50th Space Wing Public Affairs
“Your sister has a mass on her breast,” my parents told me when I was in high school.
It felt like a bucket of cold water was suddenly thrown on me. At such a young age, I already knew what it meant; it could either just be nothing, a benign tumor or, under the worst case scenario, a malignant tumor, which could lead to breast cancer.
I was petrified.
I didn’t know the statistics of surviving breast cancer. I just immediately thought that having the disease is a death sentence. I grew up in a close-knit family, and to think that someone close to me may have breast cancer was inconceivable.
My sister and parents had to go to a big hospital in the city for a diagnosis and an operation to surgically remove the mass. I was a nervous wreck, waiting for the news from my parents. I hoped and prayed it wasn’t cancer.
For most, “it’s not cancer” is probably the best news someone could receive. However, for some, the dreadful opposite becomes reality. I could only imagine what someone with a breast cancer diagnosis would endure.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, no matter the race or ethnicity. In 2009, more than 211,000 women in the United States were diagnosed with breast cancer. Interestingly, approximately 2,000 men were also diagnosed with the disease. Also, more than 40,600 women and 400 men died from breast cancer in 2009.
Research studies have found several risk factors that may increase someone’s chances of getting breast cancer. These include starting their menstrual period at a young age, starting menopause at a later age, being older at the birth of the first child, never giving birth, not breastfeeding and using hormone-replacement therapy for a long time. Other risk factors include age, personal and family history, alcohol use and more.
There are ways to help lower the risk of breast cancer — routine breast cancer screening and a healthy lifestyle are among them. Individuals should also know their family history and find out the risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy.
It was a few days later when my mom and dad came back.
“Good news. It’s not cancer,” my parents said. I was relieved that my sister didn’t have cancer. I was happy.
As I see the pink ribbon, the international symbol for breast cancer awareness, I am reminded of that dreadful time when for just a moment, I thought my sister had breast cancer. However, what I felt is nothing compared to people who had or have it feel. Through my personal experience, I realized it could happen to anybody — young or old, man or woman.
I applaud the people who have survived breast cancer. But, it’s also important to keep in mind those people who are still fighting breast cancer. For everyone, it’s essential to know and understand their risk factors to help prevent the disease.
(Information courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)