Monday, October 29, 2007

Forget Three Little Words, Focus on Three Little Numbers

Heading into the month of October, when our thoughts are centered on the fall activities of craft fairs, football and back-to-school activities, our attention is also called to the "pink blitz" month for breast cancer awareness.

As an eighteen-year survivor of this life-changing disease, I celebrate my own and my aunt's survivorship, and remember those who have passed "Over the Rainbow," along with my mother and Grandmother.

However, I am so distressed to read lately that the numbers of women getting their mammograms are falling. Falling? It is simply inconceivable to me.

You see, my mother was diagnosed with her first breast cancer at age 33. People did not discuss breast cancer in the mid-fifties, and no one in my mother's family had ever had breast cancer. Mother was comfortable with the lumps she assumed were "clogged milk glands" in her breast as she had also nursed her three older children. She lost her breast to a radical mastectomy in these pre-mammogram, pre-chemo days but went on to live another 33 years. My Dad was told she had a 50-50 chance of survival.

At 66 Mother was diagnosed with an all new cancer in her other breast, but this time, despite her diligence with diet, exercise and having mammograms every six months, Mom's cancer had been missed. She died at 71.

So every year in memory of Mama, I say to women as often as possible—just remember three little numbers. They can save your life. They are: 98 percent of all breast cancers are CURABLE if caught early; 75percent of all women have NO breast cancer in their family, and 90 percent of all breast lumps found are BENIGN
I would tattoo these numbers on women's chests if I could.

No. 1--what could be more encouraging to hear that if you practice good breast health procedures, i.e., breast self-exams and yearly mammograms, you have a 98 percent chance of saving your life because you have found your cancer early?

No. 2--we must get the word out there that 75 percent of all women diagnosed do not have breast cancer in their family. Women think that there must be a history, but the reality is that only five to seven percent of all breast cancers are genetic.

No.3 – 90 percent of the time, that lump is just lumpy breast tissue, so don't waste precious moments of your life worrying unnecessarily.

These numbers are easy to remember & reassuring. Get those mammograms. You owe it to you, and to your family.

Ellen P. Stucker of Memphis, TN

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