious