It's breast cancer awareness month. There's pink everywhere. You may even be wearing pink right now, but it's important to remember that this month is about more than wearing pink it's about supporting the fight and protecting yourself.
You may think you're too young for breast cancer so you support the cause in honor of the older women in your life, but there are about 250,000 women 40 and under diagnosed with breast cancer living in the U.S. today.
You may think you can't get breast cancer because you're a man so you support the cause in honor of your wife or your mother, but 390 men die each year from breast cancer. Check out this article about a Central Wisconsin man who is a breast cancer survivor.
There is no face of breast cancer it can affect anyone. Any race, any age, fat, thin, short, tall, either gender it doesn't matter. You need to take screenings seriously. Women over 40 are encouraged to get yearly mammograms, but all women should be doing monthly breast exams on their own. Take charge of your health! Know your body. You should look at your breasts in a mirror and note any changes. Feel your breasts and under your arms for any lumps. If you find anything suspicious call your doctor immediately.
Ministry Saint Michael's Hospital offers Walk in Wednesdays available to anyone at any age especially women without insurance. No appointment necessary. The Angel Fund provides funds for people who can't afford mammograms. Follow up appointments are covered as well. Contact Angela Heuck, Director of Saint Michael's Foundation at Ministry Saint Michael's Hospital to make a donation to the Angel Fund, 715-346-5337.
It is much harder to detect lumps via mammogram in younger women because their breast tissue is still so dense, the most effective way to find abnormalities is by ultrasound. This would also be covered by Walk in Wednesdays.
My best friend, Felicia (pictured above) was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer when she was 32. She didn't know of a family history of breast cancer at the time, but learned of it after her diagnosis. Luckily she found a lump by feeling it and called her doctor at Ministry Saint Michael's Hospital right away. The doctor felt it too and sent her to mammography then ultrasound. The mammogram found nothing the ultrasound revealed a pretty substantial lump.
After undergoing treatment including a double mastectomy, radiation and chemotherapy she was in remission. There was no sign of the cancer, but that didn't mean that she was cured. In young women the cancer tends to be more aggressive so there's a greater chance it will come back. And it did 2 years later.
Now she's facing stage IV which means the cancer has spread to distant organs and tissue. The cancer spread to her liver and lungs, luckily not her bones or brain. It was determined that her cancer was estrogen driven so if they removed her ovaries there was a good chance they could stop the cancer from spreading or at least slow it down, but she would never be cancer free again.
She had the surgery and the good news is the cancer stopped growing and she hasn't had to have any further treatment. The bad news is it threw her into surgical menopause and she can't take any hormones to help ease her transition. That is rough on a 34 year old mother of two young sons.
Breast cancer is more than a month of wearing pink. It's all the faces young, old, rich, poor, female and male that fight for their lives everyday.