An Outrageous Suggestion for Women

My name is Ruth Bartels and I am a cancer survivor. My husband and I have been married for almost 20 years and we have two young children. I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the young age of 46 years, in August of 2008. By the time it was diagnosed I was already Stage II. I began regular mammograms around age 40 and through the years I had a few biopsies done, but I always walked away satisfied that if ever I found something, it would be caught early.

I always tried to live a healthy lifestyle. I watched my weight, exercised regularly and ate plenty of fruits and vegetables. Part of my healthy lifestyle was making sure that I was checked regularly via mammography and breast examinations.

I went for my regular mammogram in March of 2008 and they sent me on my way saying that everything looked fine. A few months had passed and a friend's mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. This reminded me that I hadn't done my regular breast self exam that month, so that evening I did an examination. Because I had regularly done these examinations throughout the years, I knew what was a "normal" lump and what was not. I immediately felt something that was unlike anything I had felt before and I knew that it wasn't good.

It turns out that my cancer was a very fast growing cancer and I am thankful that I knew how to do a breast self-exam. If I had not caught this cancer by doing a breast self-exam, I do not think that I would be here today.

I went through four surgeries, six chemotherapy treatments and one year of Herceptin treatments. I am happy that I made it through the other side and I am finished. I can honestly say that early detection saved my life.

I am saddened that these new guidelines are discounting the value of mammograms and breast self exams. I read where it is said that breast self exams have “no value.� I am certain that my husband and children would beg to differ. On one of the talk shows this morning, there was a doctor who said that constant mammograms/breast self exams are very “stressful�. Are they kidding??? You can LIVE with stress. Face it, any cancer screening/biopsy is stressful, but it is necessary to catch a malignancy. If you ignore it, it doesn’t go away.

Mammograms and breast self exams are not perfect, but they are all that we have right now and to tell women under 50 that they shouldn’t use these tools, is outrageous.