It’s October – Breast Cancer Awareness month, the theme of my blog for the entire month. This week, I’m sharing the second lesson I learned as a survivor of the disease. But first, here’s a little about my personal breast cancer story.
As a survivor, this month is always bitter-sweet for me. It’s a reminder of the darkest time in my life. Yet, it elicits true gratitude for the blessing of survival and the people who carried me through it. Every October, my instincts are to remember and be grateful in the same way I fought breast cancer – privately. But, I think most survivors feel as I do, that we have an obligation – to our sisters who are no longer here to speak to it and those who do not yet know they too will fight it – to be leading voices in honoring, supporting, educating, encouraging and fighting breast cancer.
As a fitness professional, there’s an added responsibility to speak to the importance of regular screening for breast cancer specifically and all health screening generally. Taken together, there’s no escaping the necessity for me to merge my personal breast cancer experience with my fitness expertise to share with you what I’ve learned.
MAMMOGRAMS AREN’T ENOUGH
Annual mammograms are important but they’re only one screening tool. And, for a percentage of women who have dense breast tissue like I did, mammograms are a flawed tool. My tumor grew to the size of a Brussels sprout less than six months after my last clean mammogram and ultrasound.
Though women with dense tissue aren’t at higher risk for getting breast cancer, they are at higher risk for false negatives on mammograms and ultrasounds, which are the only medical tools used to catch breast cancers early. And, because early detection is the best predictor of survival, women with dense tissue have a lower survival rate. Regular self-exams are a must in the fight against breast cancer.
Lesson #2: Begin monthly self exams early in life, continue them even after beginning mammogram screenings; demand ultrasound screenings in addition to mammograms if you have dense tissue; advocate for not delaying mammography screening past the age of 40 and request that some resources be allocated to the discovery and implementation of more reliable screening.
Check back next week to learn the third lesson I learned. Support the cause by clicking here to donate to the Susan G. Komen Foundation.