Most of you probably know my sister-in-law has been recently diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. Well, I thought that I knew quite a bit about the subject for a lay person, but I've learned a few more things that seem important to know, and I'm listing them below, along with a bunch of other things I already knew but which some people might not. This is need-to-know stuff, y'all.
- Men can get breast cancer too. It's much rarer, something like 1 in 100,000, but it does happen. (I knew this but do forget about it; thanks for the reminder, LadyPain.)
- Although having a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer does increase your risk, it is not THE factor. More women who do not have that family history are diagnosed than those who do have it. I repeat: More women who do NOT have a close family history of breast cancer end up being diagnosed with it than women who do have that history. Just because no one in your family has had breast cancer does not mean you are immune. There are other risk factors.
- One in eight American women is diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. You can see your own risk by going here: http://www.cancer.gov/bcrisktool/
- Often, the first symptom a woman has is pain centered between the shoulder blades. This has to do with the fact that some breast cancers like to grow back at the chest wall. (This was a revelation to me; if I had pain between my shoulder blades before I knew this, I probably would have shrugged it off for a long time as a simple backache.)
- Not every breast cancer is the typical tumor. My SIL has lobular cancer, which causes changes in the appearance of the breast surface, but there never was a tumor she could feel, per se. So ANY changes in your breast that you notice, such as changes in appearance, discharge, anything--get thee to a doctor.
- Speaking of doctors, the simple act of getting a second opinion after diagnosis raises your survival chances by 15%. FIFTEEN PERCENT. Get a second opinion.
- Most insurance companies are required now to cover mammograms beginning at age 40 at no cost to you. That's part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
- Huge strides have been made in treating cancer in the past several years. Already had breast cancer a decade ago and think you know what treatment is like? You know what it used to be like, but not what it's like now. It's better. It works better, and it's easier on the patient. Not easy, but easier.
- Breast cancer, when caught early, is one of the most survivable cancers. That's why early detection is so important.
The more you know ...