ARC Doc Shares Patient’s Advice
November 21, 2019
A story about breast cancer diagnosis usually doesn’t include dancing and laughing, but that’s what I think about when my patient, Carla, comes to mind. She walks through life as if she’s dancing to a fun tune in her head.
It reflects the positive attitude that Carla has brought to her successful fight against this potentially deadly ailment. It might have been the deciding factor.
My patient Carla is a breath of fresh air. She always comes into my exam room in a good mood and with a smile on her face, even when she’s worried about something.
While falling asleep one night, she happened to cross her arm over her chest and felt a lump. As she put it, “Of course, that’s not something any woman would ever want to discover, and you immediately become panicked and you don’t understand what’s going on with your body.”
‘Just Take It On’
She was a little anxious, but she didn’t let fear keep her from acting swiftly. The very next morning, she called my office and I saw her the same day. An immediate mammogram was arranged, as was a referral to a general surgeon colleague.
After a biopsy and review of the results, treatment planning began immediately. Carla stayed focused on addressing her diagnosis and returning to her normal life. A year later, she now is cancer free.
She saw this as an opportunity to be a good role model for her daughter.
“I decided early on I wasn’t a victim,” Carla told me. “I’ve always told my daughter ‘Face your fears. Stare your bear down, stare it in the eyes, don’t run, don’t give up, don’t be negative, just take it on.”
Numbers Don’t Lie
Breast cancer is a real possibility for any woman. Data compiled by the American College of Radiology (ARC) shows that a woman’s risk of breast cancer increases with age, but 1 in 6 cases still occurs in women aged 40 to 49. Heredity can be a factor, but 75% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease.
If a mammogram is skipped, this increases the chances that a tumor will not be caught early. (30% of the time for women age 50 or older, for example). Mammography has helped reduce breast cancer deaths in the U.S. by nearly 40% since 1990.
Keep in mind the odds are with you. About 90% of the time, mammograms come back normal. Even after further testing, data show just 2% of tested women are advised to get a biopsy.
Early detection is the key to beating the disease. Although regular self-breast exams are very important, mammograms can find cancer before you can feel a lump. Survival rates are 98% when breast cancer is detected early.
Listen again to my patient Carla. She advises, “Get your mammogram. You’re really not all that busy. Don’t get so caught up in the day-to-day things that you don’t take care of yourself.”
And like Carla, should the worst occur, stay positive. Just stare your bear down.
Bryan (Keith) Morrison, MD, practices Family Medicine at Austin Regional Clinic Cedar Park, 801 E. Whitestone Blvd., Building C.