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breast cancer“I’m sorry to inform you, but your breast biopsy results are positive”.  These are some of the most feared words in the English language.

Eight years ago my mom heard these words when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Luckily she had gotten her clinical breast exam and mammogram done faithfully every year. Because of this it was caught early. Her treatment consisted of a lumpectomy followed by radiation treatments.  She continues to have an annual mammogram and remains cancer free today.

The United States Preventative Services Task Force is now recommending that women have mammograms every two years instead of annually. Their recommendation is that women age 40-49 begin having mammograms when their doctors recommend it and that women age 50-74 have them every two years. But for my mom and for thousands of other women, if they had not had an annual mammogram, how would it have effected their outcome? Would it have been very different? I always wonder if the men and women making these statements are actually including themselves, or the women they love, in the statement or if the statement is somehow for all of the other women in the U.S. that are simply faces in the crowd. (Just my own thoughts!)

The American Cancer Society continues to recommend that women 40 and over have an annual mammogram, stating that current evidence supporting mammograms is even stronger than in the past.  I prefer to follow their advice!

I worked in a local health department program that assisted women in obtaining their annual mammograms. When speaking with women it was surprising to me when I heard one say they would rather not know if they have breast cancer because they felt they would die anyway.

I could not then, nor now, say it with any more emphasis: the key to survival is early diagnosis and treatment! There are many thousands of women living today cancer free after a diagnosis of breast cancer because it was caught and treatment received early. It is when it is left undiagnosed and untreated that the cancer can grow and spread to nearby healthy tissue, lymph nodes or blood vessels.  The cancer can then spread through the lymphatic system or blood stream to other areas of the body such as the lungs or bones.

In that particular program we used the beaded necklace in the above photo as one of our teaching tools.  It provides a very visual picture of the advantages of having regular mammograms.

I can’t encourage you strongly enough ladies to have your annual mammograms!  As they say “save the ta-tas” and in so doing save your life!

Thank you to all of the organizations that are promoting and supporting Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

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