You know the story by now. My mom had a bruise on her breast that refused to heal. She didn’t go to the doctor, because she was too tough to go and she put it off.
I don’t have a mom. My kids don’t have a grandmother.
My mammogram is scheduled for next Wednesday. It is stressful to go every year, because every time I make an appointment, it reminds me that I don’t have a mom. It’s scary. However, if you are a woman over 40, have history of breast cancer in the family, or have a genetic predisposition to it, you need to get an annual mammogram.
This is your nudge. If you’ve been putting this off for whatever reason, make the appointment today.
Suzette M. says
My mom is still here today because she followed up on an abnormality. I’ve been going since I was 38. It’s quick, non-invasive and can save your life. Please go.
I got my boobies squished for the first time last October. I was scared to death, but the technician was super sweet and talked me through. I even got a pink carnation because it was breast cancer awareness month.
Save The TaTas
I’m so sorry for your loss. I just wanted to add that even if you don’t have family history it can happen to you! I had a clear biopsy in Feb. 2017, but had to do a follow up mammogram in August. I want worried at all. Turns out a brand new spot showed up and after another biopsy, I was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer. For me, it was just lumpectomy and radiation, and now I’m cancer-free. But I agree, get your mammograms! I was only 45 when diagnosed.
Lynn L says
Breast cancer is an evil disease. The best treatment is early detection. I skipped a few years of mammos which turned out to be a very bad decision. 🙁
So sorry for your loss. Keep the faith and make sure you model what needs to happen for your daughters.
Your comment was removed, because this is the post is about mammograms. No diet is going to prevent breast cancer. The only defense we have is early screening. Please stay on topic.
Thank you for that reminder and while I’m not 40 yet, it is good to know the signs (just in case) and I will definitely start having them when I do hit the big 4-0.
Sending love & light for next Wednesday. <3
Don’t wait till you’re. 40
Please, go now. Two of my cousins died in their early forties.
What time you should start getting mammograms depends on your family history, and the recommendations have been in flux. (I’m happy to get into a discussion about the epidemiology here, but I realize this is a sensitive subject for some people, and boring or irritating for a bunch of others, so I won’t dive in if there isn’t interest.)
If you’re in a high risk group, the age at which you should get them is younger. Which age, depends on the group. (I started young because my mother had breast cancer at age 43, which is the cut off age for “young”. But I don’t have a lot of other female relative with breast cancer… though there’s that knowledge gap about my mother’s father.)
Joye Moore says
My gyn wished me a happy 35th birthday by ordering a mammogram for me… I’m 45 now and go every year.
Please talk to your doctor about possibly starting to get these exams. You and your doctor know your health and family history best to make the right decision for you. If you are in your 30’s you are not too young to have the exam.
A few minutes of mild discomfort and strange body contortions are worth the peace of mind about your health! It’s much less icky than a pelvic exam and just as important.
That’s a good point. I’m 31 and it can’t hurt to ask my doctor! Thank you for looking out for your fellow ilona andrews fans. 🙂
Thank you for sharing and reminding.
Erin Burns says
It sucks, the whole process. But yes, go. I’m 35 and last summer due to a retracted nipple (and I honestly can’t believe I’m posting this publicly), I had my first mammogram. Dense breasts led to ultrasounds which found a presumed benign mass they decided to track for 6 months and which grew. Had my biopsy on Monday, fortunately benign. Unfortunately it doesn’t explain the nipple thing, so now they’re sending me for MRI.
Yes, all of this sucks, but still, better to know and none of it has been as bad as sitting around afraid. And if you’re young, and something is weird, don’t let people put you off.
Joye Moore says
Absolutely! You must advocate for yourself!
Erin Burns says
I’m so frustrated with myself to be honest. It never even occurred to me to ask if they thought the mass could have caused the nipple thing, I just ASSumed once they hooked on to it. :/ Quite the suprise when they were all, well, now that we’ve explored that mystery, let’s get back to the nipple thing. (I am with different doctors now who seem to be much more thorough.)
Here in Quebec, Canada , the state want you to have a mammogram at 50 and every 2 years after that. I don’t have to pay for this it’s included in our medical system.
Didn’t like it but it is fast and , well not painless free but inconfortable is a better word.
Cathy B says
My mom has had breast cancer twice and it has been caught early and successfully treated each time. I go every year for a mammogram and according to the doctor I am very cysty. We keep a close eye on things and I do self exams regularly. I encourage everyone to be diligent about detecting breast cancer. Early detection can make all the difference in the world. I’ll be praying for you Ilona that everything comes back clean and clear.
I will add my own warning. If you have chronic blood in the urine without bacterial growth, insist upon a uroscopy. I also have no mother because doctors assumed that she was having plenty of UTI, instead of stage 3 cancer. This is especially important if you have had extensive exposure to cigarette smoke(third most common after mouth and lung).
Linda B says
Thanks for the reminder. I hate mammograms so much because I always have to go back (dense breasts) and it’s do stressful. Gotta do it though.
Erin Burns says
Can they not just start with ultrasound or schedule you for both in the same day? That is what’s been suggested to me.
Just had mine done a few days ago..we have a history of ovarian and breast cancer…I am also getting a hysterectomy in a few months just because of the issues I’ve had in the past
((Hugs)) No mom for me either and she caught hers early. It was just so aggressive. I’m not 40 yet and I’ve already had two mammograms because my doctor wants to keep an eye on me.
Karen the Griffmom says
Thank you for this every year. ?
My mom was having a followup appointment for colon cancer when her doctor asked about her last mammogram. He sent her that day and they found a very slow growing cancer which was removed.
My mother had bladder issues and she chalked it up to “old age”. Turns out it was stage 3c fallopian cancer due to having the BRCA1/breast cancer gene. Going to the doctor won’t make you sick and this testing is a necessary part of life. Getting the genetic testing if someone in your family has had breast cancer is essential. Thankfully I don’t have the gene, but I’ll still get mammograms or the thermograms as preventative testing. Also, for you menfolk, get your prostate checked too!!
