Today is my birthday…thanks! This is the day of the year I give myself the best present I can think of. I know it’s a little ridiculous and maybe some people think it’s a little weird/sad/loser-like that I give myself a present every year, but hear me out.
Do you have any idea what this is?
If you are a woman over 50 you SHOULD know. But truly, if you are an adult woman of ANY age you should recognize this is a digital mammography machine used in the diagnosis of breast cancer. I have just come back from having my yearly mammogram, done with this very machine – the tech kindly allowed me to photograph it and she didn’t even look at me in a weird way when I asked! I get a yearly mammogram – and have since the age of 30 – due to a history of the disease on both sides of my family, both mother and father. I have never had the disease ( Thank you, Jesus!) but this would be the machine that would diagnose me if I did. I do my monthly self-breast exams ( and hopefully you do, too) as an early warning maneuver, but this machine would be my go-to for any type of diagnosis.
The test is not painful, but for girls who are built like me ( large!!) it can be a little bit uncomfortable. It is worth it to me for 10 seconds of discomfort though, if my life can be saved. Before the digital machine was used, the old fashioned squisher radiograph ( that’s the not the real name, but that’s what it was!!) using xray technology was the machine of choice. This piece of equipment was definitely invented by a man because no woman would have thought up an instrument of torture like that one was. I used to envision the man who did invent it sticking his…man parts… in the same place I had to stick my breast and then having the machine clamp down and squish him the same way it did me. Believe me, the machine would have been redesigned in a nano-second if he had!
It may be uncomfortable for some people to read this today. This is not my usual writing related entry. I feel, though, that by using my blog as a platform to do some good and to educate on this subject is a worthwhile endeavor.
So…here goes the education part. A few statistics, courtesy of breastcancer.org:
- About 1 in 8 U.S. women (about 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.
- In 2016, an estimated 246,660 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 61,000 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.
- About 2,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in men in 2016. A man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 1,000.
- Breast cancer incidence rates in the U.S. began decreasing in the year 2000, after increasing for the previous two decades. They dropped by 7% from 2002 to 2003 alone. One theory is that this decrease was partially due to the reduced use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) by women after the results of a large study called the Women’s Health Initiative were published in 2002. These results suggested a connection between HRT and increased breast cancer risk.
- About 40,450 women in the U.S. are expected to die in 2015 from breast cancer, though death rates have been decreasing since 1989. Women under 50 have experienced larger decreases. These decreases are thought to be the result of treatment advances, earlier detection through screening, and increased awareness.
- For women in the U.S., breast cancer death rates are higher than those for any other cancer, besides lung cancer.
- Besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women. In 2015, it’s estimated that just under 30% of newly diagnosed cancers in women will be breast cancers.
- In women under 45, breast cancer is more common in African-American women than white women. Overall, African-American women are more likely to die of breast cancer. The risk of developing and dying from breast cancer is lower in Asian, Hispanic, and Native-American women.
- In 2016, there are more than 2.8 million women with a history of breast cancer in the U.S. This includes women currently being treated and women who have finished treatment.
- A woman’s risk of breast cancer approximately doubles if she has a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Less than 15% of women who get breast cancer have a family member diagnosed with it.
- About 5-10% of breast cancers can be linked to gene mutations (abnormal changes) inherited from one’s mother or father. Mutations of the BRCA1and BRCA2 genes are the most common. On average, women with aBRCA1 mutation have a 55-65% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. For women with a BRCA2 mutation, the risk is 45%. Breast cancer that is positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations tends to develop more often in younger women. An increased ovarian cancer risk is also associated with these genetic mutations. In men, BRCA2 mutations are associated with a lifetime breast cancer risk of about 6.8%; BRCA1 mutations are a less frequent cause of breast cancer in men.
- About 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. These occur due to genetic mutations that happen as a result of the aging process and life in general, rather than inherited mutations.
- The most significant risk factors for breast cancer are gender (being a woman) and age (growing older).
Some of those stats are scary, but they are important to know, and education is always the key in health care prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.
I have a daughter and a husband who I adore before all else. I want to live to a very old age with them and if I can do ANYTHING to help ensure that my health stays good, I will.
So, now that you know what I did on my birthday, maybe you’d like to consider giving yourself the same gift when your special day rolls around. A quick Google search for mammograms or breast cancer will give you thousands of links. I suggest the most important thing to know, though, and to educate yourself about, is your family history – on both sides, not just mom’s.
That’s it for Peggy’s PSA today. Be well, find your joy, and stay healthy. There are people who love you who want you around on this planet for a long, long time.