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
"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.