During a routine mammogram they found a suspicious lump in my left breast. It was in an unusual place near my rib cage. A lumpectomy was the next step. There were several days to get through before I would find out if it really was breast cancer. Now I am a pretty positive person. After all 95% of what we worry about never happens. Right? But I still couldn’t get that nagging doubt out of my mind. What if that lump was the dreaded 5%? I was alone when the call came from my doctor’s office. It wasn’t cancer. I felt weak in my knees. I hadn’t realized how concerned I really had been. Frankly, I had to sit down. The feeling of relief was overwhelming. At the same time I felt amazing empathy for the other women who had gotten calls of a very different outcome that day. I hoped they weren’t alone. One in eight women will have breast cancer in her lifetime. That means our mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, friends and co-workers are all at risk. If you don’t now know anyone who has breast cancer, you will share that experience with someone in your future. REMEMBER THAT EARLY DETECTION IS CRITICALLY IMPORTANT We need to take intelligent steps to take control of the health of our bodies. We need to be protective of our family and friends and encourage them to take control of their health as well. Breast self-exams are an important first step but they may not catch the cancer early enough. Mammograms still provide us with early information that can help to save our lives. When to start having Mammograms is still somewhat controversial. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force suggested in 2009 that women should have their first Mammogram at age 50. Many front line care providers are still suggesting that 40 is the age to start the screening process. 25% of breast cancers occur before age 50. Those cancers tend to be more aggressive and are best caught early. Family history should also play a role in a decision to start mammograms early. African-American women are more likely to have aggressive breast cancer before they turn 40. Remember, early detection is critically important. Family history plays a role in our potential for getting breast cancer. Try to know as much as you possibly can about all the women in your family. Genetic testing is becoming more common. Learning if you carry the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes can help you take a more informed course of action. These genes can help predict a higher risk of breast and ovarian cancers. Those extra pounds we carry around can also raise the risks of having breast cancer. The American Cancer Society has found that women who put on 60 or more pounds after age 18 double their risk of having post-menopausal breast cancer. Other studies indicate that obesity changes the consistency of breast tissue that might promote the development of breast cancer. Breast density matters. Almost half of American women have dense breasts, which do increase breast cancer risk. Most of us have no idea about the composition of our breast tissue. Less than half the states require that breast density be shared with the patient. Breast density tends to be higher in premenopausal women or women taking hormones. Talking with you doctor will help you decide if you need to add an ultrasound or MRI to your annual mammogram. Your mammogram could be completely normal but there may be more information in that report that needs to be seen. Taking a more proactive approach to your breast health may prove critical to your future. Sharing information with you friends and family may save a life. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It is a great time to get up to speed on the latest developments in prevention and treatments. Take care of yourself. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Curvy Couture is donating a portion of their proceeds to your favorite charity. Visit Curvy Couture on Facebook or Instagram and leave a message with your favorite charity, tweet @curvycares or vote at curvycouture.com/curvy-cares. The charity with the most mentions this month will receive a donation.
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