October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Speaking as one who has had *DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma In Situ) twice in the same breast, I completely and totally support mammograms. Ever since the mammograms have gone to 3D imaging, you have a far better chance of discovering the tiniest bit of cancer before it is too late to do anything about it.

I know that mammograms aren’t fun; a lot of women find it painful. I did too until a friend of mine gave me a valuable tip: when standing while your boob is in between those oh-so-NOT-comfy glass plates, do this: bend your knees slightly. I don’t know why it works, but it does work. I haven’t felt a pinch or a pain since.

Believe me, it’s far better to know what you are dealing with early on. No one loves getting a cancer diagnosis, even if it’s only DCIS. My mother had two bouts of DCIS herself, and had a lumpectomy (I call it a “scoop;” the affected area is surgically removed, and the recovery is easy). Back then they did not advise radiation, and Tamoxifen wasn’t around at that time.

After over ten years of being cancer-free, Mom was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, which is a killer. There is no cure, but she lived quite comfortably and well for several years with infusions and medication. When these things stopped working, her doctor gave her two options: chemotherapy or letting nature take its course. Mom opted for the later.

That said, having one or two bouts of DCIS does not mean that you will eventually get metastatic breast cancer. Some do, some don’t, but the odds are pretty good that you won’t.

I’ve had two bouts of DCIS myself, and I had radiation therapy (which was a breeze) and I take Tamoxifen every day. I will always have a mammogram each year to make sure that things are ok. I cannot stress this enough: unless there is a real reason not to have a mammogram, get one every year. Fear and anxiety are your worst enemies. Knowledge is power, and once you know what you are dealing with, you can take the necessary steps.

Please—be prepared, NOT scared!

*From Cancer Quest: “Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS)

Ductal carcinoma in situ, or “Stage 0 cancer”, describes a non-invasive or pre-invasive breast condition in which abnormal cells are found in the lining of breast milk ducts. These abnormal cells have not spread/invaded beyond the walls of the ducts into surrounding breast tissue. DCIS is not cancer. It is referred to as “pre-invasive” because some cases will progress into cancers, while others will not. Currently, there is no effective way to determine this.

Unlike LCIS, DCIS can be detected on a mammogram and usually does produce a lump, although the lump may be too small to feel or in a location that is not easily felt. This is because excess calcium is produced and the solid calcium shows up on scans. DCIS accounts for about 85% of in situ cancers diagnosed each year in the United States. Most cases of DCIS (~98%) will not become metastatic itself, but around half of all cases progress to invasive breast cancer (IBC). The progression of DCIS to IBC is not completely understood and treatment recommendations tend to vary.

There are several treatment options for DCIS. They include:

1. Watching the growth without treating it.

2. Surgery – There are 2 major surgical treatment categories for DCIS: breast conserving and breast removing.  The most common treatment plan for DCIS is breast-conserving surgery.

3. Radiation – This is often combined with surgery.

4. Hormonal treaments – These treatments are designed to starve the cells of growth signals.

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