Warrior Princess

January 13, 2014

The Truth May Not Set Others Free


“Adversity is the first path to truth.” – Lord Byron

“My father committed suicide.”

“I have breast cancer.”

“I was a victim of childhood sexual, physical and emotional abuse.”

“I have a mental illness.  I suffer from Major Depressive Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.” (see above)

When I was a young woman, I kept the secrets of my real life to myself.  Exactly like every other young person, I deeply longed to find acceptance by fitting in.  I studied long and hard to determine just what it would take for me to blend into the crowd.  I became a consummate chameleon.

I now tell the truth.when it’s appropriate.  The truth about my life’s difficulties isn’t something I share immediately, unless the topic arises in conversation.  If people wish to hear  a statement of fact, I provide them with as much truth as I believe they can handle.  Not everyone is capable of hearing everything. Some people have refused to shake my hand after I’ve told them about my breast cancer.

Some people change the subject quickly when the topics of abuse, mental illness and suicide come up.  Some people believe they know how I feel.  Others would like to hear the gory details about my life because they find it titillating. All of these responses have become predictable.

I don’t like to experience unpleasant reactions, but I believe that every time I tell the truth about these things, I chip away at stigma and intolerance.  I’m willing to face the consequences. I’m not trying to get a pat on the back nor is this a call for more people to take the leap of truth.  I just hope that I’m doing a tiny bit to create a future in which all that is profoundly difficult in life can be voiced without fear.  I hope that I’m standing in solidarity with all of the people who have, and continue to, suffer in silence.

May the truth liberate us all someday.

January 25, 2008

Sandbox Redux

Filed under: Breast Cancer, Things Can Always Get Worse — Tags: , , — ggirl @ 2:32 pm

“Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. This day is all that is good and fair. It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the yesterdays.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thirty minutes of intense pedaling on the stationery bike relieved me of all my fury last night. My legs are still tired this morning, but my mind is calm. I emailed a note to Dr. Cristofanilli’s scheduler to see if I could manage to work in a trip to the lab next Tuesday (nipple day revisited). I conceded that I might not be able to see Lisa (his nurse practitioner) that day, but we can always discuss the report via telephone. (Usually one sees the doctor/PA/ nurse the same day as the tests.) Though it’s highly unlikely that anything unusual will turn up, not checking makes me crazy and scared.

Dr. Sandbox gave me a little lecture about the limits of technology and how, even if there were some early signs of cancer, a blood test might not be subtle and sophisticated enough to spot it this early. True enough. No question about it. It’s not “predictive,” he pointed out. There is another reason to take a look at what’s going on, though. It’s important to have a clear idea of whether the level of Tamoxifen is adequate. I’m not as clueless as he seems to believe.  Furthermore, if the National Cancer Institute recommends it, shouldn’t we do it if only to ease my troubled mind?

Sandbox reminds me of why I used to hate doctors, specifically male doctors. It’s the arrogance, the utter lack of interest in the patient’s questions and concerns. Yes, you’ve been to medical school, but so has my ex sister-in-law. Believe me, I’m not that impressed. I, on the other hand, have lived in this body 54 years now. I’d like to live in it another 20 years or so, long enough to take up smoking again. (I’ve promised myself that, if I make it to 70 or 72 depending on my mood at the moment, I can throw all caution to the wind. Thank you, Frank Sinatra, for the inspiration). Sandbox and all of his ilk should listen more and talk less.

I was momentarily called away from my relentless Sandbox bashing to do a little freelance computer assistance for my friend the Superhighway. What blind faith they have in The Sausage. Fortunately, she had a question I could answer and I even remembered the exact process without fumbling around the way I do most of the time. I always find my way eventually, but I hate making my faithful friends wait while I noodle around endlessly.

I’ve belabored Sandbox enough, anyway.

It’s a cold, gray, rainy start to the weekend. I had to go downstairs a little while ago to fetch my yogurt from the refrigerator. The atrium is always chilly, so Sausage ran upstairs. The wooden stairs creaked mightily as I did my best to sprint. As a matter of fact, it sounded to me like the entire building shook. I’m reminded of the proverbial herd of buffalo.  Can I blame this on the boots?  Wait.  Maybe Sandbox is somehow responsible.

January 4, 2008

Pefect Crunch Form

Filed under: Breast Cancer — Tags: , , — ggirl @ 12:19 pm

I’m just back from physical therapy, feeling like screaming.  It happens every time.  Massaging scars and pushing my muscular/flexibility limits is very painful.

