October is Breast Cancer Month. Almost everyone knows someone who has, or has had, cancer. Or maybe it’s you, and you’re a survivor. Do you “Run for the Cure?” Do you donate to Breast Cancer this month? No, I’m not hustling for donations, but I like to call attention to this month. And through research, more and more people survive. I’ve known several people who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Many years ago, they didn’t survive. Now the prognosis has improved.
To me, breast cancer is personal. I am a survivor. It’s been many, many years since I was diagnosed and treated. Despite, or maybe because of mammograms, women are being diagnosed younger every year.
Again, many years ago, (and no I’m not going to say how many) there was a Cross-Canada Breast Cancer study for women between forty and sixty-five years of age. I volunteered and managed to sneak in by a few months. You were assigned a number when you volunteered. One set of numbers checked in once a year and filled out a nutritional survey. The other set of numbers did a nutritional survey and had a mammogram once a year. I drew the side that received mammograms. My second year I flunked out. If you’re diagnosed with cancer you’re dropped from the survey. In my mammogram the second year they found a small area about the size of a dime with maybe ten pin pricks inside it. That was the cancer. They did a fine wire biopsy to confirm it was cancer. I had a lumpectomy the next day.
I’m sure my risk of survival would be much less if I hadn’t been on the study. I probably wouldn’t have been diagnosed for at least another five years. It might not have gotten any larger. Apparently, some small cancers don’t grow, so maybe mine wouldn’t have, but honestly, I’m glad they found it and removed it. And who knows if I would have survived if it did continue to grow for five more years. It did come back, in the same breast, ten years later.
I know there are pros and cons about mammograms. Pros- They do save lives. Mammograms are estimated to reduce cancer rates by 15%. Cons – They can cause significant harm. Some people will undergo treatment for no reason – because of a cancer that never would have grown. Women may experience psychological distress including anxiety and uncertainty for years because of an inaccurate result. This comes from a report at https://medshadow.org/medshadow_bblog/mammogram-pros-cons/ if you’d like to read the whole article.
And some breast cancers are too aggressive and virulent to control, no matter how early it is caught.
According to a Cancer.Net link the average 5-year survival rate for people wit breast cancer is 90%. The average 10-year survival rate is 83%. If the cancer is located only in the breast (not spread to lymph nodes) the 5-year survival rate is 99%. Here’s the link to that report https://www.cancer.net/camcer-types/breast-cancer/statistics/2015
If you’d like to share your experience, or a friends, with cancer, I’d love to hear it.