I’m 37, and last Friday the dr found a lump. I don’t have a history of cancer in my family, nor any genetic predisposition for it. Doesn’t matter to me when they say it’s likely normal, probably nothing, it’s actually quite common; I am scared out of my mind. My mammogram is tomorrow, and literally all I keep thinking of is your story about the bruise. I’m so scared I’m going to leave my 6 year old without her momma. But I will not blow this off as “normal” because no matter what my history says, this is not normal. For everyone reading this, GO IN IF YOU THINK THERE MAY BE A PROBLEM.
I am so there with you. But some things to help with fear.
“If the cancer is located only in the breast, the 5-year relative survival rate of people with breast cancer is 99%. Sixty-one percent (61%) of cases are diagnosed at this stage. If the cancer has spread to the regional lymph nodes, the 5-year survival rate is 85%.”
My mother didn’t go for months and months. Deep breath.
Thank you for the calming words. After a week of waiting I feel like I’m posing my mind.
Erin Burns says
Oh Ann ((hugs)) , it’s scary but you’re doing the right thing going in.
You’re already ahead of the game. You recognize it as not normal, and thus should be investigated. This is a good thing. Makes it FAR more likely you’ll see grandchildren.
Breast cancer has gone from being a neglected cancer to a well-researched one, and the standards for screening and care are really good. It *is* likely nothing. But even if it isn’t nothing, there’s so much room between it being something and your children losing you. My mother had breast cancer back in the eighties – no recurrence more than thirty years later. And care has gotten so much better since then. I can think of half a dozen women I know who’ve had breast cancer right off the top of my head – and they’re all doing fine.*
Stay in touch. If there is something up, make sure you have a solid medical team behind you (which often means looking at second opinions and getting referrals from other people).
…but i’m hoping nothing is up. (Last time I was called back because they thought they’d found something during a mammogram, it got wrapped up pretty quickly during my appointment. Not the most comfortable weeks I spent waiting for the appointment, though.)
* Okay, I’m worrying about my adopted grandmother, but that’s mostly because so far she hasn’t reacted well to the prophylactics they’ve given her. She’s also twice your age. (And spends half of each year in India, which is relevant only because I don’t, so I can’t see how she’s doing.)
Joye Moore says
Sending love and peace your way Ann.
Oh, Sweetie. The uncertainty is the WORST. You can really scare yourself with “what if’s”.
Remember Ilona’s stats and don’t worry until you need to.
However, on the off chance you need this info, I will also add from personal experience:
Biopsies are no big deal. Mine were done at the doctor’s office/clinic. Two out of the three I had done were benign.
A lumpectomy is day surgery now. I was home by 2PM on the day I had mine.
They won’t take any more lymph nodes than they have to, so recovery is not as uncomfortable as it used to be.
Should you need radiation, the daily appointments were my biggest annoyance. I did develop the equivalent of a sunburn, but I was prescribed a cream to soothe the irradiated skin. (I burn after 10 minutes in the sun anyway. Your milage might vary.)
I did not have chemotherapy, so I cannot tell you about that.
Kris Ten-Eyck says
thank you for the reminder
I’m really sorry you no longer have your mom,,, but your children still have you, and I promise you, more than one person will make that appointment because of your reminder today. Some of them will live because they listened.
Sorry to hear about your Mom. Good reminder for every woman out there to get an annual mammogram. However, please try not to stress out, you’re doing the right things. Early detection has resulted in a lot of us surviving breast cancer and I hope the successes today, not the failures of yesterday can help ease your stress.
I am very sorry for your loss. My father had heart surgery on Valentine’s Day. So scary.
So, I know my doctor and several of his nurses read your blog, we’ve discussed it before, but today it became very obvious that we are listening to you: Made mine today. Thank you for my yearly reminder (my doctor thanks you also, as it keeps him from having to nag me about it. Doc: “Spring Breaks next week. You know what that means.” Me: “But it’s not time yet…(whine)”. He reads your post & at lunch I get a text “Ok. Your yearly reminder is on the Blog.” I check, call, make the appointment. Nurse laughs at me and says “You’re the 5th person to call. Do you all read the AuthorLords?!”
Wow. The power of the blog and the Authorlords!
Amy Ann says
Elizabeth Cottam says
My only risk factor was having been on the birth control pill for 18 years to control endometriosis. I have had my annual mammogram since age 40 and at the end of 2016 it saved my life. 2 biopsies, a mastectomy, chemo and radiation later, I am now 1 year cancer-free and am working on reconstruction and regrowing my hair. With the way my cancer was, if I had waited to find a lump, it would have metastasized all throughout my body by then and it would have been too late for anything but a will and palliative care. Mammograms save lives. Get one every year. The people who love you want you to stick around. Do it for them, if you aren’t willing to do it for yourself.
Jeannie Andries says
Praying that your mammogram is clear with no problems.
Thank you for the reminder. I have been putting it off, even though I know I shouldn’t. It’s too late here to do it today, but I will make my appointment tomorrow.
Chris T. says
I only skipped 1 yearly mammogram, and then last year when I went, they spotted a mass behind my nipple. This is a common area to miss when you’re doing your self exams, ladies! Anywho, testing, lumpectomy, 4 months of aggressive chemo, 33 radiation treatments later (last one was yesterday, yay!) , I am pretty darn sure I’ll live to become a grandmother someday. If my children cooperate! On my 36th wedding anniversary I became a cancer statistic, on my 37th anniversary I will count myself a survivor. The worst pain I had all during that time had to do with very nasty constipation from the chemo and GERD. Thank you to all the women before me who were the guinea pigs for different chemos and radiation. Thank you to all the scientists who worked so hard to make the process easier to handle and breast cancer very survivable. I feel the need to party!
