Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Talkin' Tatas Tuesdays: Seven degrees of separation, or less

When you look at the statistics, one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer (American Cancer Society).   Unfortunately, that means I could bet that out of you and your 7 closest friends and colleagues, you can probably identify at least one woman who has survived breast cancer.  Amongst family members, I can identify at least one.  At work, at least one.  And among my friends, at least one.  And that is just me and my circle.  

What the hell? Those numbers are ridiculous.  Breast cancer is the second, only to lung cancer, leading cancer killer of women, according to ACS.  So what do we do?

I'm in my early 30s.  I have yet to have the mammogram.  For the most part, breast cancer is not common in my immediate family.  So I follow the general recommendations: SBE (self breast exams), clinical breast exams by the physician, and try to keep in general good health.   But many are not as lucky, and maybe the prevalence of breast cancer is higher.  

Women at high risk include those who:
  • Have a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation
  • Have a first-degree relative (parent, brother, sister, or child) with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, but have not had genetic testing themselves
  • Have a lifetime risk of breast cancer of 20% to 25% or greater, according to risk assessment tools that are based mainly on family history (such as the Claus model - see below)
  • Had radiation therapy to the chest when they were between the ages of 10 and 30 years
  • Have Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Cowden syndrome, or Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome, or have first-degree relatives with one of these syndromes
Women at moderately increased risk include those who:
  • Have a lifetime risk of breast cancer of 15% to 20%, according to risk assessment tools that are based mainly on family history (see below)
  • Have a personal history of breast cancer, ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS), atypical ductal hyperplasia (ADH), or atypical lobular hyperplasia (ALH)
  • Have extremely dense breasts or unevenly dense breasts when viewed by mammograms

The theory of early detection is the key, and we know our bodies best.  But sometimes we need the electronic age help.  So if you think you may be considered at high or moderate risk with factors like those above, then consider talking to your doctor about yearly MRI and mammograms.

Go to the American Cancer Society for more information and talk to your physician!
Let's save the tatas!

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