Who Gets Breast Cancer and Who Survives?
Survivors' Stories continued...
"I finally finished treatment last January. In April, I started having chest pain. Scans revealed that the cancer was back and had spread to my lungs, lymph nodes, and chest wall. Since then, it has spread to my skin, and I have more and larger tumors; I start chemo again in a few weeks.
"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.