October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
October is breast cancer awareness month. It’s one campaign to raise awareness that I’m very happy to get behind. While I’ve never personally experienced breast cancer, like most everyone I know, it has affected me by way of the people I know and love.
My 80 year old mother was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago. Thankfully, given her age, and the fact she had very little estrogen available in her body to feed the cancer cells, she was able to forego chemotherapy and radiation, and is doing extremely well today. A close friend of mine wasn’t so fortunate, however, and she chose to have a double mastectomy to insure that her breast cancer never returned -- at least, not in her breasts.
Breast cancer is an equal opportunity disease. It doesn’t require that you be a certain age, a certain race, or even have all of the risk factors to get it. A recent example would be the entertainment television personality Giuliana Rancic, who at the age of 36, and with no risk factors whatsoever, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Giuliana also chose to have a double mastectomy.
Women going through perimenopause, and women who are already in menopause, are also very aware of the increased risk of breast cancer associated with hormone replacement therapy. The abrupt halt of the Women’s Health Initiative study in 2002 brought that reality home to all of us, putting the fear of God – along with medical malpractice lawsuits - into the medical community as well.
While the debate continues around the results of the study and whether the benefits outweigh the risks of hormone replacement therapy during perimenopause and menopause, I personally maintain that it is always a good idea to approach the use of hormones with an abundance of caution.
If you are considering hormone replacement therapy, or if you are currently using it, make sure that you understand the risk for breast cancer that is associated with it. Monthly self breast examinations are always a wise course of action, along with yearly mammograms and breast examination by your physician as well.
If you are in a high risk category for breast cancer it is also important that you remain particularly vigilant with preventative wellness checks. Like so many other cancers, if breast cancer is detected early, the chances of survival increase significantly.
Be wise, ladies. There are people in your life who love you. Stay healthy for you. Stay healthy for them.
Magnolia Miller is a certified healthcare consumer advocate in women’s health and a women’s freelance health writer and blogger at The Perimenopause Blog.