Don’t you hate the conversation surrounding the Edward’s decision to stay in the Presidential race. I have heard things like “They should get off the road and stay home with their little children. He’s staying because he’ll get a sympathy vote And, he’s putting his career before her health”. What are people thinking? These people have experienced enormous tragedy before. They lost a sixteen year old son in a car crash. As I have said before, there is no greater loss for a parent then the death of a child. And now they are facing another tremendous loss. Here’s their reality, her cancer has spread. She isn’t going to live very long. But they have decided to go on with their lives. Not to hide in a corner praying for a cure that will never come. Don‘t you love the fact that together, these two courageous individuals are prepared to face their destiny without putting their lives on pause.
The other day I was watching a TV interview with Elizabeth Edwards. It was 2004 and she was explaining how she found the lump in her breast. She hadn’t ever noticed it before. But when she was taking a shower there it was and it wasn’t small. It was big enough for her to feel it without having to search very hard. There are so many variables in a woman’s breast like having cystic breasts –where you can’t detect a benign lump from a bad lump-- that it is hard to know what’s doing in there. But she went to the doctor, had the surgery and follow-up and did what she needed to do to rid herself of this horrific disease.
I assume that Elizabeth, as worldly sophisticated mom with many resources, had a few mammograms before discovering the lump. But for whatever reasons neither the self breast or the mammogram picked up any abnormalities before the shower. A few months ago I would have been surprised by this information But I’m not anymore because here’s what I know.
Approximately three million women in the U. S. are living with breast cancer. One million don't know it yet.
By the time breast cancer is detected by a mammogram, a woman will have had the disease for an average of 6 to 8 years.
Women typically get their first mammogram at the age of 40. But breast cancers that occur in women under 35 are more aggressive and more toxic.
Which of those statements is most surprising. For me it was the one about how, by the time it is detected, you have already had it for 6-8 years. Imagine how many people could have been saved if they knew about it when the tumor was no bigger than a dot instead of a pea, or a softball. Additionally, I always assumed that women under 40 did not need to have a mammogram because they were not likely to get breast cancer. This is not the case. No one knows how likely it is that women under 40 will be diagnosed with breast cancer because there are no statistics and they don’t have yearly mammograms because they are not insured. There are also issues for women with dense breasts. Maybe Elizabeth had a mammogram and it simply didn’t identify a tumor. It’s silly to speculate. All we can be sure of is that her cancer was not detected in the early stages.
More than one million women in the United States have died of breast cancer since 1950. This year alone more than 41,000 women are expected to die from breast cancer or 1 every 12 minutes. More lives have been lost to breast cancer than in war. It is estimated that in 2006 about 212,920 new cases of invasive breast cancer were diagnosed, along with 61,980 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer. One in seven women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year as compared to one in 20 in 1960. 90% of these women will have no known family history of the disease.
How did I get so smart? I have recently become involved with a wonderful company which, in the near future, will market a device that can identify abnormal cellular activity in the breast. It is already being used in France, Saudi Arabia and Brazil. The product is accessible, inexpensive, and simple. It should be used as an adjunct to traditional detection devices but it needs to be part of the big 'war against breast cancer' picture. Every person with whom I have had a conversation about it, wants it immediately—for themselves, friends and family. And we hope to provide it in a timely manner.
It’s too late for Elizabeth but is there anyone anywhere who doesn’t know someone whose life has been touched by breast cancer. It’s not to late for oh so many of us. If we are educated and empowered to be in charge of our breast health we can make a life-death difference. The only thing about which I am still amazed is that no one calls breast cancer an epidemic and with bigger numbers than AIDs, it is still only a disease. We’re just sayin....