Happy Anniversary to me — nothing I ever expected to hear in October as I was married in July, recently celebrating 23 years. But October marks a very special anniversary for me — my diagnosis of breast cancer, October 26, 2000.
Ironically, six days earlier my 37 year-old self was riding in a pace car with my then 3 year-old daughter, Katie, for the Dallas Komen Race for the Cure as the 1999 recipient of the Kellogg’s You Can Make a Difference award. Thicken the plot, double the irony, I am a diagnostic radiologist specializing in breast imaging who discovered a tiny little lump in my left breast that would forever change my life during breast cancer awareness month.
As an English major in college, I appreciate the irony and the soap box it allows me to get up on-preaching the gospel of early detection.”Early detection saves lives.” The guidelines set forth by the American Cancer Society are well established, accepted and worth repeating. Ladies in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast examination (CBE) at least once every three years by their physician.
Breast self exam (BSE) is also an important option women this age should perform monthly. Once you reach age 40, begin annual mammograms and increase the frequency of your CBE to once a year. Continue with monthly BSE and, regardless of your age, report any change promptly to your physician.
Finally, if you have a family history of breast cancer, with or without family history of ovarian and/or colon cancer, ask your physician if you would benefit from adding annual breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to your regimen.
On March 28, 2007, after reviewing new evidence on breast MRI screening, the American Cancer Society suggests that women at high risk of developing breast cancer (greater than 20 percent lifetime risk) should get an MRI and a mammogram every year.
In closing, I realize that I am one of the lucky ones. Despite our advances in early detection and treatment, breast cancer still claims lives.
I know how powerful the loss can be as I lost my mother, Patricia Jekot, on 05/07/2009. She fought the valiant fight. Although her passing weighs heavily on my heart, it also fuels my fire, as my daughter Katie says, “to help the ladies.”
Do yourself and your loved ones a favor, examine yourself once a month, get examined by a health professional once a year and if you are over the magical age of 40, have a digital mammogram and an MRI if appropriate.
Again, happy anniversary to me and all of the other October survivors. Celebrate life!
This blog post was contributed by Elizabeth Jekot, M.D., an oncologist on the medical staff at Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano. Dr. Jekot has been cancer free since 2000.