On my way to have my annual mammogram my mind turned to some of the questions I’ve had over the past year. I’m a 13 year survivor of breast cancer. What are my chances of having a recurrance after so long a time? Are yearly mammograms really necessary after so long a time with no problems? Still, in the past year I’ve had two friends who were long-term survivors of breast cancer who have been diagnosed with new cancers. In both cases they had been guilty of not self-examining on a regular basis. Would they have caught the small lumps that came out of nowhere? Had they been having annual checkups? One hesitates to ask these questions, even of close friends.
A Stanford University study earlier this year indicated that treating early breast cancers with radiation and drugs, in addition to removing part of the breast itself, significantly decreases the risk of developing a more invasive form of cancer 15 years later. Some patient advocates say that regardless of the treatment received for early breast cancer, a woman’s chances of dying from invasive breast cancer later are small. The chief of breast surgery at the Stanford Cancer Center, who was the lead author of the study said, “Of women who were treated by lumpectomy alone, 65 percent didn’t have a recurrance of cancer.”
The studies still go on. No one knows at the time of the early occurance who will have a recurrance and who will not. There are still a lot of questions out there. Should you take a daily aspirin or not? If you had a breast removed, should you have a breast implant or not? Recent studies have found a link of implants to some forms of cancer.
Unfortunately, not many answers are available to us at the time when we need them most. We are left with more questions than answers. In the meantime I take an aspirin every other day, have my annual mammogram, and do a lot of praying.