This year marks the 10th anniversary of my mom being diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ.
Effectively that means that my mom was diagnosed with a form breast cancer that started in the ducts of her breast that move milk to the nipple. The cancer was discovered on her annual routine mammogram, when the technician identified a dark spot that was really quite tiny. Within days my mom was beginning a treatment program.
To have been discovered in a breast self exam it would have been nearly impossible since DCIS is usually not something that a person can feel. By the point my mom would have felt a lump the cancer cells would have likely moved out of her breast and lymph nodes and into her body.
The treatment started with a wire localization, followed by a breast biopsy, a wide excision followed by a wider excision with a prophylactic lymph node (10) removal. Unfortunately there was no way to achieve clear margins and after numerous painful procedures she underwent a radical mastectomy and subsequent reconstruction.
The reconstruction was a transverse rectus abdominus myocutaneous procedure, often referred to as a TRAM Flap reconstruction. In this case the surgeon used my mom’s own abdominal muscle and fat cells to construct a “breast” to replace the one they removed without needing to use an implant. Abdominal surgery is hard to recover from, but given the choice I know she wouldn’t think twice about having the mastectomy.
The reality with a cancer like this is the fact that it moves fast. Likely had her mammogram been a even a few days or weeks later she would have been in an even higher risk state than she was.
So in celebration of my mom’s tenth anniversary of being cancer free please do a self exam.
If you are a lady of a certain age please schedule your mammogram.
If you don’t have benefits or coverage please look for support in order to have the procedure.
This preventative exercise is why I can celebrate this anniversary with my mom rather than being aware that it had been ten years since I lost her.
I have faced cancer in different ways for over half my life and we need to find a way to stop it. I want to hear of a day that we only talk of cancer in history lessons at medical school or with the old folks telling us of a time they remember.
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