The numbers don’t lie
1 in 4….! 1 in 4 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Let that sink in for a moment. October is breast cancer awareness month and a month for us women to ensure we make our health a priority. When it comes to breast cancer, it does not care about your race, your socioeconomic status, or what your values are. Breast cancer does not discriminate and in this lifetime it will impact those we love, one of us personally, or forever change the life of a complete stranger just by hearing the story of a survivor. Have you gotten your mammogram done?
The reality is, we have tools and resources to help us combat breast cancer. Early detection is extremely important and probably the most effective defense against this form of cancer. Today’s post sheds light on this important topic. In the post I share my personal story with breast screening via mammogram and ultrasound. In addition to sharing my story, and why this was hard for me, I debunk 6 myths surrounding screenings for breast cancer.
I won’t lie, I have never considered breast cancer as something that would directly impact me. No one in my family that I know of has had breast cancer, hence early detection was never really something I considered. In addition to not thinking about early detection, I also do not like visiting the doctors office. I couldn’t really tell you where this came from, I do believe it’s a combination of things. Over the years, I have associated hospitals and doctors with illness, hence I try to stay away.
My lack of urgency for getting check-ups and visiting hospitals is so bad that a friend of mine literally had to take my phone and schedule my annual checkup lol. I know it’s not funny because I know my health is super important, especially now that I have two little ones that I’m responsible for. This lack of urgency might also stem from the fact that I believe that I am healthy. I work out, I eat right, I don’t smoke, and I barely drink alcohol. My healthy lifestyle has contributed to my belief that I don’t need to constantly visit a doctor.
Most women don’t have symptoms of breast cancer, that is why early screening is so important.
A healthy lifestyle means no cancer, right?
Even though I try my best to live my best healthy life, I can’t help but pay attention to the statistics. 1 in 4 women will have breast cancer and I am sure a good amount of those women also live healthy lifestyles. Despite my doubts, and belief that I was 100% healthy, these numbers did raise a sense of alarm for me. I was having lunch a few months ago with a friend, and it came up again that I had not visited my doctor in over three years, nor had I ever had a mammogram. As I laughed this revelation away, she took my phone and booked my doctors appointment. The appointment wouldn’t happen until mid September but I was grateful that she made the effort and I finally had an appointment. Full disclosure, another reason why I hate going to the doctors is because I hate the wait. In my head, I should be able to pick up the phone and make my appointment for the next week. I know this is not how it works, But this is just one of the many excuses that prevented me from making my appointments.
My personal journey with breast cancer screening
To cut a long story short, I went in to see my doctor and everything was fine with me, thank goodness. In addition to getting my yearly check-up, I also got a mammogram. Knowing the statistics of breast cancer, I was a little anxious, and extremely nervous to get one done. I don’t know if it’s just a funny connection I have with my body, but I really did not feel like there were any issues with my breast nor would I have any traces of cancer, but I knew it was important to get it done, so I went along and got my very first mammogram. I have to say getting my mammogram done was extremely uncomfortable, and annoying. However I was game to do what was necessary to ensure beyond a doubt that there was no sign of breast cancer.
About a week later, I got a call from my doctor stating that I needed another screening. I was told that my breast tissues are dense, hence more examinations were necessary. This call left me worried, and anxious all over again. I found myself battling with the reality of the phone call, and my own subconscious telling me that nothing was wrong and everything would be fine. The statistics don’t lie, and I found myself contemplating fear and faith. I also became a little skeptical as I truly did believed nothing was wrong with me. Having experienced unnecessary expenses at hospitals, I started to wonder if this was truly necessary or was the hospital trying to make an extra buck at my expense. Once I arrived at the hospital for my second test, I got hit with a bill for the second screening.
