I read the editorial Oct. 8 in The Advertiser Tribune titled "Think Breast Cancer Safety." Your statement, "The great tragedy of breast cancer is that it is so easy to detect and can be treated so effectively, yet it kills so many women," is a false statement for many people. Yes, mammograms do detect some women's cancers. With technology improving, we'll be able to find more cancers in the future combined with better treatments which can save more lives; but please listen to my story.
I was terrified of breast cancer. My aunt died during the radiation state of the disease. I was not going to get breast cancer, or at least I would catch it in the early stages. Yearly, I got my mammograms and was checked by my ob/gyn. I also very routinely did my breast self-exam and even had the little card with the directions on how to check myself in the shower. I was determined to find this stuff early if I ever got it. That was one thing I could control.
Unfortunately, that isn't what happened. In December 2006, I completed my routine annual mammogram and doctor visit. The results arrived in January. No cancer. The problem was, my gut told me I had cancer. It made no sense. I could not find any trace of cancer and neither could anyone else. In February 2007, on a whim, I yanked my bra off in the middle of the kitchen, bent over, and kneaded my breast. There was a large lump. I called the doctor's office and was told if the lump got larger, call back.
By April, I was worried, and my lump hurt. I called the doctor to make an appointment. The doctor was on vacation and I had to wait. I saw the doctor in May. He could not find the lump without my help. After checking me, he rushed across the hall to the ultrasound room. Several people tried to find the lump with the ultrasound machine and only located it, again, with my help. The receptionist was ordered to call the surgeon immediately to set up an appointment and when the receptionist called, she told me the surgeon was on vacation and my earliest appointment would be in June.
It was six months after my mammogram before I had my first surgery. I was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer June 13, 2007. Later, after my first appointment with the radiologist, I was told most women find their own breast cancer.
In 2006, I had no idea that I had dense breasts, and women with dense breasts get cancer more often than women who don't, and mammograms are much less likely to detect cancer, no matter how big the growth. I had no idea that when you examine your breasts, you need to bend over, lay on one side and then the other and get into the tissue to search. Raising your arm and checking the breasts in the shower isn't going to do the job. I had no idea that cancer is usually found on the arm side of the body. Mine was on the other side of my breast ,in the middle of my body. No one was looking there.
Women should get their mammograms and be examined, but they should also move in all different positions and really examine the breasts. Cancers like mine will live close to the breast bone, and it is almost impossible to detect until it starts growing out into the breast and then can be felt, which is well after the early stages. My cancer was living in my body years before it was detected.
In conclusion, I hope I have enlightened my readers on why breast cancer kills so many women, even though it is "so easy to detect." I am still hoping that the rest of your sentence is correct "and can be treated so effectively". So far, so good here.