My mom mailed me a care package, including the April issue of Alive which is chock-full of articles on the cancer - I highly recommend it. However, one article, "Breast Cancer Screening", left me confused.
New breast kancer screening guidelinesLast year, the Canadian Task Force on Preventative Health Care released new breast cancer screening guidelines. Highlights pertaining to women 40-49 that jumped out at me:
- Routine screening mammograms: not recommended
- Regular self breast exam: not recommended
- Regular breast exam performed by a doctor: not recommended
An unremarkable historyAt 39, I'm a year shy of being a member of this age group. I've always been sporadic about performing self exams, because I didn't fit into the high-risk category.
There is no breast cancer in my family, except for my cousin Pam, and we are not related biologically. I'm active on a regular basis. I drink (or rather, drank), but limited it to weekends, generally moderately. I quit smoking several years ago. I breastfed.
In other words, I'm like a lot of women my age.
My kancer diagnosis
Like I said, I was sporadic with the self exams. I noticed some skin that looked off on my left breast. I get eczema, so thought little of it at first. Then I decided to check. Aha! A lump.
I booked an appointment with my family doctor. He checked. "I've felt a lot of cancer, and this doesn't feel like it. But because of the skin discolouration, let's send you for an ultrasound," he told me.
I was referred to Mount Saint Joseph in Vancouver, which I learned is *the* place to go for screening and treatment. They decided to give me a mammogram, then ultrasound. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Where does this leave women
So the new recommendations have me wondering what women are supposed to do. I turn 40 later this year. Friends who have already reached the milestone and have been putting off their first mammogram have told me they'll now get it because of my experience.
I didn't think I had cancer. My doctor didn't think I had cancer. And my surgeon and oncologist agree I didn't fit into the high-risk category.
That mammogram may have saved my life.
My humble opinion and a pitch
Trust your gut. If you think something is wrong, pursue it. If you don't agree with a doctor, get a second opinion, or a third. Be your own best advocate!
And in honour of Daffodil Day, I plug Mount Saint Joseph's fundraising campaign for a second mammogram machine.
There is a fundraiser on Saturday, May 12 at the Riverside Grand Ballroom. Tickets cost $75 a pop.
If you can't go, want to donate a different amount, or want more info, contact:
- Nidhi at 778-928-9085
- Satinder at 778-323-1078