I was asked to write this blog post in 2010 for a website that no longer exists. So I have decided to repost it here, because the message is still important. Also, there’s a sad update to add; my mother lost her battle to breast cancer on October 13, 2012.
It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but really this shouldn’t be the only time of the year when anyone thinks about breast cancer awareness. It would be great if breast cancer took a break and only appeared during one month of the year. Then it would be easy to get people to listen, educate themselves and do whatever is necessary to prevent it from spreading. Unfortunately that’s not the case. Breast can affects millions of women and men each year and it doesn’t take vacations.
However becoming aware of what you need to do prevent breast cancer can save your life.
I don’t think I can stress enough the importance of doing monthly breast self-examination or getting a yearly mammogram. This is especially important if you have a family history of cancer.
I do, both my grandmother and my mother have had breast cancer. So needless to say, this is a very important issue with me. It’s also a heartbreaking one, because when my mother originally felt a lump in her left breast, she ignored it. She’d had benign cysts before and assumed that was the case again. Mom had also stopped getting yearly mammograms, which could have also detected any abnormalities.
I pleaded with her to go to the doctor, but mom is stubborn and refused to do anything until she felt a lump in her right breast too.
By then it was clear that something was wrong, and we were definitely not dealing with anything that could be ignored. Mom had cancer, and what followed was a double mastectomy, the removal of her lymph nodes and months of cancer treatment that will take months for her to recover from. I could tell you horror stories about what she has been through, but I am hoping to help anyone who reads this article from ever having to face that.
Please, if you feel any sort of abnormality in your breasts, contact a doctor immediately. This includes you too men, since you can get breast cancer too. The American Cancer Society reports that about “1,970 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in men” this year with approximately 390 of them dying from it. Even though breast cancer is “100 times less common among men” it is still important for them to be aware of it, so they can alert themselves to any signs or symptoms.
If my mother had gone to a doctor when she first felt that lump, she may have prevented herself from some of what she’s had to endure, because the earlier a cancer is found the easier it is to treat.
Thankfully, mom’s cancer is not terminal, it was Stage Two, but just the same watching her go through this has taught me a powerful lesson. Since medical professionals don’t know exactly what causes breast cancer, it is imperative that everyone educate themselves about it. This is why Breast Cancer Awareness Month is so important. This isn’t just about pink ribbons, it’s about education and facing reality when it comes knocking at our door.
As I said before, this isn’t just a woman’s health issue. Any man who has watched any of the women in his life receive a diagnosis of breast cancer knows this all too well.
Breast cancer affects us all as a society. Statistics from the National Cancer Institute estimate “that 207,090 women will be diagnosed with and 39,840 women will die of cancer of the breast in 2010.”
We can’t pretend this away.
Just ask my mom.
Rachel Blackbirdsong writes about her experiences as a caregiver for a cancer patient on her blog, “What Cancer Brings.”