Guest Author - A. Maria Hester, M.D.
Imagine a brisk winter night. A brilliant moon illuminates delicate sheets of snow falling gracefully to earth. Your family has just enjoyed a scrumptious meal, and you've retired to the den, where your children are dancing playfully in front of the fireplace. You and your spouse are gazing into each others eyes, lovingly, when suddenly you're overtaken by a horrifying sensation that leaves you paralyzed. You fall helplessly to the floor as your children scream frantically in the background.
You awaken to absolute blackness. A frightening chill pierces the very depth of your soul. Your mind is suspended in a strange trance-like state, floating in and out of consciousness. Your once vibrant body lies lifeless.
An annoying beeping sound breaks the silence, then, a familiar, yet solemn voice.
"Is there anything else you can do doctor? I see. Will you leave us alone please?"
A trembling hand clenches yours. You try desperately to grasp back, but your fingers won't move. Your spirit cries out, "Baby, what's happening to me? I'm terrified." But your lips refuse to deliver this vital message.
A gentle kiss lands on your forehead. You hear a soft whimpering which quickly turns into uncontrollable weeping. That once annoying beeping sound is becoming fainter and slower. You feel yourself drifting away as the beeping stops, forever.
At this very moment multitudes of Americans are dying needlessly from diseases that are preventable, curable, or treatable, such as breast cancer. Just the mention of that term makes many women fearful. Practically everyone knows someone who died from breast cancer or is a survivor. While many people will develop some form of cancer in their lifetime, breast cancer is unique because for many women, their femininity is so strongly tied to their breasts that the thought of losing one, or both breasts seems too great a burden to bear. Unfortunately, it is the fear of this dreaded disease that ultimately results in late diagnoses, excessive surgeries, and sometimes, a fatal outcome for a disease with a very high cure rate when caught early.
During this Breast Cancer Awareness Month, make a pledge to yourself, and our family, to do all you can to not fall victim to this treatable disease. Examine your breasts monthly, have your clinician examine them yearly and schedule your yearly mammogram today!
Risk factors for breast cancer:
• Female sex (breast cancer can also occur in males)
• Advancing age
• Genetic risk factors
• Family history of breast cancer
• Race and ethnicity
• Prior history of breast cancer
• Dense breast tissue
• Some benign breast disorders
• Lobular carcinoma in situ
• Menstrual cycles - early menses (prior to age 12) and/or late menopause (after age 55)
• Prior radiation to the chest
• Exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES)
• Having no children or having a first child after 30 years of age
• Recent birth control pill use
• Depot-medroxyprogesterone acetate (DPMA)
• Hormone replacement therapy after menopause
• Alcohol use. Women who drink 1 alcoholic beverage daily have a minimal increase in their breast cancer risk, while those who drink between 2 and 5 drinks daily have approximately a 50% higher risk of developing breast cancer compared to nondrinkers.
• Being overweight or obese
• Sedentary lifestyle
Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Tool