It’s hard to ignore that this is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
But for me, a survivor, every month is Breast Cancer Awareness month – no, let me amend that – it’s more like every day. That’s because it’s rare for a day to pass without either thinking abut my own health and doing all I can to stay on top of it; reading about a new study or treatment or hearing about someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer; or worse, has died from the disease.
And speaking of the latter, I really hate to get all glum and say that women are dying from it, but the sad truth is that yes, they still are.
Here’s my plea: Get your mammogram. My cancer was detected in 1988, when I was 34 and went on the advice of my general practitioner to go get a baseline mammogram. I put it off for a while, thinking I was too young and it wasn’t necessary.
I don’t need to elaborate on how I was wrong, and how fortunate I was to have gone. Nor how every day is a true gift, even though that might sound cliche and fake. (But it’s not. I really do mean that…although from time to time I will admit that life interrupts and I lose sight of it. But t’s grounding to remind myself of it and put things back in perspective – where they belong.)
So here’s the thing. Get tested. It takes very little time… but it could buy you a lot more of it.
Here are the latest guidelines from the American Cancer Society:
- Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms (x-rays of the breast) if they wish to do so.
- Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
- Women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years, or can continue yearly screening.
- Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live 10 more years or longer.
- All women should be familiar with the known benefits, limitations, and potential harms linked to breast cancer screening. They also should know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any breast changes to a health care provider right away.
Some women – because of their family history, a genetic tendency, or certain other factors – should be screened with MRIs along with mammograms. (The number of women who fall into this category is very small.) Talk with a health care provider about your risk for breast cancer and the best screening plan for you.