Thursday, September 6, 2012

Judy Blume Surprised by Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Author Judy Blume has revealed that she was diagnosed with breast cancer this summer and underwent surgery in July.

Blume, author of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret was shocked by the diagnosis.

"I've never smoked, I exercise every day, forget alcohol - it's bad for my reflux - I've been the same weight my whole adult life. How is this possible? Well, guess what - it's possible," Blume wrote on her blog.

As Blume found, family history and lifestyle aren't the only risk factors for breast cancer. Others include:
  • Increased age; 77% of persons with breast cancer are over the age of 50
  • Dense breast tissue; when getting your mammogram, ask your radiologist if you have dense breast tissue
  • Menstruation that began at an early age (before age 12)
  • Not having children or having your first child after age 30
  • Experiencing menopause after age 55

Blume Advises Women with Dense Breast Tissue to Have a Sonogram

When breasts are dense, like Blume's, it is difficult to see abnormal areas on a mammogram. The author credits her radiologist for the early diagnosis.

"I have to thank Dr. S, the radiologist who's been doing my mammograms for 20 years. If she hadn't decided I should have a sonogram because of dense breast tissue we still wouldn't know. This didn't show up in a mammo or in physical exams, and I'm checked by doctors four times a year. Even the breast surgeon couldn’t feel this one. If you have dense breast tissue, ask your radiologist about having a sonogram."

Mammograms Still Important

Although mammograms are less effective in diagnosing breast cancer in women with dense tissue, the American Cancer Society (ACS) says that getting a mammogram is one of the best things a woman can do to protect her health. In fact, a mammogram can reveal if your tissue is dense and if further tests are needed.

The ACS recommends a baseline mammogram between the ages of 35 and 40 and yearly mammograms after age 40.

Click here to learn where you can schedule a mammogram in Buffalo and the surrounding areas.

Support Networks for Western New Yorkers with Breast Cancer

Blume has joined what she calls the Sisterhood of Traveling Breast Cells. "When it comes to breast cancer you’re not alone, and scary though it is, there’s a network of amazing women to help you through it."

Breast Health Navigator

For Western New Yorkers diagnosed with breast cancer, Catholic Health offers support in the form of a breast health navigator.

Our breast cancer navigator, Candice Gerrity, a Registered Nurse, can connect you to follow-up care and additional resources. Her services are free of charge and are available to all women diagnosed with breast cancer.

Click here for more information about this program.

Support Groups

Seeking out women who have had similar experiences with breast cancer can help you cope and result in lifelong friendships.

The Breast Cancer Network of Western New York maintains a list of breast cancer support groups in the Western New York area. Click here to visit their website.

To learn more about breast cancer, including how it is diagnosed and treated, visit our Health Library.

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