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 â€œno value.â€� 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 â€œstressfulâ€�. 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 doesnâ€™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 shouldnâ€™t use these tools, is outrageous.