Editor: It is estimated that over 300,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. It is the second leading cause of death for women in the United States. The most significant risk factor for breast cancer is being a woman. Breast cancer does not discriminate against the rich or poor, but if you are poor, you are 37 percent more likely to die due to the quality of care being received. Poor women are also twice as likely to lose their jobs after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
According to the CDC in 2013, 128 out of every 100,000 women in Virginia was diagnosed with breast cancer. Twenty-one out of every 100,000 women in Virginia died from breast cancer. There are over 4,000,000 women living in Virginia. If the rate of cancer for 2018 is similar to that of 2013, over 5,000 women in Virginia will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year and 840 of them will die.
March 3 was Triple Negative Breast Cancer Day. My mother had this is the type of breast cancer. Triple negative breast cancer means that the tumor is estrogen receptor-negative, progesterone receptor-negative and HER2-negative. Triple Negative is a type of cancer that is more likely to spread, has an increased chance of reoccurrence, and does not respond to the latest treatments which target specific receptors. Triple Negative Breast Cancer Day is a global event to not only raise awareness but also raises funds to research this aggressive form of breast cancer.
Because my mother had breast cancer, my risk for breast cancer doubles. There are four women on my mother’s side of the family who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. My risk for breast cancer is undeniable even though I tested negative for BRCA 1 and BRCA 2. I have also been living with MS for over a decade. I am healthy now, but I cannot predict how this disease will affect me in the future. I do not want to face breast cancer on top of my MS. I will not wait for cancer to come for me. For this reason, I had a bilateral risk reducing mastectomy last June.
I implore you to do monthly breast self-exams and yearly checkups. Do not put off going to the doctor’s because you don’t have time, or you don’t have money. We are lucky to have HealthWorks in Leesburg and Herndon. They are a community health center that provides care on a sliding scale. Learn more about TNBC at tnbcfoundation.org/tnbcday.
My mother’s cancer metastasized to her liver. She was hospitalized one week before my wedding. She died six days after my wedding at the age of 60. I was 25 years old and on the third day of my honeymoon when I got the call to come home. I know the pain of losing your mother. I wanted to save my children from that pain. Losing my breasts was a small price to pay in the hope of spending more time with my kids. There is no substitution for a mother’s love.
Charlotte McConnell, Sterling