As a breast cancer surgeon and educator, I’m excited by the opportunity to join The Mommy Docs as a contributing writer. Unlike many cancer experts, I approach the topic of breast cancer with a great deal of hope and optimism, with good reason. For example, did you know that only 1 out of 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime? This means that 7 out of 8 women will never hear the words: “You have breast cancer”. Did you also know that only 1 out of 36 women will die of breast cancer? That’s just 2%, which means that 98% of women will live to die of another cause. What if you turn out to be that 1 affected woman out of 8? If the cancer is the diameter of a dime or smaller when diagnosed, you would have greater than a 90% chance of living more than 20 years later, with every one of those years being more meaningful than the previous one. Ninety percent of those diagnosed (with dime-size or smaller growths) will experience complete remission through surgery, radiation, and anti-estrogen therapy. Usually only about 20% of these cases require chemotherapy. Do you now feel a little of my optimism?
Preventing or achieving an early diagnosis of breast cancer is not merely a matter of chance, but can be achieved like most things with a modest amount of knowledge and a little extra effort. The challenge is making sense of the large volume of conflicting information encountered through popular media, the internet, and anecdotal experience. The sheer volume makes it hard to find pearls of meaningful and actionable information. For example, did you know that not every woman carries that same risk and that the type and frequency of breast cancer screening you receive should be determined by specific personal risk level? You really are as special as you feel!
In the coming months, I’ll bring to you a clear discussion about the prevention, diagnosis, and effective treatment; starting with a biweekly, 10-part series called “10 Things You and Your Doctor Should Know About Breast Cancer”. The first installment will discuss the importance of knowing your personal risk, and provide you with a guide to help you determine your lifetime risk of developing breast cancer.
You’ve always heard that saying, “knowledge is power.” Let your breast cancer empowerment begin or continue right here.