by Pam Coyle
Monday I will disrobe from the waist up and get squished.
I should be thrilled – it will be the first time in more than five years I’ve gone 12 months without a mammogram.
I was on a six-month cycle for a few years even before being diagnosed with early-stage invasive breast cancer in November 2011. After a lumpectomy, radiation and ongoing hormone treatment I am considered cured.
My story isn’t terribly dramatic but dramatically shows the power of early detection. Six months earlier, the mammogram showed no tumor. Six months later the small tumor would have doubled in size and landed me in chemo country.
We are, of course, in the midst of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I am plenty aware, thank you very much, though I’d like to throttle some of my female friends. They are in their 40s and have yet to be screened. Many of them have far better health insurance than I do.
Perhaps this will get their attention: Most breast cancer deaths occur in women under 50 who skip screening. In a new study published online Sept. 9 in the journal Cancer, researchers evaluated more than 600 breast cancer deaths.
Half of these deaths occurred in women under age 50; 13 percent of the women who died of breast cancer were 70 and older.
A full 71 percent of the deaths occurred among unscreened women, most of them younger.
The Susan G. Komen Foundation estimates one-third of women who should be screened are not, due to lack of education, access or awareness.
I’m not sure which category “stubbornness” falls under.
The American Cancer Society still recommends women 40 and above receive annual mammograms, though the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in 2009 said women aged 50 to 74 should get screening mammograms every two years – igniting controversy as well as confusion.
Here’s what isn’t confusing: 12 percent of U.S. women (1 in 8) will develop invasive breast cancer; survival rates skyrocket with early detection and treatment.
Do I like mammograms? Um, no. Less than two years after diagnosis and surgery, a 12-month span gives me a stomachache. But I will be there Monday.
Give me the devil I know rather than the devil I don’t any day.