Among the many valuable women’s health education programs Hadassah has rolled out over my 45-year membership is ‘Check It Out’. Working with teenage girls, we have taught them breast self-examination and the importance of regular mammograms. Many lives have been saved through this program.
I have always been mindful of Hadassah’s breast cancer awareness and education efforts. Having a personal family history of several types of cancer, I paid close attention to recommendations for genetic testing, annual health examinations and mammograms.
I had my first mammogram in my 30s and regular baseline exams throughout my childbearing years and subsequent menopause. This has continued throughout my life. This habit saved my life!
I went for my annual mammogram on May 5th. Because my records were archived, the radiologist who read my digital imaging was able to look back six years. He saw a difference between this year’s image and last year’s. He immediately referred me for a right breast ultrasound, which occurred within an hour.
As I was getting dressed, the radiologist read the new imaging. He phoned to report what he’d seen and said that I needed to see a breast surgeon because he suspected cancer. Enroute home, the surgeon’s office phoned to offer me an appointment that afternoon.
Long story short, I had an exam, imaging with a wire in my breast and several biopsy samples taken that day. The breast surgeon met with me and my husband, giving me a preliminary diagnosis and follow-up steps.
Within the next three weeks, I had a breast-conserving lumpectomy followed by an excision to remove papillary carcinoma from two adjacent breast ducts, as well as a lymph node removal.
I subsequently saw a radiation oncologist and a medical oncologist. Because of my age (72), tumor size (2.5 cm) and grade 1A, my five-year survival is almost equal without radiation and chemotherapy. Happily, I chose watchful waiting.
Instead, I am on a five-year regimen of estrogen receptor suppression
medication called an aromatase inhibitor, which suppresses the amount of estrogen which feeds cancer cell growth. I went into menopause for the second time in my life. Given all the horrible effects of radiation and chemo that I skipped, I am thankful that there isn’t more suffering. My surgical sites will continue to heal. I won’t lose my hair.
With careful, continuing monitoring and regular ultrasounds and mammograms, I can look forward to a five-to-10-year survival.
Now, as cancer walks and benefits are planned and advertised, I nod in recognition of all the work these different organizations perform. I have personally benefitted from medical research, new surgical methods, revised cancer treatment regimens, continuing medical professional education.
The Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem is in the forefront of breast cancer research and treatment, responsible for several major advances in the global medical community’s understanding of the disease, pioneering new treatments and helping survivors love longer and stronger. Today’s HMO’s doctors are building on these breakthroughs to find a cure for breast cancer.
Today, every day, and especially during October Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I am thankful for Hadassah and other organizations for their life-saving work, for me, personally, and for my family and all of yours.