This is a sponsored post in partnership with Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program.
Over the years, I have used Run DMT as a platform to share my friends’ breast cancer survival stories. Their survival stories became a means to illustrate the importance of prevention for early detection.
Among my friends and family, I am always the first to preach about preventive care. Admittedly, I would give judgey looks to my mom when she told me how long it was since her last mammogram. My disapproving tone could clearly be heard over the phone. I mean, how does a retiree not have time to get screened?
But the universe loves to send messages to remind us to be less judgmental and more understanding. And you know, that old saying that warns us of becoming our mothers.
Well, I’m ashamed to admit two years passed between my mammograms. The healthy fitness blogger who preached about the importance of breast cancer prevention fell victim to “life getting in the way” of her own health.
After a two-year break from my annual mammogram and pap smear, I thought things would be fine like previous visits given my “low risk” labeling and having no family history of breast cancer. The statistics were in my favor, or so I thought.
While I thought I could miss a visit, the universe reminded me that life and women’s healthcare are far more complicated. During a follow up phone call with my doctor, terms like “abnormal” and “concern” were uttered. I honestly do not remember much of the phone call, just that I needed to come in for additional tests and a biopsy.
While I may have blocked most of the details, it was the scariest conversation I have ever had. I felt as though the universe was punishing me for missing a visit. Practice what you preach.
From the phone call to the follow up tests results, time stood still as if I was living in a void. I felt lifeless and alone. I held my life on pause and held my loved ones tighter until I had answers. “Am I going to be o.k.?”
Thankfully, I received peace of mind within two weeks. The follow-up exams came back clear and normal. “Since there was some concern, you will be expected to come in annually,” my doctor reminded me, not in a judgey way but in an actual concerned, pragmatic tone.
As isolated and scary as my situation felt, I know I’m not alone. False positives happen all the time as do breast cancer diagnoses.
In fact, the CDC reports that in 2014,
236,968 women in the United States were diagnosed with breast cancer and states getting mammograms regularly can lower the risk of dying from breast cancer.
The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends average-risk women who are 50 to 74 years old should have a screening mammogram every two years. Average-risk women who are 40 to 49 years old should talk to their doctor about when to start and how often to get a screening mammogram. Based on my last visit and health scare, I fall in the latter category now and I will be returning annually for screenings.
For me, my little health scare allowed for an opportunity to talk openly with my husband, my mother, sister, a few close friends, but more importantly my daughters – ages 16 and 12. My teen and preteen are at the perfect ages to discuss factors regarding preventative care.
As a healthy-minded, fitness focused mom, my kids are already aware of how crucial diet and physical activity plays in a healthy lifestyle. However, our open and candid conversation about my health scare also opened the doors to other risk factors my girls may not have known, including environmental factors and the household products we use daily.
To determine risk factors for women, scientists, physicians, and community partners in the Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program (BCERP), which is supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), studied the effects of environmental exposures on breast cancer risk later in life. Together, they created a mother-daughter toolkit mothers can use to talk to daughters about steps to take together to reduce risk.
If you knew certain products and environmental factors contributed to breast cancer, wouldn’t you take steps to reduce you and your daughter’s exposure?
Scientists in BCERP are exploring whether exposure to certain chemicals and foods may change how girls’ bodies mature. Other research shows a link between an early first period and a higher risk of developing breast cancer as an adult. This research compiled by the team at BCERP is provided by women like you and me.