Saturday, October 4, 2014

You Say Pinktober, I say......

I am starting to not like the color pink.  I used to (sort of) love it but now that Breast Cancer Awareness Month has started, the color reminds me more and more of the pink stuff you take for diarrhea. So, now I am calling this month....

(After a Google search, it turns out that: "We did not find any results for peptober" so I am proud to call it mine now.

And the name really is fitting because every time I see another story about a woman with breast cancer, I feel nauseous and I might have to hit the John....hard. I just can't take another sad story!!!

So, that is why I'm writing today. You will hear a lot this month about how mammograms SAVE lives! Get your TaTas checked! Go Braless for a cause! Buy this pink can of Campbell's soup and you will help save a life!

Ok, let's all get a grip, shall we? I will address Peptober in greater detail and all of the "PinkWashing" out there in some later blogs. Today, I want to talk about mammograms.

First I will say, I am not a doctor and I do not want anyone taking medical advice from me. I am just sharing my experience and want you all to learn from it and share it with your people.

Unlike Joan Lunden and Amy Robach of Good Morning America, my mammogram did not save my life. In fact, my mammogram lied to me for several years. I never missed a mammogram and every year when I went, I was told I had "dense breasts".  And every year, even prior to age 40, my Ob Gyn would do a breast exam and declare, "You have very dense breasts".  I never once thought anything of this because the doc always just left it at that. In fact, I thought having dense breasts was a good thing so I took it as a compliment!

And then December 2012 came and there were the lumps and the crease on the side of my very dense breast. I went for a mammogram and was told, "All clear, come back in a year!"  Well, if you've been following along, you know that was a big, fat hairy lie, too.  It turned out that my tumors were detectable on the ultrasound I had following this "good mammo", after I pushed for it. (My instincts knew something was wrong.)

Here's the deal with dense breasts, so listen up:

Women with dense breasts (meaning you have less fat in your breasts) have a 40-50% higher chance of getting breast cancer AND  up to 50% of tumors in women with dense breasts go UNDETECTED by the mammograms. In fact, there are now laws in several states which require doctors to tell you about your dense breasts if you have them. And now further work needs to be done to make further tests like ultrasounds or MRIs to be covered by insurance.

Breast density is like mammogram's dirty little secret. Half of women over 40 have no idea that their "normal" mammogram might not be normal at all. It's like looking for a snowball in a snow storm! Cancer is white, and dense tissue is white. So, dense breast tissue can overlap with cancers, masking them from view. Secondly, dense tissue is the part of the breast that gets cancer, not fat, so there is a higher risk of getting cancer for women with dense breasts.

I am angry today and I'm sure it's totally a delayed reaction. But the more I think about this, the angrier I get. Doctors clearly knew of my dense breasts. They knew of my family history and yet, no one ever pushed any ultrasounds for me. I feel like with these kind of cards stacked against a woman, it should have at least been explained to me. At the very least, why were no statistics provided?

Researchers have been studying breast cancer for many years. This dense breast info is nothing new, but it was new to me. It's inexcusable to trust a mammogram on millions of women and give them a false sense of security, especially with these staggering statistics. I'm starting to feel like one of those people who believe there is a cure for cancer and the pharma companies are hiding it. With all of the information available, why are patients not empowered with this information? The paranoid lady in me thinks that this whole breast cancer epidemic is just one big money making business. See what's happened to me? I was never this jaded!

I know I cannot turn back the clock. If I could, who knows if I'd still have my breasts or not. It's too late now. But it may not be too late for you. I'm sure breast cancer is not on your radar and all of the hype this month  may be just an excuse to wear pink, make pink cookies or have pink cocktails with your friends. Am I bitter? Yes. I am. But it's not just me I'm bitter about. I've lost some very dear people to this disease. Enough already! I can't bear to lose one more.

So, call this my way of spreading awareness this month. Sure, get that mammo, but go deeper. Find out if your breasts are dense. And if they are, insist on further testing.  Don't be afraid to speak up and don't ever feel intimidated by any medical professional. I've given you the statistics so now it's up to you to take matters in your own hands. Breast self-exams, in my opinion are EQUALLY important and mine is what told me something was seriously wrong. And look at yourself in the mirror. Get to know yourself!

And if you decide to wear pink this month, please make sure it doesn't resemble the Pepto variety.

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