The up side?  My PT says I can cut back to once a week because I consistently work every day at home.  She says I’m making progress and I try be content with the small gains I’ve made so far.

The other wonderful news is that she thinks I have good posture, something I’ve been trying to mindful of as I go through my day.  I got accustomed to slumping a bit after the reconstruction surgery.  Time to stand up straight, which helps with energy and stretches out those internal scars where the tubes ran vertically inside my body from both sides of my groin to new breast.

The very best news (and I know this sounds a little silly) is that PT says I have perfect crunch form.  The former fitness addict (and perfectionist) in me rejoices at that news.  Muscle memory.  It’s an amazing thing.

It’s been a good Friday so far.  Well, except for that need to scream.

Next week, I’ll report on the saga of the latest injured employee who’s driving me crazy.

December 14, 2007

Stage 3, Step 3

When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold.  They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.  ~Barbara Bloom (I’m not sure this quote goes with this post, but I like it anyway.)

It dawned on me last night that I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer.  Oh shit…how did I not know that?  I reviewed what I know about breast cancer staging, just in case I’d jumped to a hasty conclusion.  No.  Stage 3.  Then I called my mom this morning and told her I’d just realized I have Stage 3 cancer.

“Well, they told you that at the time,”  she said.  “I don’t think you could handle it then.  There were too many things happening too fast to deal with it all.”

Well, hell.  I wish someone had mentioned it more than once.  Seems a little silly to be terrified now.  It actually seems kind of funny.  Or maybe that’s just the hysteria talking.  Epiphanies.  What a riot!

Today, I have step 3 of the new plan.  I thought of it last night in between panic attacks.

What do I know about suffering?

I know that, no matter how good things are, we are never satisfied.  We’re filled with a restless hunger.  Have the perfect job?  If only we liked our kitchen more.  Have the kitchen redecorated?  If only the sun would come out.  Sun shining?  If only we were having a better hair day…. It’s endless, this longing.

We want to push change away, halt time in its tracks, because with change comes loss.  We don’t like loss; it never feels good.

We yearn so much for feeling good (in all its possible manifestations) that we are unable to accept each changing moment as it comes.  That is the solution to my suffering.  I have to relearn it every so often.  I thought I’d gotten it down during chemo, but no.

I am mourning the loss of my breast.  The breast is gone and the new one is scarred and hardened in places.  I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer and now I’m afraid.  Things are as they are.

I can let go and experience these truths without judgment, holding close to me in loving embrace the sorrow, anger and fear.  I can stop rejecting the breast and love it.  I can stop rejecting the body and love it.  It is my oldest friend, it will be with me until I die.  I can feel some empathy for this  skin that carries me around in it.

I can remember that, as much as I don’t like this moment, it’s perfect, nonetheless.

October 22, 2007

You May Be Able To Further Our Understanding Of Cancer

Filed under: Breast Cancer — Tags: , , — ggirl @ 10:01 am

News about an American Cancer Society study from breastcancer.org
U.S. cancer group launches mass cancer study

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The American Cancer Society said it was looking for half a million volunteers willing to let researchers watch them for the next 20 years to see if they get cancer.

The aim is to match similar big studies in Europe and Asia that are looking on a large scale for the environmental and lifestyle factors that cause cancer, the second-leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease.

“This type of study involves hundreds of thousands of people, with diverse backgrounds, followed for many years, with collection of biological specimens and assessments of dietary, lifestyle and environmental exposures,” Eugenia Calle, managing director of analytic epidemiology at the American Cancer Society, said in a statement.

“It also requires active follow-up to discover if and when study participants develop cancer.”

The group will recruit men and women between the ages of 30 and 65 who have never been diagnosed with cancer. They will give blood to be tested and answer questionnaires at various times over the next 20 years.

Similar big studies have confirmed the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer, shown that obesity increases the risk of several cancers, and linked aspirin use to a lower death rate from colon cancer.

They have also found evidence that defied conventional wisdom, such as the Women’s Health Initiative study that found hormone replacement therapy actually raises the risk of breast cancer, stroke and heart attack.

October 18, 2007

Assistance With Breast Cancer Treatment Costs

I know a couple of women whose families have lost everything because of the enormous cost of treatment.  Many of us don’t have access to health insurance and, once you’re diagnosed, premiums skyrocket.  The following information comes from the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

Financing Issues-Medical Assistance

Drug assistance program information.

