On November 7, 2009 I made a decision that I could never take back. It was a decision that I would never regret and it made my mom smile. On that day in November my mom took me to the tattoo shop and I got a breast cancer ribbon tattooed on my back just for her. My mom is a breast cancer survivor. She has had breast cancer three times in the last nine years, about every three years it comes back. She has made it through every test, surgery, and treatment she had to endure. My mom is just one of the many women diagnosed with breast cancer every day. Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in the United States besides non-melanoma skin cancer. More than one in four cancers in women are breast cancer. Breast cancer deaths are the second highest of other cancers among women in the United States (BreastCancer.org, 2010). When a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer it not only affects her, it affects her friends and family as well. The physical pain of surgeries and treatments, the costs of medical care, and the emotional pain all take their toll on a patient and her loved ones. A cure for breast cancer would end all the suffering. The pain and agony that comes along with a breast cancer diagnosis affects more and more people every year, making it vital that we find a cure.
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Even though there is no cure for breast cancer now there several different tests to diagnose it. An early diagnosis gives women the best chance of living. One way to help find breast cancer early is through a breast self-exam that women can do on their own. Women can do this by visually examining and feeling their breasts to detect anything abnormal. Doctors can also scan for breast cancer using mammograms. It is recommend that woman over the age of forty should have a yearly mammogram to help find cancer if there are no symptoms (Hirshaut & Pressman, 2008, p. 50-54). Biopsies, ultrasounds, CT scans, and PET scans are some other tests doctors can perform to find and diagnose breast cancer. With advances in technology there are numerous procedures doctors can perform to find cancer. Once a woman learns she has this horrible disease the next step is to start treatment.
With more and more women developing breast cancer experts have discovered new ways to treat it. Doctors can treat breast cancer by preforming surgery. In most cases women need to have surgery to get rid of any lumps or tumors. A lumpectomy is the removal the tumor and some surrounding tissue only. A mastectomy is when all of the breast tissue is removed. After either of these surgeries women can have reconstruction surgery, such as an implant, to rebuild the breast. Breast cancer can also be treated with chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Chemotherapy can be given before or after surgery to destroy cancer cells. It can be given through an IV or can be taken in pill form to destroy cancer cells throughout the body. Radiation uses a special kind of high energy beam that destroys all cells in the targeted area. The beam kills both the cancer cells and normal cells. However, the cancer cells are easier to destroy then healthy cells (BreastCancer.org, 2010). All of these treatments have been proven to treat breast cancer; however they all come with side effects. From physical and emotional pain to the financial costs or treatment, patients and their families suffer.
According to the American Cancer society there are currently over 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States alone (2010). One of those survivors is Laura Bennett, my mom. My mom was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002 when she was only 38 years old. After having a mastectomy and chemotherapy her cancer went into remission and she then had reconstruction surgery. Unfortunately, her cancer came back in 2005 when she was 41. My mom’s cancer had gotten worse and she required more treatment. First, she had surgery to remove the lump. Then she had chemotherapy, radiation treatments, and more chemotherapy. However, after she finished her radiation treatment her doctors discovered there was too much damage in the area and had to remove her implant. After the doctors removed her implant, my mom had a second round of chemotherapy and decided not to have reconstructive surgery again. Once again my mom went into remission, and like the last time it came back again in 2008 when she was 44. My mom’s cancer was so severe her doctors told her she needed to have chemotherapy first to help shrink the tumor before she could have surgery. After several months of chemotherapy her doctors said they could perform surgery. Her surgery lasted eight hours and she spent seven days in the hospital recovering. The surgeons removed parts of three ribs, part of her lung, and most of the muscle tissue under her arm. She then needed a skin graph from her leg to cover the hole under her armpit. Now my mom is thankfully in remission, unfortunately the cancer spread to her lymph nodes. This means her cancer can spread anywhere in her body. If there was a cure for breast cancer my mom would never have to worry about getting it again. Through everything me and my family have held her hand to help her fight. Even though she has survived, the damage and pain the cancer caused is still affecting her and our whole family.
