Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Make annual mammograms a health priority


Just do it!

Breast cancer is an all too familiar phenomenon. We encounter it frequently in friends, family members, business associates, celebrities ... whose lives are forever changed, seemingly in an instant, by this diagnosis. My own mother received her diagnosis of breast cancer on Christmas Eve -- a gift I am certain was not on her Christmas list!

Statistics demonstrate that one in eight women will be affected by breast cancer throughout her lifetime. But in reality, eight in eight women will be affected by breast cancer throughout their lifetime.

Let me illustrate: As a physician who specializes in breast care and breast cancer diagnosis, of all of the thousands of patients I have seen throughout my 17 years of practice I remember most clearly this one experience from very early in my career: A woman came to be evaluated for something that showed up on her routine mammogram. Her daughter, a young woman in her late teens, came with her for support. After I evaluated this woman, and reviewed her pictures, and told her everything was fine, it was the daughter who broke down and shed tears of relief and joy, and hugged her mother tightly.

What became so clear to me at that moment and what I have never forgotten from that point on is that breast cancer doesn't only affect the individual who develops breast cancer. It affects every one who has a relationship with that individual -- because we are all connected. We are women, but we are also mothers, sisters, daughters, spouses, friends, parishioners, colleagues, associates, community leaders, hairdressers, doctors ... people who love and are loved; who teach and are taught; who help and are helped; who provide support, assistance, care, and friendship. Our relationships are far reaching and many, a complex web of interconnecting lines, a ripple in the water that keeps expanding. When one of us is affected, we all feel the effects.

Breast cancer affects every woman, her entire life.

But something else is clear, which none of us should forget. What this story really illustrates is, we as women do have many relationships: as mothers who care for our children; as daughters who care for our aging parents; as teachers who prepare our youth for the future of our world; as friends who share a meaningful moment with another; as business associates, parishioners, community leaders who contribute to the success of our society.

Our contributions are many, valuable, and indispensable to those who depend on us. Who need us. Who love us. Without us, they would be lost. We need to be here for them. Our health is important, if not for our own sake, for the sake of those we care about.

We have the tools to combat breast cancer. Annual screening mammography is a simple tool that can save our lives. Studies show that diagnosis and treatment of early stage breast cancer can be successful with long term survival and cure.

Annual mammograms find early stage breast cancer. Most insurance companies cover annual mammograms, most without copay, and entities exist that offer subsidized mammograms for underinsured, or uninsured. Yet studies also show that only 60 percent of women actually undergo mammograms on a regular basis.

Many women share with me that they have put off their yearly mammogram because they have been busy caring for others, busy at work, busy with their children.

But remember, those are the very reasons you shouldn't put off your yearly mammogram.

Mammograms save lives ... make it yours. You have a lot to live for: someone is depending on you.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Katherine M. Cyran, M.D., is a board certified breast care and imaging specialist, and proprietor of the Katherine M. Cyran M.D. Breast Center.