Get a mammogram before it’s too late

October 23, 2013 

It was in December several years ago when I had my very first mammogram. I was already scared and really did not want to have the mammogram done.

I was thinking there is no one in my family with breast cancer, so I could just wait. My friends kept saying you need to go have it done. So I made up my mind to have it done, but I procrastinated. Weeks later I scheduled my appointment.

The day came for my appointment, and it was a day like any other. Christmas was in the air and I was ready to get it over with, so I could start focusing on the holidays.

At my appointment the staff knew it was my first mammogram, and they were very kind, understanding and professional. It went by fairly fast.

Once the mammogram was over, I felt good about my accomplishment. I had my first mammogram. Now I am in the mammogram club.

After that I don’t remember much because everything happened so fast. Within a couple of days, I received a phone call notifying me the radiologist saw something on my mammogram, and I would have to come back for a repeat mammogram.

It stopped me in my tracks. I was thinking, surely it was nothing, maybe some sort of artifact or mistake. I went back for my repeat mammogram, I can’t remember how soon, but I was told it was definitely a lump on the right side and I would have to be referred to an oncologist and have a biopsy.

I was in shock. I had all kinds of thoughts running through my head. What’s going to happen? What will the biopsy be like? How come I never felt this lump? It was surreal. I was thinking this is not really happening.

Then it finally sunk in. Once I realized this was really happening, I wanted to make my appointment with the oncologist as soon as possible.

I wanted to know everything about breast cancer, so I started researching breast cancer and breast health. I talked to anyone who would listen about breast cancer.

Eventually, I had my biopsy and learned within a couple of days the lump was benign. Whew! Cancer scare over but not forgotten. The experience will stay with me forever to share with other women.

What I learned from this experience is how important it is to conduct self breast exams, have clinical breast exams by a doctor and get mammograms. Breast exams and mammograms could save a life because it can help identify any abnormalities, and you can get the necessary treatment quickly.

I speak from experience; don’t procrastinate. I can’t say enough how important mammograms are.

This year I had to go back for a repeat mammogram again, but everything was fine. That shows you how the radiologist pays careful attention to detail and will have you repeat the test no matter how small the finding is. I can’t thank them enough.

So here is the plan: Make sure you are conducting self breast exams monthly, have a clinical breast exam by a doctor and have a mammogram when indicated.

Susan G. Komen has a slogan that says “The Power of One.” One person can make a difference in the fight against breast cancer. You can make a difference by sharing your experience with other people. This may help others who are scared to have their mammograms for the first time.

Let your friends know how important the exams and mammograms are. More women are being diagnosed at a younger age with breast cancer. The Susan G. Komen Central Georgia Affiliate says to know your risk.

Talk to your family to learn about your family health history to see if anyone in your family has had breast cancer. Talk to your doctor about your personal risk of breast cancer. Get screened.

Ask your doctor which screening tests are right for you if you are at higher risk. Have a mammogram every year starting at age 40 if you are at average risk.

Have a clinical breast exam at least every three years starting at age 20 and every year starting at age 40. Know what is normal for you. See your health care provider right away if you notice any breast changes, no matter how small. Make healthy lifestyle choices. Maintain a healthy weight. Add exercise into your routine. Limit alcohol intake. Limit postmenopausal hormone use. Breastfeed if you can.

I talked to Nicole Rinehart, the president of the Central Georgia Affiliate of Susan G. Komen, and I asked her, “what do you want people to know about breast cancer?”

Nicole said she wants people to know their bodies, to know what is normal for them. She went on to say if there is anything questionable, go see a doctor. Nicole said she had a friend who thought she had a mosquito bite that was located right under her bra line. She would not go to the doctor because she did not have insurance.

When her friend did go to the doctor, she found out she had stage 4 cancer and died within four months of her diagnosis. Please go to the doctor if there is anything that is different or does not look right.

If you don’t have insurance, you can contact the Susan G. Komen Central Georgia Affiliate at 478-390-4828, and it will connect you to agencies that will guide you through the entire process.

Susan G. Komen is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality of care for all and energize science to find cures. Their website is info@komencentralga.org. We are here to make a difference!

Dairlyn Brown is a nurse in Warner Robins.

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