Partnership for Prescription Assistance
Drug assistance program information.

Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America
Directory of pharmaceutical manufacturers’ assistance programs.

Y-Me National Breast Cancer Organization
Financial assistance for wigs, prostheses and mastectomy bras.

CancerCare Linking A.R.M.S.(TM)
Financial assistance for some medications and medical supplies.

Financial assistance for diagnostic work-up, as well as information on drug assistance programs. See also Transportation Assistance.

Financing Issues-Transportation Assistance

American Cancer Society – Road to Recovery
Transportation assistance program.

Mercy Medical Airlift
Air travel assistance for cancer patients.

National Patient Air Travel HELPLINE
Air travel assistance for cancer patients.

Lifeline Pilots
Air travel assistance for cancer patients.

Air Charity Network
Air travel assistance for cancer patients.

Corporate Angel Network
Air travel assistance for cancer patients

Financial assistance for transportation to and from treatment and childcare when a parent is having tests or treatment. See also Financial Issues.

October 17, 2007

Warrior Spirit: My Own Walkabout

My body is scarred and misshapen now. I have a scar running all the way across my lower abdomen past both of my hipbones (from tram flap surgery and radical liposuction). There are a couple of circular scars below that one from where tubes were inserted up through my body into my reconstructed breast. I have scars running all the way around the new breast. I now have scars on the right breast from a breast lift and re-placement of the nipple (to attain symmetry with the constructed breast). There is a hard lump under my left armpit with a ridge running under my new breast (remaining tissue necrosis from extensive radiation). Though it’s all an improvement over the way I looked after my mastectomy, it’s definitely not a pretty site.

I’ve regarded them as deformities so hideous that I’ve never let Hubby see them. Last week, when he asked me when I thought I might be interested in resuming intimacy, I told him that I’m afraid he’ll be repulsed. He reassured me, but I still had my doubts. Obviously, those doubts are centered in my own revulsion.

I’m working on a new perspective. Every day, I look at myself in the mirror. I’m reminded that these are battle scars that should be respected and honored. They’re evidence of a rite of passage like those celebrated by warriors in aboriginal cultures. I’ve walked through darkness and fought with demons. I emerged bloody and wounded. The scars are a roadmap of valor.

I look into my eyes, searching for some glimmer of beauty and wisdom. Then it’s revealed. I’m beautiful because I have warrior spirit.

October 16, 2007

On Becoming a Breast Cancer Survivor

Harvard Women’s Health Watch | October 2006

On becoming a breast cancer survivor

Getting through treatment is only the beginning.

The impact of breast cancer is as individual as the women who survive it. It can be an arduous though temporary challenge or an experience so transformative that it divides existence into two parts — before and after.

Perry Colmore has experienced the disease both ways. When she was 45, she was diagnosed with lobular carcinoma in situ, a noninvasive disease that signals an elevated risk for invasive breast cancer. Given the choice of preventive double mastectomy or simply removing the small tumor, she opted for a lumpectomy. “I breezed right along, assuming I’d be among the 80% who don’t have a recurrence,” she says.

And so she was — for seven years. Then a lump in her other breast turned out to be an invasive cancer that had already reached 12 lymph nodes. She underwent a mastectomy followed by radiation and chemotherapy.

Colmore has been cancer-free for more than a decade, but her health has suffered. Radiation treatments damaged one of her lungs, causing wheezing and breathlessness. She’s weathered bouts of pleurisy and pneumonia. And intensive antibiotic therapy for her lung diseases triggered severe diarrhea, resulting in a 40-pound weight loss.

Colmore’s experience isn’t typical, but it does suggest the range of later effects that can follow in the wake of breast cancer. The good news is that most breast cancer survivors are living long past the five-year survival benchmark of yesteryear. But many also find themselves facing the long-term consequences of the treatments that saved their lives.

Growing recognition of survivor needs

As the ranks of cancer survivors have swelled to more than 10 million, their health has attracted increasing attention from scientists and physicians. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has formed an expert committee to consider the quality of life and care of cancer survivors. The panel’s report, From Cancer Patient to Cancer Survivor: Lost in Transition, published in 2005, acknowledged that cancer care too often ends when patients complete their initial treatments. There may be little communication between the patients’ oncology teams and their primary care doctors. The IOM advises physicians to craft a “survivorship plan” to guide health care in the years following treatment.

