Today I came across the heartbreaking story of Kelly Owchar, a 30 year old mom to a 2 year old son and newborn twin daughters, who recently died from breast cancer. I cannot stress enough how important it is to pay attention to ANY differences in your breasts, nipples and armpits. Any differences. There are so many myths circulating, like breast cancer doesn’t “hurt.” Well, that is false because it can totally hurt. Or breast cancer is largely genetic. Only 5-10% of cases are attributable to breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2. Prior to my own diagnosis, I had no idea there were different types of breast cancer and they could present in many different ways.
Perform your self-exams. Get your annual screening. If you have dense breasts, many states including Arizona, have laws in place requiring radiologists to inform you that you have dense breasts and you should speak with your doctor about possible additional screening like 3D mammography. This is because cancer can hide in dense breast tissue, especially my type of breast cancer, invasive lobular carcinoma. Even then, imaging tests are not 100% accurate 100% of the time. I’ve said this before but it bears mentioning again – I had a mammogram, ultrasound and MRI on both breasts. My tumor was detected on the left breast, and this was not a surprise because it was considerably large. What were not detected were the precancerous cells in my right breast found only on pathology following my bilateral mastectomy. Also, my diagnosis came two months before I was due for my annual mammogram. I finally noticed one day that my left nipple had gone flat. That was the tumor. If you feel something is not right, ask your doctor for another test or seek a second opinion. Pay attention ladies and spread the word.
Please read the poignant story of Kelly Owchar here. In her case, she dismissed the signs as post-partum symptoms which is so easy to do, especially when breast cancer screening is not recommended for women younger than 40.