Thank you for reminder about self exam also. I know a young girl who caught hers with a self exam. It is an also to a mammogram. I had a tumor removed years ago that was benign. I had my mammogram last Monday.
Had mine on Valentine’s Day and me and my dense breasts are a-okay….I’m the person telling the tech to “keep going, keep going, keep going, keep going” as I’d rather have a couple seconds of pain now instead of “We need you to come back in” or worse, “We found something.”
Way to raise awareness on important issues.
Anne Marie says
Its funny you mentioned this today my baby sister is celebrating being cancer free for 10 years. She was diagnosed at 41 no family history! She elected to have a double mastectomy and did both chemo and radiation. She is very healthy today. Do not wait!! Your family needs you!!!
Korey M says
My mother also passed away from breast cancer. Of course she smoked which didn’t help matters. I am lucky to work for a company that has the boob mobile, mobile mammogram unit, come by yearly. And I take advantage of that.
Go. I am a ten year breast cancer survivor!
Had a mammogram a few months ago – which was clear – there has never been a case of breast cancer in my family, but better to be safe that sorry.
My heart and prayers go out to those suffering problems and bereavement s ?
Rachel C says
I am so sorry for your loss. I have a sister-in-law today because she went for a mammogram 15 years ago. I have a number of friends today because they went for their mammograms. Each of them found out they had breast cancer early enough to do something about it while it was still treatable.
Please, everyone, take Ilona’s excellent advice. Remember, this is the only life you have so don’t take chances, get it done every year!
Even with no family history you need to get squished. I had my 1st mammagram way back in the 80’s when they were 1st available and last year it paid off. I was very lucky, with a early diagnosis of stage 1 breast cancer and a relatively easy 2 lumpectomies and a final simple mastectomy (and breast reduction on the other side, score!).
My very best wishes to anyone who had a more difficult time than I did. Hang in there, the BDH is rooting for you!
Mariana Chaffee says
I know it is scary, but it is also an annual reassurance that you are ok, your husband has his wife, your girls have their mom. If something were found, it would be an early diagnosis, much easier to treat, much more likely to be successfully cured. Many people care about you, and wish the best for you.
My daughter caught hers through self exam at 37 and the second one at 39. Two mastectomies later she’s in great health and been cancer free for 7 years. Always, always do a monthly self exam and never take “no” for an answer if you have a suspicious growth – get the best diagnostic tests available.
My friend went in for her yearly & they found a small lump. Thank God she went in. She is receiving treatment now.
We all need to be role models for each other. I won’t whine abou mine now!
Thank you for the very important nudge. And best wishes for your appointment next week!
C A Perez says
I hope my comment can also reach out, because this too is important:
My mom was 52 when she was diagnosed. No family history. She went to the local hospital and got on a treatment plan, which included an aggressively thorough lumpectomy, 2 rounds of chemo, and radiation. She WASN’T told that chemo could damage her heart, or that the test they conducted just after chemo SHOWED damage to her heart. She was in the ER and ICU for a week with congestive heart failure (this was months after finishing chemo/radiation). Her heart was functioning at 25%. The hospital sent her a priest. Her oncologist finally visited her and said “Well, I’m not a cardiologist.”
To sum up a much long story with many more screw ups and general incompetence, she now has stage 4, incurable breast cancer. It has metastasized into her bones. Her oncologist neglected simple testing (or neglected to ACTUALLY READ THEM) for over a year while she thought she was in remission.
Sorry for the long post, but the TLDR is: take charge of your health. Get checked. Get second opinions. Don’t settle for the nearest doctor. My son is 2, and he may never have memories of his grandmother because her doctor was an idiot. Words cannot express my rage, and my hope that no one else should ever go through this.
So sorry for your loss, Ilona.
And thank you for the reminder.
I turn forty this month, and I’d had my annual physical today, where we scheduled my first mammogram.
Thank you for helping us understand the real risks we take when we put off important tests & exams.
If it’s ok, I’d like to add to the nudge – men, please don’t hesitate to get anything abnormal checked out as well. There are many good resources and services for men with breast cancer, even though they’re not as widely known as the services for women.
I am so sorry for your loss! I would like to add my voice to all the others and say: please go to your annual mammogram.
My sister and I are both medical doctors and years ago we started nagging our beautiful mother, pleading with her to go to all her screenings. She was reluctant to go because she has a lot of insecurities concerning her body. But because she loves us so very much and is absolutely awesome and brave she went.
about 6 month ago the mammogram and following test showed an aggressive (but still small) kind of breast cancer. One she would not have detected because it was so close to the fascia and she also has a generous figure.
She is nearly done with chemotherapy now. There are some side effects and now, towards the end of the chemo she is rather tired. But that doesn’t make her, nor my sister or me any less than deliriously happy because even though she still needs to have an operation and radiation therapy, there are already no traces of the tumor detectable in the ultrasound or mammogram. There are no signs of metastasis anywhere. The genetic testing came back negative.
She donated her thick, chestnut brown, hip length hair to charity before the chemo and has a stunning wig that she admits makes her look ten years younger and very smart.
She is as lovely as ever and I am so happy to have her.
Please go to your screening!!
Good reminder – I just dropped a note to my PCP to get the referral. Though it’s been a couple of weeks of a lot of reminders, both from my own body*, and, well, a good friend has been going through a thing, and just found out yesterday that she has breast cancer. Early stage, good prognosis, waiting to hear more about her treatment plan, sobering all the same.
(A number of friends have been through breast cancer, and it hasn’t gone badly for any of them, which is a lot more than I can say for other kinds of cancer. And the treatment options have gotten a lot better than when my mom was going through chemo back in the eighties. Still.)
* I’m 99% sure I’m fine, but since independent things are leaving me with sore pecs and swollen breasts, it’s been the equivalent of having reminders popping up frequently, especially since I’m twitchy with the family history.
