Monday, 2 March 2015

Breast cancer awareness Week: Our Feel-Good War on Breast Cancer

They say experience is the best teacher. In anything that needs learning, the best person to teach you is either a person who has experienced that thing either first hand or secondarily. When we talk of breast cancer awareness, the best people to make an impact in other people’s lives are either those who have suffered from breast cancer before or those who have had their relatives suffer from this condition.  You either have successfully fought the pain or you sister died of it or you mother is currently having the pains of breast cancer or even your daughter…

That’s why when we talk about breast cancer awareness, no one is considered to be more influential than Peggy Or en-stein who happens to be the bestselling author who wrote “Our Feel-Good War on Breast Cancer” that was published on the New York Times Magazine on the breast cancer awareness week.  Peggy survived breast cancer twice and yet she does not like referring to herself as one. She prefers to call herself a victim of breast cancer rather than a survivor. Her argument is,if she calls herself a survivor of this deadly disease, those who succumb to the condition will be referred to as losers which are not really right.

At first, Peggy believed that mammogram saved her life. That was back in 1996 when she was just 35 and her doctor sent her for initial screening. However, it’s not till the age of 40 that she made it an annual practice to go for mammograms. Peggy had no family history of breast cancer and thought of no risk factors for the condition.

When the radiologist came across a bicycle-spoke-like odd pattern on the film and sent Peggy for a biopsy, she was still not worried. After all, no one gets a breast cancer at 35. However, confusion, fear and anger were to follow. It was good news that the patterns were detected early and a six week radiation treatment meant she would survive.

Coincidentally, a few weeks after this diagnosis, the National Institute of Health appointed a panel that made headlines by declining to recommend universal screening to be done on women in their 40’s because there was no evidence to show a significant decrease of breast cancer deaths in that age group. Due to the dense breast tissue, it was possible for younger women to be a subject of misappropriate false negatives and false positives. These conclusions didn’t go well with Peggy.

Sixteen years down the line, she has a changed thinking. This is because several studies have been revealing the screening limits as well as dangers associated with over treatment. These studies are so important since they are educating women on how to detect, when to detect and how to deal with breast cancer. That apart, breast cancer awareness week is earmarked to spread awareness about fighting the disease. It is not just during the breast cancer awareness week, but people have to fight round the clock to get the disease under control.

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