In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I feel compelled to share my personal journey. Even though I'm not one to seek attention, this is a story that needs to be told.
Breast cancer has had a significant presence in my family's history. My mother, aunt, and cousin have all faced breast cancer, leading to mastectomies in their respective battles. Their experiences taught me an invaluable lesson: breast cancer awareness is not just about detecting lumps; it's about paying attention to any changes in your breasts – a message that applies to both women and men.
In 2014, a subtle yet significant change in my breasts caught my attention. At first, I dismissed it as a fluke, but with my family history, I couldn't afford to take chances.
My doctor ordered a mammogram, and initially, the results came back clear with no abnormalities detected. She suspected an infection in the ducts but decided to conduct another mammogram with contrast, just to be safe. Both the radiologist and surgeon concurred that it seemed like infected ducts, and to be sure, they recommended removal. My doctor expressed 95% confidence in her diagnosis of infection, however I couldn't help recalling a previous experience when an ultrasound technician confidently told me I was having a baby girl. At the second ultrasound, they admitted they had been entirely incorrect, and it turned out to be a boy! It made me realize that sometimes, even when the odds seem high, there's still often uncertainty in medical diagnoses.
Following the surgical removal of the infected ducts, a surprising turn of events led to a new diagnosis: Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS), often referred to as Stage 0 breast cancer. The term "carcinoma" left me feeling overwhelmed until I researched DCIS and understood its noninvasive nature with a low risk of becoming invasive.
I had a second surgery to ensure the removal of any surrounding tissue. The biopsy came back clear, but I still needed 12 weeks of radiation treatment after a healing period. I completed my last round of radiation in 2015 and have been cancer-free since.
I also underwent genetic testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2, and luckily, I do not carry the gene mutations. However, my family history keeps me vigilant.
Sharing my story isn't meant to instill fear but to provide valuable information. In my case, I had already undergone my annual mammogram about six months prior and didn't want to wait another six months for the next one when I noticed a change in my breasts. The message here is one of urgency, applicable to both men and women: when you notice changes, take prompt action.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month serves as a reminder that early detection and advances in treatment methods have significantly improved breast cancer survival rates. In the United States, there are now over 3.8 million breast cancer survivors, each story a testament to the power of awareness and proactive healthcare.
Join me in spreading the word and encouraging everyone to prioritize their breast health. It can make all the difference.