I have pretty good insurance, but they did inform me that a lot of insurance companies do not cover the extra screenings, and I had not met my co-pay, so more than likely I would be paying another $800. Of course, an eyebrow raised again. If there is one thing about me, I hate spending money when I don't have to. And paying for a service that I believed I didn't need was no exception. But here I was again with the reality of the breast cancer statistics, so I decided that $800 to make sure I was 100% OK was worth every penny.
Getting a second mammogram
I did another mammogram, this one was worse than the first as they had to do more screenings to ensure they didn’t miss anything. After getting this done I was told that I needed to do another test. This time they suggested that I needed to do an ultrasound. Now both eyebrows were all the way up. My anxiety kicked in and once again, I began to reassure myself that I am fine. I won’t lie, doubt was beginning to set in. Two screenings within hours, something had to be wrong, right? I waited 2 hours to get the ultrasound done. The nurse came back and informed me that all was good. That the examinations did not show any suspicious findings.
I knew I was fineI have to admit I had a moment of “I told you so” going on in my head. Irritation was the next emotion I felt. I was irritated because I had spent three hours at the hospital. In addition to losing time, I was annoyed at the fact that I had a $800 bill. Don’t get me wrong this is important. I know if the results were different my attitude would be different. I would be full of gratitude for all the extra steps taken. But I knew I was good, I had a feeling, so that should have been enough, right? I know I’m not the only one who harbors doubt. But you have to think about the “what ifs”. What if things were different.
Let me be all the way 100 with you guysThe reality is, this experience was expensive, timely, and very annoying, but I would do it all over again. Your life is not just yours, it belongs to the ones who love you as well. If there’s one thing you can do to ensure you live a healthy life, it is to get regular checkups. Never take your health for granted. Make your health a priority for the people who love you. Early detection is the number one defense against breast cancer, so please go in and get screened. This breast cancer awareness month, encourage the women in your life to get a mammogram. Be honest, let them know it’s going to be annoying, expensive, and extremely uncomfortable. However knowing you are in good health is priceless.
According to Hopkinsmedicne.org here are 3 myths regarding breast cancer screening.
1). Myth – I don’t have any family history of breast cancer so I don’t have to worry about any screenings.
Truth – The American College Of Radiology recommends annual screenings mammogram for women over 40 regardless of symptoms or family history. In addition more than 75% of women who have breast cancer have no family history.
2). Myth – A mammogram will expose you to unsafe levels of radiation.
Truth – While a mammogram does use radiation, it is a very small amount and within medical guidelines. Says Dr. Zeb In addition, it is highly regulated by FDA, Mammography and Standards Act, and other governing organizations like American College Of Radiology
3). Myth – A 3-D mammogram is the same as a traditional mammogram.
Truth – Three-dimensional mammography or tomosynthesis, is the most modern screening and diagnostic tool available for early detection. With a 3-D mammogram, breast cancer there has been a 40% increase in early detection of breast cancer and a 40% decrease in false alarms. Reality is 3-D mammograms offer more clarity as you can now see which tissue is cancer and which is overlapping normal tissue.
4). Myth – If I have any kind of cancer in my breast tissue, a screening mammogram is guarantee to find it.
Truth – per Dr. Zeb – “While Annual mammograms are very important for women, there are limitations.” The denser the breast the most likely cancer will be hidden
5). Myth – I had a normal mammogram last year, so I don’t need another one this year.
Truth – Best prevention is to do a screening every year as this increases chance of detecting cancer when it’s small and easier to treat.
6). Myth – My doctor didn’t tell me I needed a mammogram, I can’t schedule an exam.
Truth – you do not need a written prescription or order from doctor to get mammogram
I hope my story inspired you to take control of your health and do not become a statistic. Ladies self care is so important. We need to put aside our fears about breast cancer screening, and make time to take care of ourselves. If you haven’t schedule that breast cancer screening, do it for yourself, your family and friends. Together let’s turn the stigma about early breast cancer screening into an uplifting movement. To our sisters who have fought the fight and to those fighting the fight, we stand with you.