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A Breast Cancer Journey


October is Breast Cancer Month. Time to wear your pink proud and honour those who are currently battling breast cancer, those whom have survived and are deemed cancer-free, and those whom lost the breast cancer battle.


As a healthcare professional and working in the industry for over a decade, I knew and understood the importance and reasons family physicians recommend that women 50 to 74 have a mammogram at least once every two years.


It was not until a couple of years ago that I sat in a room with my mother having, what we thought, a routine mammogram and expecting to be told – “Mrs. X, all good to go”, that I truly appreciated and was grateful to the recommended screening guidelines that Imagine Health Centre physicians follow. Instead of my mother and I were told we were good to go, we were informed that they spotted a lump in her breast and wanted to do some additional routine tests. We were asked if they could run these tests the same day and when we agreed we were immediately brought into another room to have an ultrasound done, another mammogram, another ultrasound and then a biopsy of the lump so they can determine if it was cancerous or not.


Then the waiting game began while we waited for the test results to come back. To our dismay, we were informed that mom had cancer! In that instant, our lives changed forever. Due to the type of breast cancer mom was diagnosed with, we went through the journey of multiple appointments; a radical mastectomy, chemo and radiation treatments, and a plethora of tests, etc. At the end of almost 18 months, mom was told she was now cancer-free and was considered a cancer survivor!


All through this journey, mom kept saying that it was like being in a bad dream. She said that she kept going through the motions from one test or appointment to another thinking that this is not really happening to her and that she would wake up and that she was actually fine. She said it was so surreal to be in perfect health and then be diagnosed with cancer.


For my family and I, the journey we took with mom gave us new light and enhanced trepidations that our chances of Breast cancer increased not only with my siblings and myself but with our daughters/nieces as well. According to the Alberta Screening and Prevention The program, breast screening recommendations changes if someone has one or two first degree relatives with invasive breast cancer. If this is the case, then they recommend that individuals starting 5 to 10 years younger than the youngest case in the family, but no earlier than age 25 and no later than age 40, should have annual mammograms done to help detect the chance of breast cancer sooner instead of waiting every two years. http://www.topalbertadoctors.org/download/244/breast_cancer_summary.pdf_20190915190654.


I’m so grateful to my mom’s family physician, who practices at one of the four Imagine Health Centres locations, for following the recommended guidelines and insisting that mom had routine mammograms, even though she protested that they are unnecessary on a regular basis. Had her doctor not been insistent and me helping to encourage her because of I recognized the value of these tests, I may not have a mother today.


Do you have loved ones that think some of the tests their family physician orders are frivolous and unnecessary, think again! Some of these tests are integral in ensuring symptoms are caught early so healthcare professionals can help either prevent or mitigate the diagnosis from getting worse.


Some things you can do to help mitigate your risk of breast cancer are:

  • Stop or don’t start smoking

  • Limit your alcohol intake

  • Watch your weight

  • Ensure your physical activity is aimed at a minimum of 150 heart points

    • 1 heart point = 1 minute of moderately intense activity (e.g. brisk walk). For more information on heart points visit – https://www.heart.org/en/news/2018/08/21/google-just-launched-heart-points-here-are-5-things-you-need-to-know

  • Do self-breast exams

  • If you notice new lumps or skin changes, consult your family physician immediately

  • Maintain pro-active screening as recommended by your family physician as these are not only based on recommended health standards, but also based on your personal and family health history. The standard for Mammogram testing is: have a mammogram every 2 years.

  • If you are 40 to 49 years old, talk to your doctor about your risk for breast cancer, along with the benefits and limitations of having a mammogram.

  • If you are 50 to 74 years old,

  • If you are 75 or older, talk to your doctor about whether having a mammogram is right for you.

  • To learn more about this visit – http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/breast/screening/?region=on#ixzz5zcb8En3J

Cancer statistics note that Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian women (excluding non-melanoma skin cancers). It is the 2nd leading cause of death from cancer in Canadian women. Breast cancer can also occur in men, but it is not common –

http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/breast/statistics/?region=on#ixzz5zcahk95c

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