I had my first mammogram last year. I had to go for an ultrasound afterward because I have “dense breast tissue”. That turned out fine as well. I will be going again in April or May. I was worried because people said it was painful. It was not pleasant, but for me it was not painful.
I think the tech has improved. I also notice less pain, and I have dense breasts too.
I’m adopted and have often felt like a ticking time bomb with my health.
My Mum who raised me missed her planned mamogram and when she got around to it she had developed breast cancer she survived but had a stroke on the last day of radiation treatment. This she did not survive.
When I got pregnant i decided to trace my birth mother as I really had trouble answering all those medical history questions. I actually has a wonderful experience finding my birth Mum. Again I found breast cancer in my new family my aunt and grandmother had both died of it.
So here in NZ we get free screening every 2 years from 45.
I was put on the program at 35 as soon I got back from meeting my birth Mum, so far so good for me.
This disease is so invasive we really must have regular mamograms. Thank you so much for reminding everyone each year.
I have a dozen years before I get to have a doctor posing around where no one else has ever poked around. Not sure if that’s worse than a mammogram or not (I’ve heard how uncomfortable the process can be) but it’s well worth it.
Doctor reminded me Tuesday and I was able to tell him, smugly, that it was scheduled for next week. Then he noticed it had been three years…. At my age with no history it should be every two years. Oops. Getting 3D which I’m told is a lot better – less squishing. ?
I lost my mother to breast cancer too. We found out 2 weeks after we buried her mother (pancreatic cancer) and a year after we buried her father (bone cancer).
You might recall me recommending buying only the least toxic products & household due to me having Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (from long term chemical exposure injury). Now you know the other reason why I mentioned it. Their cancers were preventable.
So far, I’ve lived 3 years more years longer than my mother and counting.
Thanks for the reminder. Early screening saves so many. Being chemical smart is another smart way.
Thank you for your he nudge!
IIlona, and all of you who suffered similar losses or underwent a battle with cancer, you all have my heartfelt sympathy. Thank you for sharing your stories so others can be inspired and spared.
Fortunately, breast cancer does not run in my family. Still I have yearly mammograms. I decided decades ago that 15 minutes of discomfort was still less painful than wearing high heels, and not worth risking my life over.
After all, I take my car to mechanic annually and I am certainly worth more than a car.
Sherry Stallings says
I just got the letter today saying my mammogram didn’t show any signs of cancer. Once it is done you can feel good until next year when you have to get another one. It is worth going every year.
Yes, I hate them, too, but would rather spend 10 minutes doing it than deal with breast cancer. On a lighter note, I am always amused when the technician says “don’t breathe” when my breast is in a vise so tight I couldn’t take a breath if a gorilla charged into the room!
It’s good to have a bit of a giggle at some horrible things, you’ve got to laugh or you’d cry.
Joyce Hunt says
I’m so sorry for your loss and I’m glad you get a yearly mamogram to protect yourself and your family.
No history in my family but would never miss mine.
Breast cancer claimed my grandmother, two of her sisters, my great-grandmother, and on and on. It apparently skipped my mother, but her sister had ovarian cancer. My daughter (28 at the time) found she had cervical cancer. It’s no joke, women. These cancers attack fast growing tissue (like the cervix or breast) because they are so hospitable to fast dividing cells like cancer. Please don’t avoid the tests because you think you’re strong – in fact, being strong enough to get the tests should be your goal. Your children and your grandchildren (born or unborn), and all of your family deserve your bravery. #dothetest
And if you have kids who are old enough for the hpv vaccine, have them vaccinated.
Ladies under 40, you’re not out of the woods. I was two weeks away from starting my second year of medical school when I was officially diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer at age 29. Right up until my PCP called me, I was sure it was just a benign fibroadenoma (common in women my age). I knew all the medical stats (I was in the least likely age and ethnicity group), and my mother had had a fibroadenoma biopsied when I was younger. My PCP was the one to notice it during the physical exam she performed at my new patient visit – I had never noticed it (also hadn’t regularly done self-checks…). Due to my age/ethnicity, she told me it was likely benign and hormone-related, but to let her know if it didn’t go away after my next menstrual cycle. Life happened, and I didn’t end up going to see her until July – for allergies. She examined me again when I mentioned it offhand and scheduled me for an ultrasound (women under 30 receive ultrasound first, mammogram second because pre-menopausal women tend to have denser breast tissue that can obscure tumors). She told me that while she was 99% sure it was just a benign fibroadenoma, on the 1% chance that it wasn’t, she was sending me for an ultrasound. And because she knows me, she told me not to delay – to just get it over with before school started again. I had an ultrasound (and after a special visit from the radiologist, a mammogram) on Monday, an ultrasound-guided biopsy on Wednesday, and on Friday, I was told I had cancer. It was a shock to both my PCP and me when she had to call me and tell me I had cancer – and not just cancer, but HER2+ breast cancer (a relatively rare, but aggressive variant). Cancer always blindsides you – there’s never a good time for it. All of my oncologists have mentioned how difficult and tragic it was for them to see HER2+ in pathology reports before Herceptin (the first targeted immunotherapy drug for HER2+) was developed, and how revolutionary it was for their patients’ prognoses. Women under 40 who do get breast cancer also tend to get more aggressive cancers (more likely to be HER2+ or triple negative). Since August 2017, I have undergone fertility preservation, 6 rounds of chemotherapy, a lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy, and am currently undergoing 31 rounds of radiation. I still have the remainder of a year of IV Herceptin and 5 years of Tamoxifen (a hormone-blocking pill) to go. It’s not a walk in the park, but I’m lucky because I actually have treatment options. Before Herceptin was developed, people with my type of cancer just recurred, metastasized, and died. I was alarmed about the state of healthcare and the ACA before my cancer diagnosis, but having gone through treatment, I am more alarmed now – by the end of this year, my medical claims (if without insurance) will approach (if not hit) $1 million dollars (this does not include my personal out-of-pocket costs). The people who can afford to pay that amount out of pocket will have insurance, but the people who are underinsured or uninsured who will be hit the hardest. The return of short-term insurance plans, lifetime caps, and discrimination based on pre-existing conditions honestly horrifies me, both as a future medical practitioner and a patient with a serious disease. The earlier breast cancer can be caught, the earlier it can be treated, and the better the prognosis. Current practice recommendations are not necessarily doing monthly self-exams, but just being familiar with your breasts and knowing the signs and symptoms of breast cancer. If you notice a persistent lump, get it checked out. Most of the time, they’re benign, but it’s always that 1% unknown…The #knowyourlemons campaign is a great educational resource (and in the month of March, all donations are being matched): https://www.worldwidebreastcancer.org/
Also – sorry I wrote a comment novel…
If one person follows up on what you wrote. You did a wonderful thing for the BDH.
