Breast Cancer: From Inception to Inspiration
By Lisa Welz
If the statistics on breast cancer are sobering, the questions asked by those struggling with the disease are both heartbreaking and inspirational. According to Susan G. Komen, a staggering 231,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed this year alone, but the anonymous question written on beyondtheshock.com, “How do I tell my family the doctor has given me one month to live?” is what humanizes it.
When something is anonymous, it becomes every single one of us. We identify with that person. And that doesn’t mean it only affects women. Men face this disease as well. The mental gasp at the question is that moment when we wonder how we’d face that news. How would we respond? Better yet, what can we do to avoid it ourselves?
The rate of diagnosis of breast cancer has remained stable since 2007. However, according to Komen.org, “Since 1990, breast cancer mortality has decreased by 34 percent. This decline is due to improved breast cancer treatment and early detection.” They added that the decline has been slower among black women, which translates into a higher mortality rate for that segment of the population.
Conversely, breast cancer rates have increased among men over the last 30 years. Komen.org estimates there will be 2,350 new cases in the U.S. this year, and notes, “However, men are often diagnosed at a later stage. Men may be less likely than women to report symptoms, which may lead to delays in diagnosis…The most common sign of breast cancer in men is a painless lump or thickening in the breast or chest area. However, any change in the breast or nipple can be a sign of breast cancer in men.”
As most people are aware, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and it’s a good time for a refresher on early detection. The National Breast Cancer Foundation has online tools to create an early detection plan at earlydetectionplan.org and will also cover other topics, including: early symptoms and signs, how to perform a breast self-exam, clinical breast exams, mammograms, and healthy habits.
Beyond the Shock also provides a place for breast cancer survivors, or their family members, to record a video and upload it, telling their personal story to not only bring awareness to the disease and it’s detection and treatment, but to provide inspiration to those who are just starting down that path.
One of those, whose story is featured, is Jan Greenwood. Diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer in 2009, during a bone scan for a different reason, she describes the moment she was told of the discovery. “I remember just the sensation of having the wind sucked out of my lungs, a sucker punch, or something that stops you mid-stride. And then as you begin to breathe again, there’s this one million questions that circle your mind,” she said.
Becoming an inspiration to others, Greenwood spoke for all survivors, saying, “I am one woman among hundreds of thousands of women who are learning to be courageous, and to overcome, and to live in the face of cancer.”
To hear her story and others like her, visit beyondtheshock.com. They are powerful and emotional stories, so you might want to grab a Kleenex before you sit down.
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