By Guest Blogger Martha Kaley, Founder, Earlier.org – Friends for an Earlier Breast Cancer Test®
The bridge is out and my car and I are hanging with one wheel totally off the ground and clinging to the hillside! Where were the warning signs? Who was in charge of this? Who let this slip by?
I know my mind was wandering as it usually does about the children and their carpools, checking on my parents, did I forget to feed the dog, what was that crazy driver back at the stop light thinking as she ran right through a red light, etc., but how could this have possibly slipped up on me? Really, I am a diligent, concerned and aware adult. I try to pay attention to potentially dangerous situations and react accordingly. Was there something that I missed?
Actually, yes. It was something about which you thought you were safe. It was an insidious danger that in the myriad of your concerns, did not rate as a high priority because there are only just so many things to which you can give your attention. You turned your head for one minute…and look what happened.
Breast cancer does this. Even though you think this does not need to be on your radar screen, it would be helpful for you to reevaluate your awareness, or lack thereof, about breast cancer. Why?
As we give lip service to early detection being so important, what does early detection mean? Most breast cancer is in the body 5 to 8 years before it can even be imaged. Is this early enough? How about the fact that there is consistent debate about the appropriate age for mammography, and it generally isn’t under 40 years of age? Is that OK? Is breast cancer of more concern for older women? Well, yes, but are we just settling for playing the odds? Are you willing to be the one in that car teetering off the cliff? Are you willing to be the young woman who goes for her first mammogram, is told everything is fine, then feels a lump in her breast while showering? Are you willing to shut this thinking about breast cancer down because it is too frightening, and you are just certain that YOU don’t need to be concerned?
It is just not good enough to put a lid on it and ignore it. Imagine, for a terrible, terrifying moment, what a young woman’s world turns into when she finds a lump, must find the courage to make an appointment to check it out and then hears, “We see a questionable spot and we need a biopsy, so let’s see when you can have that done. I expect there is nothing to worry about, but …” Then after the biopsy, you hear, “We’re not certain yet, and we must wait on the pathology, so we will get you back in when we have the results.” And then, “Well, the pathology indicates that there is breast cancer.” And then the mind goes blank.
We just must change this picture. We must identify a biological test to detect breast cancer far earlier than is now possible. We must push and assist science to identify the markers which would indicate the presence of breast cancer perhaps even before a tumor is formed, because you know what? We can do this! Science and technology are poised to accomplish this. Imagine a blood, or saliva, or urine test, etc. that would be routinely run each year at your regular ob-gyn appointment. The indicators would be definitive, serve everyone, male and female, and all ages. We must incorporate this thinking into our awareness in order to change the picture of breast cancer.
Our organization, Earlier.org, is doing this very thing. We are the nation’s only non-profit organization focused solely on funding research to identify a test, ideally biological test, to detect breast cancer far earlier than existing technology can accomplish right now. This is a project, not a long term, endless organization. When this is accomplished we can close our doors, which is our goal. We are living in an exciting time of science and we must use it to our advantage. Accepting the status quo because we want to think it is all taken care of doesn’t make it right. No matter how much we want to think it to make it true, it just doesn’t work.
Rather than turning your head against the wind, look around at all of the young mothers and for just a split second imagine what each life would be like if you heard them tell you, “I was just diagnosed with breast cancer.” But imagine what it would be like when there is a biological test that would be so early that the fear and horror of that would be brought down to, “Oh crap, I was just diagnosed with breast cancer and now I need to get a couple of shots for two years. Such an inconvenience!” This is my vision and with science, we can make this, or something close to it, be reality.
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