Several large cancer hospitals around the country, such as Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, have already instituted special programs or clinics for survivor care. At these centers, clinicians specialize in keeping cancer patients healthy and strong, reducing the risk of subsequent disease and, for breast cancer survivors, recognizing and treating the effects of breast cancer therapy.

Schedule of follow-up exams for breast cancer survivors

Exam When
Physical exam
  • Every 3–6 months during the first 3 years after treatment
  • Every 6–12 months during the 4th and 5th year after treatment
  • Annually after 5 years
Breast self-exam Monthly
Mammogram Annually
Pelvic exam Annually
Source: Guidelines developed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology

Treatment’s toll on the body

Cancer survivors are at risk for two kinds of side effects from treatment: Long-term effects, which begin during therapy and persist after it is completed, and late effects, which arise months or even years after treatment has ended.

The most common long-term effects include the following:

Fatigue. About 30% of breast cancer survivors are fatigued for five years or more after successful treatment. Any number of physical factors, including anemia and inflammation resulting from radiation or chemotherapy and loss of muscle mass, can account for fatigue during and after treatment. The psychological toll of treatment can also be exhausting. Though there’s little research on the subject, many women continue to shoulder responsibilities for jobs and managing households during and following their cancer treatment. Who wouldn’t be exhausted?

Weight gain. For reasons that science hasn’t fully explained, women undergoing breast cancer chemotherapy gain an average of five to eight pounds. Moreover, the excess poundage is all fat, rather than a combination of fat and lean tissue.

Nerve damage. Surgery can damage nerves in the treated breast and chest, resulting in numbness or pain. Chemotherapy may affect peripheral nerves, particularly those in the hands or feet.

Late effects can include these:

Lymphedema. Up to 25% of breast cancer survivors experience some degree of arm swelling following the removal of underarm lymph nodes, which is essential for evaluating the extent of the disease. Lymph node excision can damage the lymphatic drainage system, causing fluid to build up in the arm on the affected side. Lymphedema can appear weeks or months after surgery and is exacerbated if the arm is injured or infected.

Menopause discomforts. After breast cancer treatment, many women take tamoxifen, a selective estrogen blocker, for five years to prevent a recurrence. On the positive side, tamoxifen increases bone density and improves cholesterol. But it also produces menopausal symptoms, primarily hot flashes and vaginal dryness.

Osteoporosis. Women who undergo menopause following chemotherapy have a higher rate of bone loss than women who have a natural menopause. Aromatase inhibitors, such as anastrozole (Arimidex), letrozole (Femara), and exemestane (Aromasin), which are frequently a part of breast cancer therapy, block the production of estrogen in fat and other tissues. Treatment with these drugs is associated with a higher risk of fractures than tamoxifen therapy and may also be responsible for joint and muscle pain.

Subsequent cancer. Breast cancer survivors have an increased risk of developing cancer in the other breast. Also, some treatments increase the probability of developing certain other forms of cancer, although the risk is very low. For example, tamoxifen is associated with an increase in endometrial cancer risk, and high-dose cyclophosphamide therapy heightens the risk of acute myeloid leukemia.

Lung damage. Lung tissue can be damaged if radiation to the chest cavity reaches the lung. In about 1% of survivors, it leads to radiation pneumonitis, an inflammatory condition that usually occurs two to three months after treatment and can result in susceptibility to respiratory infection.

Congestive heart failure. Cardiac damage is increasingly rare as chemotherapy doses decline, but women who received high doses of doxorubicin (Adriamycin) may sustain damage to the heart muscle. Such damage can result in fluid buildup in the body and lungs, making it more difficult to breathe and exercise.

Breast cancer’s effects on the psyche

The end of treatment is one of the most stressful events in the cancer experience. Often friends and family expect a woman to be fully engaged in life the day she finishes treatment. But while a breast cancer patient may rejoice that radiation and chemotherapy have ended, she typically feels anything but normal. Not only is her body irrevocably changed, she’s also likely to be on uncertain emotional terrain.

“What others usually don’t realize is that the recovery from treatment may take as long as the treatment itself,” says Hester Hill Schnipper, Director of Oncology Social Work at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. Schnipper and other health professionals who work with cancer survivors have observed that the emotional effects of cancer therapy are far less recognized than the physical effects, yet they are just as profound.