I was about to mention the same. My story is similar–they initially thought it was a fibroadenoma, and everyone was shocked when it turned out to be invasive cancer. I was a bit older–34–but I also had no family history of breast cancer and no genetic risk factors, and so I’d always been pretty lax about self exams. I happened to find it during one of those extremely rare self exams, and I’m very lucky that I did. It was already stage 2, and if I’d left it for another few months or years, I might not be writing this now. Even if you’re under 40 and can’t do mammograms, and even if you think self exams are weird because you don’t really know what you’re looking for, please do them! If something is seriously different, I promise you, you’ll know.
I had a lump that was not cancer. I found it myself. It still had to be removed because painful. Always get it checked. I worry about people without insurance. They have a tendency to wait until too late.
K and KJ thank you for sharing. Sometimes a 1 line comment isn’t enough ❤
Thank God for Herceptin. I was 48 when diagnosed with Her2+ Stage 3. It’s been 10 years this month since the end of my weekly chemos and my surgery. I’d had a mammogram in August of 2007, and found a 10 cm lump during my monthly self check on Halloween. So have your mammograms, ladies – every year, regardless of age and whether your insurance thinks you fall in some range where you should – and then pay attention, do your self checks. And please, please push your elected representatives toward universal health care. Ten years ago my medical costs totaled $500,000. Today, as K says, it hits close to $1 million. This is criminal when we can easily follow the rest of the civilized world and do something about it.
And Ilona, my heartfelt sympathy for your loss to this horrible disease, and thank you for caring enough to use your platform to advocate for mammograms.
Lara Bailey says
Omg I have the almost exact same story! I actually was prompted by Ilona’s post last year to schedule an appointment with my OBGYN because I had a lump that wasn’t going away. Anyway the rest is similar. Got the call on March 13, 2017 that it was breast cancer. I was only 29. Mine was actually triple positive meaning positive for estrogen, progesterone, and HER2. Luckily my 6 rounds of chemo really worked and when I had a lumpectomy in August, I was completely negative for cancer in both my breast and my 5 lymph nodes! Praise the Lord! I finished radiation on December 26. So now just finishing up on Herceptin and taking Tamoxifen. Again my story is similar to yours in that I was in my 3rd year of law school at SMU. Luckily my school totally worked with me and I was able to still graduate in May. I still had my hair because I did a chemo cold cap. http://chemocoldcaps.com Painful but worth it! So I literally just took the Texas State Bar Exam yesterday and fingers crossed that I passed.
The advancements in treatment are amazing but if I didn’t have insurance with good coverage, I would have been screwed. Thanks for sharing your story! It made me want to share mine. Good luck with finishing radiation!
I’m triple positive, too! And I also had a complete response to chemo (couldn’t even feel it after the first round). The scary part was that while my PCP found it in May, by the end of August when I started treatment, my lump had grown enough that you could visually observe it, palpate little tendrils coming away from the primary mass, observe/palpate some dimpling (my primary tumor was lower quadrant closer to the midline or 8 o’clock position so it was hard to see), and see increased veining (indicating more vascularization to the area). To be fair, I had 4 biopsies and fertility preservation (while on an aromatase inhibitor to keep my estrogen as low as possible during the process) – even if some of it was scar tissue, it was still a pretty fast progression (my HER2 gene copies and HER2:CEP17 ratio were insanely high though). If it had been any other year other than M2 year, I could’ve done school part-time, but since this is the first board exam year, I ended up taking the year off (my school has been great). It’s so interesting because my genetic report was negative, but it turns out I have a paternal aunt who had DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ, like stage 0 breast cancer) at 48. My genetic counselor was also very upfront about how Asian breast cancer genes hadn’t been well studied yet, so she had actually anticipated an “undetermined” result. Irony of ironies. Fingers crossed for your bar exam – it’s over! If it’s anything like med school boards, now you can finally get some real R & R.
Kelly Jacobs says
Thank you, I made my appointment.
I am very lucky survivor. I had to late a mammogram but finally went in. Diagnosed with breast cancer. Had a lumpectomy, radiation, and now I am a six year survivor. Mammograms matter. Don’t listen to the news, don’t depend on others opinions, I just know I’ve done them yearly and it probably save my life.
I am sorry for your loss. I have several people with similar stories, I hope this inspires others to maintain there BREASTHEALTH.
Do it. Be well.
Thank you for the nudge. I also get reminders from my oncologist and my surgeon’s office. A mammogram and an ultrasound every 6 months on the breast that had the lumpectomy and once a year on both – just in case.
I had my first mammogram at 67 and the lumpectomy 6 weeks later. I was lucky. The cancer was small and not an aggressive type.
Don’t assume that it’s too late to need a mammogram. It’s never too early or too late to need one.
My motherwas diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 80 years old. She had a mastectomy and fortunately for us she lived another 8 years cancer free. We lost her eventually from complications from gall bladder surgery. You are never too old for a mammogram.
Early detection really is key. I’ll add my voice to the BDH, please schedule your yearly mammogram. If you don’t have insurance there are groups that will help pay for it.
