Breast Cancer: A Survivor’s Story
May 10, 2007
Dorothy Taylor's courageous battle against breast cancer is an inspiration for all women. Though she was only 46 at the time of her diagnosis, had no family history and had normal mammograms, Dorothy continued to do monthly breast self exams. It was only 3 months after a normal mammogram that she discovered her tumor herself. Her message is clear: "You need to take care of you. Know your body. Don't be afraid to touch your breasts".
Breast cancer often starts as a small lump in the breast and is one of the most common cancers in women. Breast cancer is a disease that can be treated and cured.
Current myths surrounding breast cancer are:
- Being diagnosed with breast cancer means "I am going to die." Currently, the 10-year survival rate is at 85 to 90%. When caught early, up to 98% of women survive at least 5 years. As mammograms and other screening methods improve, and more women perform breast self-exams, more cancers are being found at early stages.
- I'm too young to worry about breast cancer. 25% of women with breast cancer are younger than 50. Breast cancer can affect any woman no matter how young or how old.
- There is no history of breast cancer in my family so I don't' need to worry about it. While women who have a family history of breast cancer are in a higher risk group, 80-85% of women with breast cancer have no previous family history of the disease.
- My mammogram was normal, so I don't have to worry about breast cancer. Mammography is only one screening tool. All women should receive a yearly breast exam by a health care provider. Every woman should perform monthly breast self-exams. All women over the age of 40 should have an annual mammogram.
- A mammogram is a low-dose x-ray that examines breast tissue and helps detect breast cancer at an early stage. Mammograms can detect some types of cancer before you or your health care provider can feel a lump.
- Mammograms are also used to check lumps you or your health care provider have found in a physical exam. They can help determine which lumps are cancerous and which are benign.
- If cancer is exposed to air during surgery, it will spread. Surgery will not cause the cancer to spread. Breast cancer spreads by delaying diagnosis and failing to treat the cancer.
The cause of breast cancer is unknown. Any woman, any age, can develop breast cancer. However, there are some factors that can increase a woman's risk of developing breast cancer.
These risk factors are:
- Having a mother or sister with breast cancer
- Starting your menstrual period at a young age or going through menopause in your 50's
- Being over age 50
- Never having given birth or having your first child after age 30
- Taking hormone (estrogen) replacement therapy
- Excessive use of alcohol
Some of these risk factors you can control such as use of alcohol, smoking, and obesity.
Never ignore a lump or change in the look or feel of your breast. If you discover a lump or change in your breast, schedule an appointment with your health care provider.