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Who Gets Breast Cancer and Who Survives?

Survivors' Stories continued...

"At this point, I'm freaked out. Hopefully this time they'll get it for good, but I think I'll be dealing with this for the rest of my life."

TAMIKA COOK, 33
Clinical specialist; married mom of Kiki, 14, and Zaire, 9; Augusta, GA
Diagnosed in September 2001 with stage I breast cancer (medullary carcinoma)

"I found my lump six years ago while shaving under my arms. My first doctor told me it was a benign cyst, but my second doctor sent me to an oncologist, who biopsied the lump. A few days later, she called to tell me it was breast cancer. I was shocked. It made more sense when a couple of weeks later I found out that breast cancer runs in my family: Three great-aunts on my father's side had also had the disease.

"My cancer was only stage I, and I was told I could have a lumpectomy with radiation, but I opted for a mastectomy and breast reconstruction: I just had a really strong urge to cut out the cancer completely. My new breast is the same shape as my other one, but it has no feeling, and I never got around to getting a new nipple — I never felt the need. It doesn't bother me. I'm just proud that I've beaten my cancer, and now I give speeches to educate others about this issue. I was a team captain for the annual Relay for Life fund-raiser, an all-night nationwide relay event that raises money for the American Cancer Society. I feel good about helping others — it's the one positive that's come out of this whole experience."

A Dose of Prevention

  • Four doable ways to reduce your breast cancer risk:
  • Do monthly breast self-exams! "About 40 percent of lumps are still discovered by women themselves," says Lillie Shockney, of the Johns Hopkins Avon Foundation Breast Center.
  • Help your husband quit smoking. Women who have never smoked but who are frequently exposed to smoke at home or work are 68 percent more likely to develop breast cancer than other never-smokers.
  • Know your family history. If you have relatives with breast cancer or other hormone-driven cancers such as prostate or ovarian cancer, talk to your doctor about BRCA testing.
  • Breast-feed your babies. Research suggests that the practice can protect against breast cancer in moms over age 25.

 

Your Breast Cancer Toolbox

If you're battling breast cancer — or someone you love is — here are five resources you shouldn't be without.
By REDBOOK writer and breast cancer survivor Gina Shaw

  • BreastCANCER101
    From the moment you're diagnosed, you're deluged with paperwork. The breastCANCER101 10-year planner, created by survivor Monica Knoll, helps you organize and understand it all. Order for $29.99 plus shipping and handling from cancer101.org or use the free online version.

  • The National Breast Cancer Awareness Month Website
    This site (nbcam.org) walks you through everything from the baffling jargon of your pathology report to finding clinical trials and getting help to pay for meds.

  • The Young Survival Coalition
    A breast cancer diagnosis is devastating at any age, but it can really blindside you when you're under 40. To find support, hook up with the Young Survival Coalition at youngsurvival.org. Its free ResourceLink Guidebook is full of info on local support groups and much more.

  • Breast Cancer, There and Back
    Jami Bernard was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996, and this "woman to woman guide" was published in 2001, so a few of the treatment-specific details are outdated — but Bernard's wise, warm advice is timeless.

  • Breastcancer.org
    Developed by oncologist Marisa Weiss, M.D., this site has some of the best message boards online. You'll also find live chat rooms, savvy guides to the latest research, and online conferences.

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