If you have ever had a mammogram, it could be one of the most difficult examinations a woman will have to experience in her life. In this day and era, it is crucial that women are tested for breast cancer. I know someone who has either had breast cancer or died from breast cancer. Regrettably, I didn't believe breast cancer would affect my life until my aunt passed away a few years ago. She was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer and had undergone chemotherapy to combat the illness. I was under the impression if you contracted breast cancer early you had a better chance at survival, but my aunt was defeated by this horrible disease and our family was devastated. We were taken by surprise how quickly cancer had spread to other parts of her body. It was one of the worse days of my life. I was forced to look at breast cancer in an entirely different way.
I had my first mammogram last year and was reluctant at first because it looked painful and appeared uncomfortable, however, my experience was not as bad as I thought and my results came back negative. A friend of mine whose mother was diagnosed with breast cancer had a mammogram and breast cancer was not detected originally, she later demanded an ultrasound, due to the density of her breast, and discovered she had stage 2 breast cancer. Only recently I read an article from People magazine, about Abigail Valletta, a mother of two who was 9 weeks pregnant and noticed a small lump on her right breast. Immediately, the 32-year-old lactation consultant suspected something was wrong. “I thought I’d mention it to my doctors and see what they think. But the first doctor told me it was just pregnancy changes and not to worry about it,” Valletta states. “But I couldn’t let it go. I kept thinking about it and it wasn’t getting better. It was hurting.” Valletta went to another doctor for a “second opinion,” but she was told the same thing, that the lump was simply the result of “pregnancy changes.” Valletta says her primary care physician assured her that she did not have breast cancer because of her young age. The doctor instructed her to apply a warm compress to the lump. “She was about to walk out and I was like, ‘Could we just do an ultrasound to make me feel better? Just to put my mind at ease,’ ” she recalls. So that’s what they did. Valletta’s hunch was right. Just two weeks after she first found the lump, doctors diagnosed her with triple-negative breast cancer. Valletta had to undergo chemotherapy and a mastectomy while being pregnant. She took a brief break from the treatment to give birth to her baby girl. If Abigail did not listen to her body and not demanded an ultrasound she might not have been here today.
One of the best ways to detect breast cancer is to remain vigilant about being tested and making sure you are your own advocate for your body. Understand, there will be trepidation at times because no one wants to know if they have cancer but it is crucial to take charge of your health.
One of the many ways is by having a mammogram. A mammogram is an X-ray picture of the breast. Doctors use a mammogram to look for early signs of breast cancer. Regular mammograms are the best tests doctors have to find breast cancer early, sometimes up to three years before it can be felt. The benefit of a mammogram is greater for women in high-risk groups, such as older women, or women with a history of breast cancer in the family. Women have different types of breast tissue which can make the mammogram a bit difficult at times.
Another option is the Ultrasound, which is recommended for women with dense breast; which has more fibrous and glandular tissue than fatty tissue. An Ultrasound is generally used as a follow-up test once a potential breast tumor has been discovered through a mammogram or a physical exam, and has a higher rate of false positives, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). The ACS says that ultrasound is a valuable tool that's widely available and noninvasive.
There is also the option of Thermography, which is not recommended by many doctors but have shown promising results and some may even say that this option is safer than the mammogram. Breast thermography, also known as infrared imaging of the breast, is a pictorial representation of the infrared energy or heat emission of the breasts. It is based on the observation that patients have an elevated breast skin temperature over breast cancer. Some women want thermography because it is painless and doesn’t require exposure to radiation.
Many leading medical organizations do not recommend thermography as a reliable way to detect breast cancer. The American Cancer Society states that no study has ever shown that it is an effective tool for detecting breast cancer.
Breast cancer is serious and early detection is the best way to combat this disease until we find a cure. Don't be afraid to ask your doctor for what you want and if required get a second, third or fourth opinion until your satisfied. Fight for your right to live.