Sunday, March 1, 2009

The pink ribbon

I will admit, I saw Oprah yesterday and hence I am convinced to write this today. Not that I was never aware of Breast Cancer and its problems. But I thought it was something women in their 40+ should worry about. This, as I was educated yesterday, is incorrect. Apparently if you have it in your genes, you are likely to get it at a very early age.

Christina Appellgate who is 36 now, has just undergone a double mastectomy. In medicine, mastectomy is the medical term for the surgical removal of one or both breasts, partially or completely. Do you realise what that means? A woman's breasts are her pride. A part of her body. When a woman gives birth, she will not be able to breast feed after a double mastectomy! It scared the living daylights out of me to think of that. Small or big, I believe they are a major part of the body. Would a man be able to live without HIS thingamajig (yes that is a word)? I nearly cried reading this para that a woman wrote, "A few days before my double mastectomy, I would spend hours in the shower, looking down at them and accepting their departure slowly. Feeling them for the last few times. It was like letting go of something that defines you. Under the running water I would cry thinking of whether it would make me less of a woman and what I would tell the world."

Here is something you may not have known:

  • About 1,990 new cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed in men in 2008. Less than 1% of all new breast cancer cases occur in men.

  • About 90% of breast cancers are due not to heredity, but to genetic abnormalities that happen as a result of the aging process and life in general.

  • About 1 in 8 women in the United States — or 13%, or 13 out of every 100 — can expect to develop breast cancer over the course of an entire lifetime.

  • Even though studies have found that women have a 13% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer, your individual risk may be higher or lower than that. Individual risk is affected by many different factors, such as family history, reproductive history, lifestyle, environment, and others.
As I watched Oprah, which I now know was an old episode, she said that a mammography is not always enough. Most of the time you need to confirm it with an MRI. I know an MRI is expensive, but I also will like you to realize that losing your breasts is an even more expensive affair. Sometimes an MRI alone also doesn't do the job right. If you're in the later stages, even a biopsy is necessary. Don't wait till you're sick and have to go to the doctor. You're 27, 30 and have dense breasts, get yourself checked. If you have a family history of it, I don't understand why this blog needs to convince you to go get tested! Haven't you already realized that its a possibility you already have it? A woman should consider genetic testing for changes in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes if she has a family history of multiple individuals with breast cancer from different generations.

Remember, a mastectomy is not the only cure for breast cancer. It all depends on which stage you're in. I know the breast cancer website is not very helpful especially because it is non-user friendly. But you want good basics, there are multiple blogs online of women who have experienced it. For proper medical terms, check the website.

Please get checked at the earliest. I am not campaigning, I just care about people close to me.

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