Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thoughts on new guidelines

This Thanksgiving, I will be giving extra thanks that the United States Preventive Services Task Force new mammogram and breast self exam guidelines were not in place when I found my breast lump last Thanksgiving. Through self breast exams, I was aware of my breasts and any peculiarities that were mine, so when I felt a lump, I knew there was a difference. Six months prior to my diagnosis of invasive breast cancer, my 40th birthday gift to myself was getting my baseline mammogram. By having a baseline mammogram, the radiologists were able to compare my films. When I heard the words “you have breast cancer…” I was stunned beyond words. Except for being female, I had no known risk factors for breast cancer not to mention the fact that I am a nurse, wellness educator, and a mother who was living an active, healthy lifestyle. I had never smoked; I had my children before age 30; I exercised regularly; I nursed my children and ate a healthy, nutritious diet. The task force mentions the “anxiety” women face with false positives, well after the year that I have had fighting this beast, any anxiety you may face with additional testing is worth not having the constant fear of metastasis because the breast cancer was found at an advanced state. It would be interesting to see what data this task force was researching. From any research I have read, the earlier the detection, the easier and least expensive the treatment. Unfortunately by the time I had my bilateral mastectomy on Christmas Eve, cancer had all ready spread to a lymph node, making my fight all the harder. Even after enduring multiple surgeries’, aggressive chemotherapy and radiation my chance of reoccurrence is at 67%. According to the American Cancer Society Facts and Figures 2009 an estimated 40,610 breast cancer deaths are expected in 2009. Breast cancer ranks second as a cause of cancer death in women. Death rates for breast cancer have steadily decreased in women since 1990, with larger decreases in women younger than 50 (a decrease of 3.2% per year) than in those 50 and older (2.0% per year). The decrease in breast cancer death rates represents progress in both earlier detection and improved treatment. It is a shame that America is taking such a step backwards in preventative care.

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