We have all heard it before, Breast Cancer screening is key to saving lives. Early detection is key. Do self-examinations. Don’t skip your mammograms. Words that were ingrained into me as a young girl just learning about the ins and outs of being a woman by my own mother, a nurse. My mom was a great lady, everyone back in New Jersey assured me she was “A Saint” which is about the highest honor and respect that can be bestowed on a loved one by those of us from that great state. My mother worked with cancer patients in the ICU at the local hospital, even after her own mother died of a rare form of uterine cancer in 1974. I had always thought it took great strength on her part to be able to do that.
Then one day I got that terrible call where my Mom said “Annie we want to come talk to you this weekend”. I already knew it was cancer. It turned out that her breast had consumed itself in what is known as “inverted nipple” which is a clear sign of late stage cancer. I was angry with her for letting it get this far. In my mother’s case, she had 2 false negatives on her mammograms. It was the mid-1990s and there just was not the level of imaging that we have today. That being said, I was still pretty angry with her, the doctors, at cancer and life in general. Mom fought it like a champ and we had her for almost 20 more years before she finally succumbed to her disease. By that time; I had gotten married, given her an only grandchild, and achieved three college degrees when everyone was sure I would be a dropout.
Fast forward to the holiday season of 2018. My best friend since I was 2 years old contacts me to let me know her breast has consumed itself. She has other medical issues as well.
Flashbacks of my mother’s diagnosis. I feared the same for her. A few weeks later into the new year, her diagnosis was in. No need for chemo, no need for any radiation. It had already metastasized and was in her bones. She has been given a reasonable prognosis of 5 to even maybe 10 years. She is 50. A mammogram could have saved her from this terrible disease. But not always. We will never know. What I do know is that it could have given her a better chance of early detection.
So why write this personal account? Because advanced breast cancer is often preventable due to early detection. In my mother’s case, she had false negatives on 2 mammograms. You had better believe my mom would also still 100% advocate for mammograms and early detection anyway. I will not share the factors as to the situation my friend is in, or why she could not arrange enough care for herself because she is dealing with enough. What I will say is that mammograms are necessary. Early detection saves lives.
If you do not have access to health insurance, you can also contact the organizations below for assistance in locating free or low cost mammograms. Additionally I have included hot links to pertinent information throughout the article:
Find A Mammogram Near you – USFDA
Find a Local, Low Cost Mammogram – NBCCEDP
Cancer Information Service – National Cancer Institute