Typically, a woman marshals all her psychological defenses to get through treatment. When therapy is over, she can finally let her guard down but then may be flooded with intense and conflicting emotions. The occurrence and intensity of reactions vary from woman to woman, but most experience the following:

Fear and anxiety. For women who have just completed chemotherapy or radiation — or five years of tamoxifen therapy — the end of active cancer treatment can be disconcerting. After months of regular medical care and attention, they often find themselves abruptly severed from the oncology team that’s sustained them during treatment. Equally common, and more distressing, is the specter of recurrence, which can color every aspect of life.

Grief. Breast cancer brings loss — be it as minor as the claim to perfect health or as monumental as the ability to have children. Grieving is a natural response to loss, and it may take months or years to complete.

Erosion of self-image. The physical effects of treatment — loss of a breast, hair loss, weight gain, radiation burns, and surgical scars — are reminders of one’s vulnerability. Breast cancer survivors may feel that they’re less attractive and that their vitality is diminished. The adjustments can be especially hard for young women who are thrown into menopause by chemotherapy.

Changes in intimate relationships. It goes without saying that a woman’s sex life is affected by breast cancer. Illness is a notorious thief of libido. In addition, a survivor’s partner may feel breast cancer’s toll on body and body image as deeply as the survivor herself.

Effects on the family. Breast cancer is a family affair. Family members are likely to want to get the household back to normal after treatment ends, and they may not be patient with the partner or mother who needs more time to recover.

Resources for survivors

After Breast Cancer: A Common-Sense Guide to Life After Treatment, Hester Hill Schnipper, Bantam Books, 2006

866-235-7205 (toll free)

Cancer Survivors Network
American Cancer Society
800-227-2345 (toll free)

The Wellness Community
888-793-9355 (toll free)

Breast Cancer: Strategies for Living, a Harvard Medical School Special Health Report, Harvard Health Publications, 2006

Living Through Breast Cancer (from Harvard Medical School) by Dr. Carolyn Kaelin, McGraw-Hill, 2005

The Breast Cancer Survivor’s Fitness Plan (from Harvard Medical School) by Dr. Carolyn Kaelin, McGraw-Hill, 2006

Being a survivor

Breast cancer is a rough storm, but many women weather it well, buoyed by gratitude for life, hope for the future, and the support of loved ones. Some, like Perry Colmore, use it as the fulcrum for a major life change. When breast cancer returned, Colmore was a newspaper editor. As she experienced the intensity of the disease, she decided that it was a story worth telling. She told it through the experiences of 40 breast cancer survivors in the photo-essay book, Living with Breast Cancer: 39 Women and One Man Speak Candidly about Surviving Breast Cancer (Andover Townsman, 1997).

Perry and her husband also took stock of their life together. Their children were grown, so they traded their suburban home for an apartment in the city and a house on the beach. She quit her job to devote more time to working with breast cancer patients. She now volunteers at a hospital as a companion for women undergoing treatment and leads a cancer support program at her church. “I can’t say that I’m happy I got cancer, but I’m happy with my life,” she says.

Getting the help you need

If you’re a breast cancer survivor, these steps may help:

Work closely with your primary care doctor. According to Jennifer Potter, M.D., director of the Women’s Health Program at Boston’s Beth Israel Hospital, it’s important to make sure your clinician has your complete cancer history — including surgical reports, radiology records, and drug information. At your first post-treatment visit, you may want to discuss your treatment experience and openly air your fears. If your doctor seems ill at ease with your new status, find one who has experience with cancer survivors.

Join a support group. Breast cancer survivorship may not be a sorority you ever intended to join, but its ranks are legion. It can be therapeutic to talk with someone who’s walked in your shoes. If you’re looking for a specific type of survivor group, for example, single women or mothers of teenagers, there’s a good chance you can find it — if not in your community, then possibly online.

Stabilize your relationships. If cancer has put a strain on your relationships or unearthed problems that took root earlier, consider getting help. A mental health professional can help you develop healthier ways of interacting.

Treat yourself. When you were sick, it was probably comforting to have others take care of you. You may not be a patient any more, but there’s no reason for the nurturing to end. Make a list of things that might give you pleasure — from a vase of fresh flowers to a visit to a day spa — and schedule them into your life.

Invest in the future. This can be something as small as planting an amaryllis bulb to bloom in a few months or as large as launching a new career. Planning for the future is one of the best ways to overcome the fear that it won’t be there.