And don’t forget to get an annual eye exam by an ophthalmologist or an optometrist. I’m talking about the one where they dilate your eyes to see your retinas. This routine eye exam can detect important medical issues at their earliest stages, including breast cancer. Go figure.
Eye exams can also check for Diabetes which can be a silent killer for many women. My mom died at 67 years after a massive heart attack brought on by diabetes weakening her heart. Only found out from her Death Certificate ?
I know a 20 year old college student who is undergoing treatment for cancer in both eyes. There were no symptoms. It was caught during a routine eye exam. There is no substitute for regular screening exams.
My breast cancer was found via a mammogram. I had no family history and couldn’t feel anything because it was too deep. 12 years post treatment now. I agree with Ilona, get your mammograms, ladies.
Got my results today all clear. Thanks for the reminder
Make it easy by scheduling your Well Woman/ Physical/ Mammogram the month of your birthday.
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Debi Murray says
As a former mammographer, I can tell you that the small amount of radiation used during a mammogram does not cause breast cancer.
“ Less than 10% of all cancer is hereditary.” – http://www.bccancer.bc.ca/our-services/services/hereditary-cancer
-“One in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.” – http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-cancer-facts
Mammograms save lives.
Anna, BC (in the 10%) survivor
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Mary Terry says
Yes. Thank you. I don’t have a mom (ovarian) or an aunt (breast). Get an annual mammogram. Please.
On a simular note, please take your health an medical check ups seriously . You never know when an extra day or a little forewarning will make a world of difference. My mom has bad diabetes and may lose her foot because she was to stubborn/ anxious/ scared to go to the hospital. Please remember any news your afraid you may get from the doctor doesn’t disappear just because you don’t hear it. Best of luck and well wishes to every and their families.
Regular mammograms and monthly self-exams save lives. I found my lump a week after my self-exam I felt an acorn sized lump. It was odd. It took 2 weeks to see my PCP and 6 weeks to be seen for a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound. The next day was the biopsy. The next week my PCP said it was an aggressive invasive BC, which was also in my lymph nodes. Since I’m adopted I didn’t know I had the gene mutation.
It was a scary time for my family. It hit the children (ages 6 to 10) hard too. Keeping a positive attitude during treatment kept me afloat, along with the support of family, the community, and so many good people. I wanted to show my children this disease could be beat, in case they should one day face this. The good news is that cancer treatment has advanced.
I was Stage 3a TNBC. Meeting stage 4 survivors was very encouraging. More people are surviving cancer and recurrences. I’m also lucky that there is post-treatment for triple negative cancer. My last mammo was in December. Lots of anxiety yet I’m happy to say I’m one year cancer free! Yay!
Know your breasts, listen to your body, and make sure you have good, responsive doctors. See a genetic counselor if it runs in your family. There are options. There is Hope!
Sending lots of love vibes your way ! ~~ Courage 🙂
Feel very blessed to have read all these comments. I have regular mammograms but this inspires me to keep getting them done.
I am 74 and just had mine in Feb thank the creator it was negative. We just lost a much loved niece to the same cancer that took my very best friend, her mother 14 years ago. I promised joanne at that time I would get a chi-chi squish every year and I have done my best to keep that promise. To all of you don’t hesitate to get this done. Your family cannot do without you. Ilona I am sorry for your loss and bless you for caring.
Thank you for the nudge. I know it’s a paltry offering, but I’m so sorry for your loss.
Sorry about your mom.
Thank you for the PSA.
Nudge important. I am on it. Thanks for your care! Hope all is clear xx
I too lost my grandma for cancer. It all started at the end of the 80s with breast cancer. Then it moved to the kidneys after 20 years that she was free of cancer (or so we thought). After it took one kidney it took also her brain and her body. In the end, she was in an induced medical coma and she died a few days later.
So yes, please please check yourselves out. If you are a woman over 35 (in Italy they suggest 35 and not 40, 40 if you do not have an episode in the family) and have had an episode breast cancer in the family start with your annual checkup.
This is another gentle nudge.
I’m so sorry to hear about your mom and I couldn’t agree more – getting your annual mammogram is so extremely important.
However, speaking from personal experience, even if something does show on your mammogram but the radiologist assures you it’s benign? Get it biopsied anyway, just to be safe. Seriously.
I discovered a mass in my right breast by self-exam while in the shower. Immediately got a mammogram & sonogram. Radiologist told me that I actually had 2 masses but he was 99% sure they were benign and I could just leave them alone. But I just didn’t personally like the idea of leaving the lumps in, so I decided to just get them taken out – still 100% believing the radiologist that I was fine.
One week after surgery, the pathology comes back and I not only have Stage 3 breast cancer, I have an uncommon type – invasive lobular carcinoma – that usually doesn’t cause discreet masses, just single file chains of cancer cells that cause thickening but not lumps. Oh, and usually looks benign on imaging.
So do not forget to get your mammogram every single year and if it shows a lump that you’re uncomfortable about, regardless of what the radiologist says? Get it biopsied. It’s the only way to be absolutely certain and it’s worth it for peace of mind.
Lisa Pepper says
Bless you for the reminder. My stepmom had 2 bouts of breast cancer (10 yrs apart) with complete mastectomy during the first one. She had a 3rd recurrence, and it’s in her bones now. She reminds me constantly to check and to go to the doctor if ANYTHING doesn’t seem right
Great and so important a reminder. I am 68 and grit my teeth and go. Do this for yourself, your family and your friends. No one needs to go through the heartbreak of losing you to breast cancer, if possible.
