Today I wanted to share a topic that is very near and dear to our hearts, breast cancer. As you know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and I wanted to share with you a personal story that affected one of my best friends and the rest of our community. My friend, Jamie, was diagnosed with breast cancer eighteen years ago. Last week I was invited to help spread the word about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Bring Your Brave and #BraveBecause campaign. Of course I said yes.
As many of you know, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the United States. 11% of all cases of breast cancer in the United States affect women under the age of 45, however, many women are not aware of breast cancer in young women and they do not know they are at risk. Growing up in a small town, I was fortunate enough to have a group of girls who I became friends with early on in life and we still, to this day, are best friends. Jamie happens to be one of those girls and when we were all 25 (our birthdays are all within 2 weeks of each other ….isn’t that crazy?), Jamie was diagnosed with breast cancer. I can remember the day like it was yesterday when we all got the news. I remember feeling shocked, angry and so scared for her. She found the lump by doing a self breast exam and after a week or so, she contacted her doctor. Her doctor assured her it was most likely nothing and they sent her for a mammogram. The mammogram didn’t show anything surprising and the doctor suggested keeping an eye on it and he wanted to see her back in 6 months. I mean, she didn’t have a family history and was thought to be very healthy. Long story short, she wasn’t comfortable with that advice so with the support of her parents, she sought out a surgeon who suggested a needle biopsy. The biopsy came back positive. Jamie had breast cancer. She underwent extensive and aggressive treatment and is one of the lucky ones. Eighteen years later, she is a mom of a twins. Her message to everyone reading this, be your own advocate. Get your yearly mammograms and go with your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, get a doctor or two involved. Don’t bury your head in the sand, be proactive!
Here are some of the facts about breast cancer that you may or may not know. For young women who are diagnosed with breast cancer, it is often more likely to be hereditary, more often diagnosed at a later stage, and more aggressive and difficult to treat.
Every woman can benefit from learning the risk factors for breast cancer. In addition to the risk factors all women face, some risk factors put young women at a higher risk for getting breast cancer at a young age. If you are under the age of 45, you may have a higher risk for breast cancer if:
- You have close relatives who were diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 45 or ovarian cancer at any age, especially if more than one relative was diagnosed or if a male relative had breast cancer.
- You have changes in certain breast cancer genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2), or have close relatives with these changes, but have not been tested yourself.
- You have Ashkenazi Jewish heritage.
- You received radiation therapy to the breast or chest during childhood or early adulthood.
- You have had breast cancer or certain other breast health problems, such as lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS), ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), atypical ductal hyperplasia, or atypical lobular hyperplasia.
- You have been told that you have dense breasts on a mammogram.
When I first read through the facts about breast cancer that were sent by the CDC, I was surprised about what I didn’t know. I was not aware of the risks from having an Ashkenazi Jewish heritage and about the breast cancer genes. Knowledge is power and this is a subject that we all need to be knowledgeable on.
CDC encourages women to take three important steps to understand their breast cancer risk:
- Know how your breasts normally look and feel and talk to your doctor if you notice anything unusual.
- Talk to your relatives about your family history of breast or ovarian cancer. Use CDC’s worksheet as a guide for your conversation. https://www.knowbrca.org/downloads/FCHWorksheet.pdf
- Talk to your doctor about your risk.
Don’t be shy to talk about a subject that is uncomfortable, it may just save your life! I love the idea of printing off the worksheet from the CDC and using that as a guide. It is such a great tool to find out facts about your family history that you may not already know.
Bring Your Brave campaign was launched in 2015 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), its first breast cancer campaign specific to young women. I am thrilled to be a part of this campaign to help create awareness for women all over the world. I would encourage you to click the link and check out some of the women’s stories who have been affected by breast cancer. Most importantly, be sure to talk to your doctor about any concerns you have. You are your own best advocate.