October 15, 2007

Breast Cancer Death Rate Drops

Good news and bad news from the American Cancer Society, brought to you by WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/breast-cancer/news/20070925/us-breast-cancer-death-rate-drops?ecd=wnl_brc_100907

But a Race Gap Persists in America’s Breast Cancer Death Rate

By Miranda Hitti
WebMD Medical News

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD


Sept. 25, 2007 — The American Cancer Society (ACS) today reported that U.S. breast cancer deaths continue to drop, but that decline still hasn’t reached all ethnic groups.

That news appears in the ACS’ biannual report on breast cancer in the U.S.

According to the report, breast cancer deaths declined by 2.2% annually from 1990 to 2004, partly due to earlier detection and advances in treatment.

But there are racial gaps in those figures, the report also shows.

Breast Cancer Race Gap

The ACS reports that breast cancer deaths dropped 2.4% per year from 1990 to 2004 in white and Hispanic women, compared with 1.6% annually in African-American women.

Women’s breast cancer death rates didn’t change during that time among Asian-American/Pacific Islanders, American Indians, and Alaska natives.

The precise reasons for those racial patterns aren’t clear. Genetics may play a role, but other factors including income and access to medical care are also important.

“A woman today has a lower chance of dying from breast cancer than she’s had in decades,” says Harmon Eyre, MD, chief medical officer for the ACS, in a news release.

“Unfortunately, not all women are benefiting at the same level,” says Eyre, noting that by 2004, breast cancer death rates were 36% higher in African-American women than in white women.

The ACS estimates that about 40,460 U.S. women will die of breast cancer in 2007 — and that about 2.4 million women living in the U.S. have a history of breast cancer.

But breast cancer isn’t U.S. women’s leading cancer killer — lung cancer is — and heart disease kills more U.S. women than all cancers combined.

Latest Breast Cancer Statistics

In the new report, the ACS predicts that an estimated 178,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed this year among U.S. women.

Invasive cancer has spread from its starting point into surrounding breast tissue. Most breast cancers are invasive.

The ACS also estimates that 62,030 new cases of in situ breast cancer (cancer that hasn’t spread beyond its starting point to other breast tissue) will be diagnosed in 2007.

Breast cancer is far more common among women than men. The ACS predicts that in 2007, about 2,030 cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in men, accounting for about 1% of all breast cancers.

The ACS estimates that 450 men will die of breast cancer in the U.S. this year.

Breast Cancer Rarer?

Breast cancer is U.S. women’s most common cancer (except for skin cancers), but it may be becoming rarer than in the past.

Don’t race past that word “may.” Undetected breast cancers due to missed mammograms may be contributing to the trend.

The ACS reports a 3.5% drop per year in breast cancer cases from 2001 to 2004.

That decline follows a sharp rise in breast cancer cases from 1980 to 1987 that slowed until 2001 and then headed down.

Why the turnaround? The ACS notes two possible reasons.

Reason No. 1: Many women halted hormone replacement therapy (HRT) starting in 2002, after the Women’s Health Initiative linked HRT to breast cancer risk. Researchers continue to debate that risk.

Reason No. 2: Mammography rates are down. Some women may have breast cancer and not know it. That would make breast cancer rates look lower than they really are.

Mammography isn’t a perfect test, but it’s the best way to screen women for breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Perspective

A woman living in the U.S. has a 12.3% (1 in 8) lifetime risk of developing breast cancer, states the ACS report.

But remember, that’s a general number about a woman’s odds of developing breast cancer at some point in her life — not this year, or even this decade.

Breast cancer becomes more common with age, but it can also strike before menopause, so the ACS encourages women to learn what’s normal for their breasts and to get lumps checked by a doctor.

Most lumps aren’t breast cancer. But don’t assume that a lump is no big deal. Check with your doctor to find out — and remember, if it is breast cancer, the sooner it’s detected, the better your chances may be of survival.

October 8, 2007

Cancer Caregivers Research Project: NIH

The National Cancer Institute (NCI), a federal agency that is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the George Washington School of Public Health, would like to talk to women who are providing care for a family member or friend with cancer. We’d like to learn about your caregiving experience and how you have coped.

If you are:

*African American
*Between the ages of 31 and 80
*Currently providing care for someone over the age of 20 with cancer, OR you provided care for someone over the age of 20 with cancer at end-of-life within the last year

Please call us toll-free at:

(Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm EDT)

We will ask you some questions about yourself and your caregiving experience. Participating in this study involves a total of 15-20 minutes by phone. If they qualify, eligible participants may be asked to provide additional information about their caregiving experiences in a follow-up telephone interview that will last approximately 45-60 minutes.

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