Sorry you lost your mom. I lost an aunt 6 years ago to breast cancer it was traumatic. My aunt was always so lively and had many friends, the worse she got the more you knew who her true friends were because they stuck with her through the very end. I’m a nurse and eventually I would like to specialize in oncology, because people need encouragement during this time. That being said I have to say I’m 45 and have had one mammogram done during the time my aunt was going through that. Shame on me for not doing one every year. I do do self check but that cannot detect everything. Things can get really hectic and as moms especially with careers, we tend to give our all to our husbands, children, jobs etc. and at times neglect ourselves. Thanks for the reminder, I’ll call for an appointment as soon as the office is open.
Ilona you are an amazing woman to share your experience. I am also very grateful for the platform it opened for all the conversations that came after. Blessings to all of you.
In 2010 I had a lumpectomy to remove 2 tumors. I will forever be grateful to my wonderful surgical team at OSU who from day 1 referred to me as a cancer survivor. I went into my surgery with that mindset and making jokes to help me ease my tension. I was lucky; both were less than a centimeter, both were non-invasive. Had my 7 yr check-up in December, still cancer free.
I schedule it for my birthday every year. A gift to not only myself, but the rest of my family as well.
Thank you for inspiring so many women Ilona.
My first mammogram in Febuary four years ago found a very small lump, which the biopsy said was non-aggressive. I carried on training for a 4-day 125 mile kayak race, which I had been training for all winter. Six weeks later I completed the race on the Monday and had the operation on the Tuesday. I was amazed at how little pain I had from the operation, the blisters from the paddling gave me much more discomfort than the operation did. I had to have a second operation and later radiotherapy because they found it was a more aggressive type than they thought. Again I found the recuperation from the operation much less painful than expected. (And both times I was back paddling and racing two weeks after the operations). For those that are facing breast cancer at the moment, the worry about the operation can seem much bigger than the reality, and if you can find some nice events to take your mind off it then it can help.
Just got a reminder in the mail yesterday from my insurance company, of all people, to get that done. So smash o gram, here I come!
Thanks for the yearly nudge! I got my first one done last year because of it.
Here in the UK we get free mammograms every two years and still some women will not go and get them.
They are painful but necessary and can and do save lives.
On a lighter note if you done to men what gets done to us a new way to examine us would be found by next month.
Agreed. I told my physician the same thing last time he suggested a mammogram. He was insulted and furious that anyone would suggest males have that done to tender parts. I now have a female Dr.
My husband got his first “manogram” 2 years ago he said he now understood why I yelp when I get mine. He is scheduled for his next one in June. He said he is not looking forward to it but will get it anyway.
Diana R. says
Thanks so much for the nudge, Also, my thanks to you, Ilona, and to all of my fellow readers for your comments and support. Blessings/positive vibes to you all.
You are honoring your mom’s memory with this post. Glad to see some of your fans are taking action. I lost my best friend this last year to breast cancer. She was obese, and the doctors told her they were just cysts. As she did have a problem with recurring cysts, she let it go till too late.
And I hadn’t had a mammogram for four years due to caregiving for my mother and my BFF. Went last week and grateful to be given the all clear.
So very sorry for the loss to you and your family.
Thank you for the reminder. Been putting it off for 6 months. Made my appointment for next week. Hugs.
Britni Patterson says
Two maternal aunts with breast cancer. Maternal grandmother died of uterine cancer. Paternal grandmother died of lymphoma. I started my mammograms at age 35, because my PCP said my family history made her nervous. Had one scare where I had a cyst-thing that felt like a hard little lump. Looked like cancer on the mammogram, and they did a sonogram which proved it was fluid, and not solid. Never been so damn scared in my life while I waited for the sonographer.
My best friend’s wife was diagnosed six months ago with triple negative breast cancer, very early, due to her regular mammograms. She’s just finished her chemo, had a lumpectomy, and is currently showing as cancer free. If she’d caught it later, it would have been exponentially serious.
Get. Your. Mammograms.
Barbara McNichol says
Got mine in May. Found stage 0-1 in two spots on my left side. Had a hellish rest of the year with 3 surgeries to get clear margins but they found it before it got to the lymph nodes and so I am looking at it in the rear view mirror now.
Got my mammogram on Wednesday….been putting it off because I have been primary caregiver to my mom for over two years….and, after she passed, I couldn’t bring myself to do anything. However, my employer made it easy. They brought in a machine and said “Come on down”! Thank you, Ilona for the reminder and thank you Verizon for providing the opportunity!
Ilona thank you for posting your story to raise awareness, you and everyone else who had been through this have my heart felt sympathy…. All my wishes to you that you remain free from it and condolences to your mother
Gail K says
You never get over losing your Mom. And you honor her by reminding everyone to get mammograms.
Lost 2 cousins to breast cancer , jean (1 cousin) had previously lost her mom to cancer 18 months before she lost her battle.
In 2007 both my mom andI were diagnosed with cancer . Mine Stage 4 skin cancer my mom stage 3 salivary cancer(neither of us smoke or drink). Sine I had very aggressive Stage 4 I was treated first. Had “cyst ” on top of hair for years my PCP always said it was nothing .My hairdresser first noticed it getting bigger and she was concerned.
Should have listened to hairdresser.
Had major surgery, major radiation and because I was naive I skipped chemo . I only survived because I was needed to take care of my Mom . I was Stage 4, 2 tumors one 15 cm and 1 4.5cm in lymph nodes. They removed 80 lymph nodes. And cancer hadn’t spread. This will be 10 years and I am still here. Lots of side effects,no hair, losing teeth,chronic pain and lovely scars.
My mom was operated on 2008 after I was stabilized. She was ok till 2011 and it came back, in her spine and lungs. We fought every day till she passed in November 2012. I miss her every day.
