Recently I had to get my annual mammogram. They were running behind like doctor’s offices sometimes do - there were seven women in dressing gowns in the waiting room with me. After a few awkward moments, we all started to talk to each other. Every single one of the ladies talked about how they hate to come and get their annual mammograms. They talked about the pain of it, joked about the embarrassment of it - there was even a suggestion that they should serve wine in the waiting room instead of coffee. But each also showed a deep appreciation for the necessity of breast cancer screening - telling stories of aunts and mothers who were saved by it. Finally one woman told us that she was 39 when a mammogram detected her breast cancer for the first time. She was able to get minor surgery and was put on a regimen of annual mammograms. Six years after, she got breast cancer again. Again the mammogram was able to catch it early. She said she was now 57 years old and she felt like she owed 18 years of life to her doctor who suggested she get a mammogram at 39. There is no doubt about it; mammograms save people’s lives.
October is a very important month for women: It’s National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. There are many things to be proud of for how far we have come with treating breast cancer. The Susan G. Komen Foundation reports that the 5-year survival rate for female breast cancer survivors in the U.S. has improved from 63% in the early 1960’s to 90% today. Thanks to advances in technology and awareness of the disease, we have been able to make great strides.