When I was about 10 years old, my grandmother, who was my best friend, had her second radical mastectomy for recurrent breast cancer. It was around that time that I became interested in medicine as a profession. Her pain and suffering left an indelible mark on my soul and made me want to do what I could to assist in easing patient suffering.
Care for breast cancer has changed dramatically in the 28 years since my grandmother suffered with the disease. During my medical school days 12 years ago, lumpectomy instead of mastectomy for breast cancer became an option for women with small and localized tumors. Women have truly become empowered in their health and treatment choices for such diseases as breast cancer.
Although cancer remains a terrifying diagnosis, we now constantly see images of women who have survived treatment for breast cancer — and are thriving. It has been the hard work of breast cancer survivors and the family and friends of all breast cancer patients that has fueled the progress toward effective treatment.
The incidence of breast cancer in college-age women is exceedingly low. But it is during their college days that women often become aware of self-care and self-exams. While the current data on routine self-breast exams in detecting cancer is indeterminate, self-awareness does beget personal empowerment.
I encourage all college-aged women to familiarize themselves with breast exams and breast health. As we go through October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I hope that the women at Boston University will remind themselves, their mothers, and their grandmothers to take good care because early detection is the best defense.
Join the ranks of women who take charge of their health and continue the trend toward seeing that breast cancer is not a defeat, but a challenge on the road to a healthy future.