Still trying to figure out my path after cancer. It has been dark and difficult, but books like Ilona’s help me survive. And the Innkeeper was a godsend to my sanity when my mom died. Thank you
Dee Ash says
My sister-in-law has just started radiotherapy having had a lumpectomy in December and chemotherapy from May-November 2017. She’s only 30 years. She had a pain in her breast and fatigue but the doctors said it couldn’t possibly be anything, she’s too young, there’s no history, it’s just aches. After she and my brother pushed the issue they finally gave her a scan and the pain turned out to be a cyst – however they also found a stage three HER2 positive tumour. You know your body, if something doesn’t feel right, make them listen to you. Even if it feels fine, be safe not sorry. My sister-in-law was lucky really that she had a regular cyst as well, her cancer was very aggressive and quick growing – it grew bigger just in the 4 weeks until she started chemo. Who knows without the pain she’d have ignored the tiredness and put it all down to stress. Even without mamograms, be breast aware and self check regularly http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/testing/types/self_exam/bse_steps
Where I live, we have a high cancer rate. A person dies of cancer every 3 days. When I got to age 40, I had my 1st mammogram. In the very 1st shot, I fainted from the pain. I woke up dangling from the machine and the technician was behind me holding me up. At the same time, she was trying to release me from the machine. I wanted so badly to cry hysterically but didn’t. I knew if I walked out without finishing the mammo, I would never do it again. I finished it.
So the next year, I researched on how to handle the pain of mammo. No coffee the week before, schedule it not close to your menstruation, take painkiller an hour before, etc… And most importantly, I found out that if you shop around, that not all mammos can be a painful level 10+. I found one who Manually turns the knob to tighten down the breast plates. My pain level is below 5. She’s a great technician!
The comments above have prompted me to stop procrastinating by ignoring the reminder letter from BreastScreen Australia because I’m “ too busy this week”. Plus it’s my birthday next week so that will act as a good annual reminder going forward. Thankyou for all the sensible advice and hugs to all of you, including Ilona, who have lost family members and friends to this terrible disease.
Ramona Hlis says
Men can get breast cancer too. Read here for signs and symptoms.
Those with a family history of BRCA gene mutation should have regular screenings, but even without a family history, any lumps or abnormalities of the male breast should be checked out immediately. Breast cancer may be rare in men, but when does it occur, it tends to spread rapidly.
Don’t be scared Ilona. My mother also died from breast cancer. Ironically she found out she had cancer because her doctor had asked her to participate in a study about smokers who didn’t have cancer, otherwise she never would have been checked out. I get my mammogram done every year also and so far I’m clear but I know what you mean about the anxiety, but don’t let your fear stop you from going. Mammograms really do save lives. (My mother did live another 15 years after her first diagnosis so I know what I’m talkin’ ’bout)
Consider me nudged.
Thank you for the nudge, Ilona. For me it’s not just about the mammogram. I’m supposed to have a bi-annual MRI to monitor a brain cyst as well. It was due last year, but I forgot. Two of my close relatives died of brain cancer which is partly why they are monitoring it; growth and location are also factors. Now I’ve made appointments for both tests.
So people, if you have serious tests that you should be taking, here’s a related nudge from me!
Susan B says
I’ll add my nudge to Ilona’s. I was overdue for a screening mammogram last summer and when I went to my family doctor for an unrelated problem her office made the appointment for me. The mammogram led to an ultrasound, which led a biopsy, which led to a diagnosis of breast cancer. Made a believer out of me since I have known other women whose breast cancer didn’t show up on a mammogram.
Patrice Tinsley says
A mammogram in 2016 saved my life. I have no family history or genetic predisposition to breast cancer. I had missed the previous 2 years mamos due to many foolish (and not so foolish) reasons. But Thank God I went in 2016! Everyone needs to go get their annual mammogram.
This same thing happenedto me, Ilona. My mom had a bruise that became a divot and lump and wouldn’t go to the doctor until I came home from college and forced her. Now she’s gone and I’m approaching the age when she passed, and it scares me. I’ve been getting a mammogram every year since then-20+years. Don’t skip this screening! My condolences to you.?
Diana steben says
I didn’t think there was breast cancer in my family. After I was diagnosed, I found out I have 2 aunts that survived it. I had a lumpectomy and will be getting chemo and radiation. Two lumps I named Ryan and Mcturtle. Get checked sometimes tumours can’t be felt. Tell people. It’s not for sympathy, it’s information.
Thankyou iilona. Good luck on Wednesday.
It is my Christmas present to my self. I go every year, ‘cause how can you forget Christmas!
I got lucky and my mom went to see a doctor early enough. Her mother had breast cancer too. I’m 33 and have cysts in both breasts since nearly 10 years – they are only full of water but my heart nearly stopped, when I felt the first one. So I get an ultrasound, sometimes two, a year – at this age they don’t like to make a mammogram. I’m so sorry for the loss of your mom and thankful for such an important post as this one.
Shiloh Gibson says
I had breast cancer twice before the age of 35 and neither were due to genetics. Because of the chemo and radiation, I now live with chronic heart failure. If you even suspect that you have a lump or any weird issue with your breasts, get it checked. You are not weak by going to the doctor! Early detection is key.
I’m 20 years old, and last year instead of starting my freshmen year of college I spent my time taking care of my mom, who had stage three breast cancer. I’m very lucky that she’s still here today. Reading and rereading Kate Daniels and Hidden Legacy was such an important escape for me during everything. Your books just make me happy!! Thank u for putting ur words out into the world, and for making blogposts like this.
I know I am overdue for mine, and I plan to take care of that ASAP. But can I add – if you smoke, PLEASE stop. I lost my mom to lung cancer that had spread to her brain before she bothered to go to the doctor. It was short but awful. Diagnosed in December and died in April. And if you stop buying cigarettes you’ll have more money left to buy Ilona and Gordon’s books!
Good luck on your boob squishing.
Thanks for the reminder. I didn’t get around to it last year and that’s bad cause I grow benign tumors. One day they might not be benign.
I have no history of cancer and found a lump myself at the age of 38. Feel around those breasts! Doesn’t just have to be mammograms! My kiddo was one year old at the time. Glad to still be his mama:) ( and now I make paint angels and donate that money to breast cancer charities! Woo life!)