I wanted to write about a pretty popular subject today and MaconDawg agreed to indulge me. Today's topic is: Boobs. All the boobs. Everyone has boobs. Women have pretty awesome boobs, but guys have boobs too. I know the readership here is mostly male, but I'm pretty confident y'all like boobs and you know women. You have Moms, Wives, Sisters, Daughters and other women in your lives. You may not think about their particular boobs very often. You may not want to think about their boobs.
I want you to think of the women in your life. Just think of 8 women you know personally. Which one do you think will get breast cancer? There's a good chance one of the women you know will be diagnosed with breast cancer. The risk of breast cancer for most women is 12.5% or 1 out of every 8 women. October has been officially deemed Breast Cancer Awareness month. That's why there is PINK EVERYWHERE, even at the official Georgia Football Facebook page and if you missed it, our Paint Line bought all the pink paint at the Athens Walmart for last weekend's game. Thanks Paint Line - Y'all are Awesome!
There are lots of different kinds of breast cancer; they are not all the same. Most of the time, when breast cancer is caught early, it is treatable and more importantly it's beatable. It's like playing a cupcake team at home. If it's not caught early, it's like starting mostly freshman and playing last year's undefeated team who happens to be returning all their starters and the game is at their place. That's one long row to hoe. If you had a choice between playing those two teams, I'm pretty sure you'd take that near-guaranteed win. Since we're talking about women we know and love, we need to know how to beat this particular opponent. The best ways for women to prepare are:
1. Get a mammogram Every.Single.Year. starting at age 40
2. Know your family history & risk
The problem for most women is simply we are busy. We're working, we're running little Johnny to football practice three times a week and games on Saturday and Susie has piano lessons and there's homework to help with, supper to cook, a project at work, and so on and so forth. We get busy taking care of everyone and everything and we neglect to take care of ourselves. YOU can help. If there is a woman in your life that you think might be 40 yrs or older, ask her if she has had her mammogram this year. If she says no, remind her she needs one every single year. Tell her that YOU need her to take care of herself in this way. Too personal a question to ask? Try saying this to her: "I read recently that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I also read women should get a mammogram every year starting at age 40 because right now it's the best screening tool to catch breast cancer in its earliest stage. I hope you are making it a priority to take care of yourself in this way. If I can help you do so, please tell me." It's not a question, it is providing information and offering assistance. More than likely, she will be touched you cared enough to mention it.
Most women will tell you that a mammogram is not a fun experience. They might ask you how you'd like to have your sensitive parts smushed between two heavy plates while someone somewhere takes a picture, then relocated, resmushed, rephotograhed 5 times or more until they get the right photos. Tell her how important she is to you and ask her to do it anyway. Offer to go with her if she's scared.
Family history and risk
We all know people that talk in hushed tones about Mary down the street who's been diagnosed with The Cancer, bless her heart. Maybe you heard rumor of Aunt Sally being sick with The Cancer when you were younger, but you don't really know what that was all about. In this place, knowledge truly is power. Knowing that one or more of your relatives has been diagnosed with Breast, Ovarian or Colon cancer can save lives. In my own family on my father's side, there were not many women. My great grandparents had two boys. Each of those boys had two sons and one daughter. That's 6 men to 2 women in two generations. Those great-grandparents were Eastern European Jewish. One of the two women, my aunt, was diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 50. She caught it early because she got her regular mammogram. Knowing her Jewish ancestry changed things. It meant genetic testing for a breast cancer (BRCA) gene mutation. She tested positive for a BRCA2 mutation. Her mammogram and genetic test not only saved her life, but mine and my sister's as well.
Before my aunt, there was no history of breast cancer. We didn't know that Eastern European Jewish Ancestry meant we had a 1 in 40 risk of having an extremely high risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers. There are several different genetic mutations and they affect people with all kinds of ancestry, not just Jewish. Researchers have found 43 possible BRCA1 mutations and 15 possible BRCA2 mutations so far and only 3 of those are found in the Jewish population. You may have heard about Angelina Jolie's story. She has a BRCA1 mutation. If there are women in your family who were diagnosed with breast cancer before they turned 50, that's a big risk factor. If there is even one male in your family diagnosed with breast cancer, that's a big risk factor.
Both my sister and I tested positive for the same BRCA2 mutation as our aunt. A positive test for a breast cancer gene mutation means up to 90% risk of breast cancer and up to a 50% risk of ovarian cancer. In other words, our boobs were trying to kill us. We did not get this from our mother. If you remember studying genetics in Biology, you know that children get half their genes from each parent. We got our genetic mutation from our father, he got it from his father and we're pretty sure his father got it from my great-grandfather. We also learned our father had breast cancer courtesy of the same gene. So please know, even men get breast cancer.
My family is healthy now. My aunt, sister & I all took the appropriate steps and had preventative surgeries. My sister & I had bilateral mastectomies with immediate reconstruction in 2012. She also had a hysterectomy the same year. I had one years earlier for unrelated reasons. The doctor's tested the tissue they removed for signs of cancer. Our breast tissue came back clean. But the pathology from my sister's hysterectomy showed precancerous cells in her fallopian tubes/ovaries. Her doctor was very clear: had she not found out about the gene and had the surgery, she would have developed Ovarian Cancer and it may have killed her. It's known as a silent killer because there is no effective screening for it so it is often not caught early. That one mammogram my aunt had saved her life, saved my sister's life and may have saved my life. Not to mention the generations after us.
I had a 90% risk before surgery, now I have about a 10% risk. I see my doctors every six months for checkups. Talk to your families. Learn about the family history of cancer. Talk to the women you care about. Ask them if they are at risk. Ask them to have their mammograms. Talk to them about monthly self-exams. When you see football players wearing pink ribbons, uniforms, helmets and the like, remember one out of every 8 women you know will likely be diagnosed with breast cancer. You could be the reason they are diagnosed early. You could be the reason they beat it and live.
If you have questions, you can email me at email@example.com. If I don't know the answer, I will look for it. There are resources out there. www.facingourrisk.org is full of good information about hereditary breast and ovarian cancers. Mammograms must be covered by insurance; it's federal law. If the women you know are not covered, there are options for free mammograms. I'll help you find one in your area. If someone you know is or has been diagnosed with breast cancer or a genetic mutation, I am happy to share the resources I have and talk about the different options and my experiences. I saw the very, very best doctors for this type of surgery. There are in New Orleans on St. Charles Avenue. LSU medical school graduates who love making women feel beautiful again and do a darn good job of making us look beautiful again.
My sister (squillian) and I will be at the Blind Pig this weekend for the Missouri Game and we are happy to answer any questions on the subject.