Tuesday, October 28, 2014

National Month for Breast Cancer Awareness - by Sandra LaRosa

                                                    A Trip to the Doctor
National Month for Breast Cancer Awareness
by Sandra LaRosa

Every October, we see pink ribbons all around us, and we have many socially conscious people pledging solidarity with the women who fight breast cancer and trying to spread its awareness. As a result of the commendable work done by these activists, we have more and more women aware about their body and health. Despite the rising number of women who come forward for annual check-ups, still there are many women who think that there is no need to do a mammogram unless they feel some tangible symptom. The story I want to share with you will show how important it is for us as women to be aware of breast cancer and remain constantly in vigil.

Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in U.S. women, excluding cancers of the skin. 

A Trip to the Doctor....
Though I had a medical history of Polymyositis, I hadn't had any setbacks for many years now. My regular martial arts practice and the treatment had been effective. I was confident, and it was with this confidence that I decided to start October with an annual mammogram. It was a Thursday, and Monday I received the callback that many of us dread.

The woman on the phone wanted me to go over to the Mass General to get some more pictures, and an ultrasound scan if they think it is necessary. "This is routine, you shouldn't be nervous..." She added. However, I was worried.

If the current rate stays the same, women born today have about a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer at some point during their lives.

Since I didn't like waiting. I made my trip to the doctor the next day. It was in the waiting area that I first noted how the lobby was filled with pink. There were women, hiding their tears behind magazines. There was a news station on, in which some talk about breast cancer was going on. When I was waiting in that room with worried, panicked faces, I couldn't help thinking that what I received might be something more than a second routine call, another hurdle in my path...

Soon I was escorted to the mammogram room, where the technician took the pictures on that cold awkward machine. Back in the waiting room, I was soon called by a second technician, who wanted to me to follow her for an ultrasound. "There is nothing to worry, it looks like a cyst..." she said Again. I was wondering whether they were being serious. A few minutes after she pointed out the area of concern to me, the doctor came in. She wanted me to go in for an aspiration or a biopsy. She considerately asked me whether they should reschedule. I couldn't wait any more, and asked her to proceed.
In 2014, an estimated 232,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in U.S. women. In addition to invasive breast cancer, an estimated 62,570 cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) will be diagnosed

I called Bruce McCorry's Martial Arts where I am an instructor. It was about noon, and Mr. McCorry, who answered the phone, kept me focused on remaining calm. He assured me everything is going to be okay, asking me not to worry about the school. While I waited for the doctor to make his preparations, my colleagues at School kept me sane by talking about all the usual happenings at school.
In 2014, an estimated 40,000 U.S. women will die from breast cancer

Within two hours from the morning appointment, here I was, doing an aspiration. Waiting patiently and feeling the numbness of it were the most difficult parts. Thirty minutes later, the cyst aspirated. The final mammogram showed everything being fine. The doctor added with a smile: "We will see you in a year..." I headed back to school with all the surgical tapes and mini ice packs in place. Back to another day of martial arts...

Looking Back...
Looking back with the power of hindsight, we can be relieved that the odds are in our favor. Statistics say that about 90% of callbacks turn out to be nothing. However, something like this opens our eye toward the fact that breast cancer is something that can happen to anyone, and it is our duty as women to be aware and alert to the issue.
The risk of getting breast cancer increases with age. Approximately 77% of women with breast cancer are over the age of 50 at the time of diagnosis.

Any dangerous disease is treated best in the earliest stages. Breast cancer is no exception. It is important to realize that October — the National Month for Breast Cancer Awareness - is not just about helping our fellow women who are victims of breast cancer to fight and come back to life, but also for the rest of us to be in vigil. It is not just enough to resort to medical help, but also to stick to healthy living practices - for both cure and prevention. Healthy eating habits, regular workout sessions, doing arts of living like martial arts, being eco-friendly - these are all part of our endeavor toward a world without cancer. Healthy women are the asset of any healthy society. This October, let us remember the message.

When detected and treated early, 5-year relative survival for localized breast cancer is 99%. For regional disease, it is 84%. If the cancer has spread to distant organs, 5-year survival drops to 24%.

Larger tumor size at diagnosis is also associated with decreased survival.

At this time, there are an estimated 2.8 million breast cancer survivors living in the U.S

Reference Statistic by:
The National Cancer Institute & the American Cancer Society

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