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Breast care at every age

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While Breast Cancer Awareness month is coming to a close, it is imperative that women care for their breasts year round.

Meet Michelle Scott. One could say she is a pretty typical person. She goes to work, goes to church, takes care of her daughter and works out regularly; however, breast cancer changed her life forever.

Scott said she “felt something weird” in her breast so she went in to get a mammogram. Her 2007 test came back negative. The following year, her doctor sent out a routine mailer urging her to schedule an annual mammogram, which was not usual. Scott was in her early 40s.

“I just disregarded it. I said ‘I’ll get to it when I get to it’ because I wasn’t in any rush to have my breasts pressed by that machine,” said Scott. Her thoughts later changed after having chest pains and discovering a substance secreting from her nipple.

Scott was given a diagnostic mammogram followed by a biopsy. It was then that her life was about to take a drastic turn. She was laid off from her job as a pharmaceutical sales representative and the very next day, she was informed that she had stage-one breast cancer. Scott acted quickly and decided to have a bilateral mastectomy (both breasts removed).

Although Scott had received her first mammogram at the recommended age of 40, Dr. Nate Thepjatri, a physician at the Community Breast Care through Community Health Network, said women of every age should care for their breasts.

Twenty-year-olds should do monthly self exams; 30-year-olds should couple that with an annual clinical exam. Persons age 40 and older should combine both methods along with annual mammograms. These suggestions are for women of average risk.

According to the American Cancer Society, risk factors include gender, age and genetics, family history, race and menstrual periods, among others.

“Exactly why breast cancer happens, we don’t completely know why,” said Thepjatri. “With the increase of breast screenings, we’re finding more cancers earlier.”

Early detection is key, but if it is found, there are three steps involved in working to cure the cancer. Thepjatri said the first step is surgery, either a lumpectomy (take the cancer out) or a mastectomy (remove the breast). The second step is the medical approach, meaning medicines are given to fight the cancer such as chemotherapy or anti-hormonal therapy. The third is radiation.

There is no standard cancer treatment because every woman’s care is individualized. During these steps, Thepjatri suggests that his patients should maintain a normal routine and work for holistic care such as eating well and getting physical activity. Having a strong support network can also help cancer patients.

Throughout this experience, Scott had a very strong support system, including her young daughter. Today, Scott is considered a survivor.

“Go to the doctor, especially if there is something inside of you that is telling you something is wrong,” Scott said. “Go get a mammogram.”

For more information, call the American Cancer Society at (317) 344-7800 or visit cancer.org; Little Red Door at (317) 925-5595 or visit littlereddoor.org; Pink Ribbon Connection at (317) 663-8750 or visit pinkribbonconnection.org.

You can e-mail comments to Jessica Williams-Gibson at Jessica-recorder@indy.rr.com.

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