Breast Cancer - Do You Get Checked?

Today's guest post is a 'topic stretch' for this site, but since we are all concerned with living a healthy life and it's a topic that everyone can relate to, we have it here for you today. We hope it reaches as many people as possible, and we especially hope it reaches those who will benefit the most from it. It's a must read.

This special guest post is by Robby Howard (niece of Carolyn Howard-Johnson). We are honored to share it:

Well. Ahem. I’ve had an interesting couple of months, in addition to the holidays. (And don’t anyone be yellin’ at me for not telling them earlier, please, I’ve really been rawthah BUSY.)

So. Um. I’ve had a go around with this wee bit o’….breast cancer. Yeah. And when I say “wee bit,” I mean it, because it was caught so early and dealt with so easily in comparison to all of the breast cancers, and subsequent deaths thereby, that I have been through with my friends and family, that it doesn’t even seem appropriate to call it cancer, tho’ cancer it was.

I do my self exams (as all women should), though I admit, not every month. But I try to stay on top of it, hell, my Mom died of abreast cancer at 64 (BFFs Copper at 37, Tree at 48….). When October rolled around this year and I got my notice from my doc saying it was time for my annual mammogram, I was really surprised, a year already? Well ok. Scheduled it and ’twas done (did my first colonoscopy too, same day of fun & games, and welcome to your 50’s!). The following week, right before my 50th birthday, I got a notice saying they wanted me back in for a recheck. Not unusual for me, my left girl is a bit cystic, but this time it was for the right. Went in, did the squish, had it read and was somewhat surprised to have a biopsy recommended. Ok. I had my first one when I was 40 for the same thing, “micro calcifications,” which are usually benign (and were) and the needle biopsy is a piece of cake, compared to the old days. Scheduled the biopsy for my SLC trip at Thanksgiving. All went well, doc, radiologist, me….we all figured that my “micro calcifications” would once again prove benign, but I’ve lost so many near and dear to this disease, yes, please, give me a local, stick a needle in the boob and DO A BIOPSY ON ME, thank you!

Surprise. There was malignancy in the main/largest (there were three) calcification. This thing had been invisible a year previously and had grown to 1 centimeter in one year. However that’s still very small, and  it was deep, it wasn’t a lump that could be felt by me, my doc, the radiologist or the surgeon. Fortunately, DCIS is THE most benign of the breast malignancies, though it can become more invasive and dangerous if not caught (and there are stats on re-occurances being more challenging down the road). Mine was caught so early and was so low grade, that after my very smooth and easy lumpectomy, they aren’t even requiring me to have the fairly standard radiation protocol. If it had gone….? months more? Radiation: 5 days a week for 5 weeks standard, my nearest available provider a 120 mile round trip. But that was still a great deal, compared to other options, I would have figured out how to make it work, and I have a small but fantastic support group.

So. In short: Calcifications: gone. Biopsy: at this stage, was easy as pie (and certainly comparatively). Surgery: outpatient, slick as shit, with no residual malignancy in the removed tissue (that means that they actually got almost all of the cancer cells during the biopsy, but you can’t tell that until the area of tissue is removed). And a very small amount of tissue needed to be removed, due to the small size of the calcification. Pain: I took a total of 4 percacet (and frankly that was more about trying to ease some unrelated muscular pain so I could sleep). Otherwise, advil. My monthly cramps have been far more ghastly.

I’m doing absolutely fine, with the teensie exception of being two months behind with critical projects due to this little life-interruption.
But I’m now standing on a BIG-ass soapbox. WOMEN: GET YOUR FREAKIN’ MAMMOGRAMS! Do your self exams, yes, but do the preventative screenings regularly!  MEN: MAKE SURE THEY DO!! (And have some fun, be a Booby Buddy and help with those monthly exams!) I have five loved ones, all dead from cancer at far too young of ages. Four of them, possibly five, would very likely still be alive today if they’d just done their screenings on time. Seriously. They’d still be ALIVE. And even the fifth, with a very terribly aggressive cancer, what would she have gotten if she’d gone in for her yearly and the cancer  was found, instead of finding it herself a mere 18 months after a clean mammogram, a lump the size of a brazil nut. What would finding the monster six months earlier have gotten her?

There’s been a lot of debate over the effectiveness of mammograms. The old stats (being revised, thank god) are a mishmash of badly collated information. The standard has been “80% of breast cancers are found by the woman, and merely verified by mammogram.” Think about that. How many women are “finding” their lumps through regular self exams? Not a lot. The women I know personally “accidentally” ran onto their, once discovered, very detectable lumps, they had NOT had regular mammograms. The lumps were big enough to FEEL. And my but they went through utter hell trying to stay alive. And they did not succeed.

Now Poster Child Rob: mine couldn’t be felt. It was found long before that was possible, tested and removed. Two months and done, could’a been faster, but I had scheduling conflicts. And you can believe I’ll be staying on top of my screenings, because this is seriously the way to go. Catch the bugger EARLY! We have the technology. But we are undereducated about the real statistics and risks. And we have too much fear if we feel that something’s not right to JUMP ON IT IMMEDIATELY.

One woman in eight will get breast cancer, regardless of whether it runs in the family or not. Yes. Others will ignore changes (breast tissue gets more cystic with age) due to that reason. Or to fear. Dig this:

Myth 8: A Lump Is Probably Harmless If There's No Breast Cancer in Your Family
Many women think they're not at risk for breast cancer if no one in their family has had it. But that's not true.

Less than 15% of women with breast cancer have a relative who's had the disease, according to the American Cancer Society.

Get all lumps checked by a doctor, whether or not breast cancer runs in your family.

And lecture and update now complete. 

Please? Seriously? Everybody? Screen for things we can actually screen for? It’s getting kinda lonesome around here….

May we all have a Healthy and Joyous New Year!

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Joan Y. Edwards said...

Thanks for sharing.

Here are wishes for good health for all who read this.

Joan Y. Edwards

Karen Cioffi said...

Ditto, Joan. Good health for all who read this . . . and even those who don't. :)

Kit Grady said...

Thanks, needs to be shouted out to all.

Karen Cioffi said...

Kit, absolutely! Thanks for stopping by and thanks for reTweeting It!

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