We are all very grateful that she is alive and still with us. Her treatments and surgeries saved her life. However none of it came without a price. All of my mom’s treatments in total have cost about 125,000 dollars. Her eight hour long surgery and recovery alone cost 50,000 dollars. My parents had health insurance which covered most of the expenses. However, with my mom too sick to work and my dad taking time off to take her to the doctors, her medical bills put them in debt. Every woman who fights breast cancer has to go through treatment and the cost does not go down. My family was lucky that we had health insurance, but there are many people that do not have insurance. For those women the cost is even greater and some cannot afford treatment at all. This financial strain affects everyone in the family and causes a lot of stress. Finding a cure would not only save lives, it would also ease the financial burden of fighting breast cancer. The pain of breast cancer is bad enough without the worry about paying for treatment. Easing the stress of paying thousands of dollars for care would help women focus on surviving and dealing with their pain.
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My mom was suffering everyday through her treatments both physically and emotionally. The radiation therapy left my mom with second to third degree burns. My mom told me “After I finished a radiation treatment I was in pain for the next three weeks. I felt extremely weak and so tired and it made me feel worse than chemotherapy did. I will never have radiation again” (L. Bennett, personal communication, February 6, 2011). The chemotherapy made my mom feel weak, nauseous, and tired. However my mom said one the worst parts of all was losing her hair. Every time she has had chemotherapy she has lost her hair and she said it never gets easier to handle. “After I was diagnosed the first time and had chemotherapy my hair started thinning. Then one day when I was in the shower I was washing my I realized clumps of my hair started coming out. I was so upset and I could not handle it, so I started pulling it out and when I was done I just started crying” (L. Bennett, personal communication, February 6, 2011). A few days after that my mom had a friend shave her head. The surgeries have left her with many scars. She has scars where her right breast was, under her arm, and on her leg where the doctors took the skin graph. She cannot lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk with her right arm and she has to wear a special prosthetic breast. My mom said her scars make her really self-conscious and she wears baggy shirts because she worries that people can see that her one breast is fake. My mom said her scars make it really hard for her to look in the mirror. “I don’t know if I could ever be intimate with a man anymore, I am so worried about what they would think of how I look. Sometimes I feel like less of a woman because I have only one breast” (L. Bennett, personal communication, February 6, 2011). Her emotional and physical pain affected everyone who loved her. We all felt helpless because we could not help ease her pain and we were scared to death she would die. My sisters, my dad, and I would feel so sad when we would see her crying in pain, too weak to get out of bed or eat that we would cry too. We are just one of the millions of women and their families who go through this pain. For some families the pain is even greater if their loved one loses the fight. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 40,598 women in the United States died from breast cancer (“Breast cancer statistics,” 2010). We need a cure to save the thousands of women who die from breast cancer. A cure will save lives and put an end to all the pain and suffering women.
Approximately 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop a form of breast cancer over the course of her lifetime (BreastCancer.org, 2010). Early detection is very important to surviving breast cancer. Many tests and procedures have been developed to diagnose breast cancer. There is a variety of treatment options giving women a high chance of surviving. Millions of dollars is being spent on research to find a cure for this disease. We need a cure to end the pain and physical trauma patients have to endure just to survive. There needs to be an end to the stress, sadness, helplessness, and worries that patients and their families struggle with day to day. The total costs of fighting breast cancer are expected to increase. Between 2010 and 2020 it is estimated that the total cost breast cancer care will increase by 32 percent. This is because of the large number of women who get breast cancer (“Projections of cancer,” 2011). The suffering needs to end to help millions of people. There are families and women all over just like my mom and our family. Too many people are affected by this disease to not do something about it. The pain and agony that comes along with a breast cancer diagnosis affects more and more people every year, making it vital that we find a cure.
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