Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October 24, 2011 at 5:10 pm 2 comments

“I have breast cancer.” Those are words that I never thought would come out of my mouth. But on July 7, 2010, I joined the one in eight women who have this terrible disease. However, breast cancer does not have to be deadly. Preventive care, such as consistent breast examination and early detection through routine mammograms, are proven to catch breast cancer early. If caught early, mortality rates are low. All of this sounds relatively simple, but when you have a disability, many factors place breast cancer prevention at the bottom of the list of health care issues. Women with disabilities must pay attention to breast cancer. This is a call to action!

I do not have a history of breast cancer in my family, so the last thing that I imagined was that I would have breast cancer.  However, I did start getting mammograms at age 40 (I am now 44). It is not fun. Although the machine is accessible, you still have to do a great deal of “gymnastics” to fit close enough to the machine to get an accurate picture. Also, all wheelchairs are different and women with disabilities can have varied functional status, so that creates additional challenges. Many women with disabilities, like me, cannot do their own breast exams. Therefore, it is vital that health care providers and personal caregivers assist with breast examination. My caregiver felt the lump in my breast that ultimately was cancerous.

Despite the fact that I was dealing with a trach, wound issues and other health care challenges, being diagnosed with breast cancer brought home to me the fact that even though I am a woman with a disability, I AM STILL A WOMAN. That means I need to focus on women’s health issues that face all women, regardless of my disability. Because of early detection, I was able to have surgery and remove a stage I lump. There was no cancer in my lymph nodes, so my recurrence rate is quite low.

The message is clear. Women with disabilities must get mammograms and do breast exams. Demand that your health care provider do a breast exam at least once a year. Even though it isn’t easy, make sure you get a mammogram.  In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, be an advocate and strongly encourage your friends to take care of their breast health. It is a matter of life and death. You can hear more about my story, and positive advances being made in breast health for women with disabilities in a recent WUSA 9 Buddy Check broadcast http://bit.ly/pyDE17.

By Sheri Denkensohn

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Entry filed under: Health. Tags: .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rosemary Ciotti  |  October 26, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    Sheri, thank you for sharing your personal experience with breast cancer. Your honesty and candor will hopefully be the inspiration for other women with disabilities to be vigilant with their monthly self breast exams, when possible, yearly breast exams by a health care professional and yearly mammograms starting at age 40, or sooner if there are risk factors. Thank You!

    Reply
  • 2. Jessica Woolf  |  October 28, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    Great article Sheri and so true.

    Reply

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