Every year, over 1.5 million women will be told, “You have breast cancer.
This is a frightening and shocking statistic, and it’s especially frightening when you or someone close to you hears this news. This was the case for my family this past summer. My mom, who was 75 at the time, scheduled her annual mammogram. She received a call back and immediately said, “I have the feeling this isn’t good news.” The doctor told her they saw a small, pinhead area on her left breast that they wanted to biopsy. The day she had her follow-up appointment my sister and I both went with her to the doctor’s office. The news… She had stage 0 breast cancer. This was the best news if you’re going to be told you have breast cancer. In fact, the doctor told her, “You just need a lumpectomy, with 6 weeks of radiation, 5 days each week.” We left feeling fortunate that it was a very early stage, but encouraged my mom to take her time to think about the lumpectomy, as often times 2-5 years later you’re dealing with another breast cancer diagnosis.
After much consideration and speaking to people that had had a double mastectomy, my mom opted for this. She didn’t want to worry about breast cancer coming back. She wanted it over and done with!
So, in mid-August, my mom had a double mastectomy with reconstruction. She was a trooper. I know it wasn’t an easy surgery, but my mom put all of our fears to rest – even though I’m sure she was scared, concerned, mourning a part of her that was being taken away – she didn’t show that to us. We are so very thankful that she had a wonderful doctor and surgical team taking care of her, and I will forever be in awe of my mom’s candor, humor and strength. And, as a side note, after her surgery the doctor shared her pathology report… there was cancer in her right breast as well, and none of it had even shown up in any of the testing. Someone was watching over her and providing the divine intervention needed to make the right choice.
While she tells us now that she thought, for a split second, “ Do I really need to keep getting a mammogram at 75? “ I thank God every day that she did schedule that mammogram. In fact, it makes me mad that 2 articles in the past couple of weeks stated that, “Not enough evidence exists to suggest that it’s helpful or beneficial for women over 70 to continue with mammograms.” REALLY??? I’m confused and angered that this information is being put out there to women – I read this in a recent Dr. Oz eNewsletter and the October issue of Real Simple, in their special breast cancer section.
I recently had my annual check up with my doctor and asked her about mammograms for women over 70. She said she encourages her patients to continue mammograms as long as they’re able to get them, as a woman’s chances increase as she ages, which is represented by information from two well-respected cancer sites below.
National Cancer Institute
- Based on current breast cancer incidence rates, experts estimate that about one out of every eight women born today will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some time during her life.
- The strongest risk factor for breast cancer is age. A woman’s risk of developing this disease increases as she gets older.
- If your current age is 40, the probability of developing invasive breast cancer in the next 10 years is 1.45%, or 1 in 69.
- If your current age is 50, the probability of developing invasive breast cancer in the next 10 years is 2.31%, or 1 in 43.
- If your current age is 60, the probability of developing invasive breast cancer in the next 10 years is 3.49%, or 1 in 29.
- If your current age is 70, the probability of developing invasive breast cancer in the next 10 years is 3.84%, or 1 in 26.
As you can see, the older you are, the higher your absolute risk of breast cancer. Keep in mind that these numbers and percentages are averages for the whole population. Your individual breast cancer risk may be higher or lower, depending on a number of factors, including family history, reproductive history (such as menstrual and childbearing history), race/ethnicity, and other factors
So, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, in honor of my mom – Please, schedule a mammogram, take care of yourself and become informed.
Here’s to your health!