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Pink Awareness: Breast Cancer Breakdown

Hi all, we’re still honoring Breast Cancer Awareness Month and hope you are, too!

Things are a bit busy here at Eye of the Survivor as our founder Reggy Stainfil prepares our 2017 calendar introducing us to a dozen more fierce females. We know they’ll inspire us as much as our 2016 troupe has and continues to! Stay tuned for details on purchase in the coming month…

So last time we caught up we discussed two common approaches to diagnosis that members our of survivor family have had much success with: mammograms and self-exams. We’d like to take a moment to also go over ultrasounds which often follow a mammogram if anything needs to be examined further.

As its name suggest, a breast ultrasound uses sound to create a computer image of the inside of the breast. By using a gel and an instrument called a transducer, sound waves are sent out and echoes are picked up as they bounce off body tissues. These echoes create a black and white image on a computer screen.

Ultrasounds may be needed to further examine a change in the breast that has either been seen on a mammogram, or just felt or seen by a person or his or her health care professional. Maybe most importantly, they can help differentiate fluid filled cysts (which are non-cancerous) from solid masses (which are potentially cancerous).

Ultrasounds can also be used as a guide to insert a needle into a specific area so cells can be removed and tested for cancer. This process is called a biopsy and simply put, is the examination of tissue removed from an area, to determine the existence, origin, or scope of a disease.

Our October Survivor of the Month, Shakaira Ankrah knows a bit about mammograms and ultrasounds.

Back in June 2007, Shakaira found a lump in her right breast while getting ready to go out but monitored it for any changes during the next few days not wanting to rush to alarm. When the lump was still intact a week later, she called her doctor.

After a mammogram and ultrasound, Shakaira was diagnosed two months later at just 33.

And so began Shakaira's journey. Following surgery, chemo, and radiation, by April 2008, less than one year later, Shakaira was cancer-free.

“I must stress that we know our body," she said thankful for stumbling upon the lump by chance which saved her life.

She credits her family, friends, church and God in aiding her during her battle.

“As a mother of two beautiful girls, my fight was for all of us. Even on the days I wanted to give up, I had to keep going for them.”

Today Shakaira stands proudly soon approaching her nine year mark as a breast cancer survivor. All these years later she still holds two mottos very closely, “He keeps on doing great things,” and “Finish strong”.

She also continues to pray for all of us affected by breast cancer. Speaking of the thousands of people (remember both women and men can develop breast cancer) affected by this disease, let's review some interesting statistics in continuation of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

While we like to recognize that men too can be affected by this disease, the risk is vastly lower than that of a woman with men having about a 1 in 1,000 lifetime risk.

In fact, the biggest risk factors for breast cancer are actually gender and age -- being a woman and growing older. And as a shock to many, nearly 85% of breast cancers occur in women without any family history of it due to these two risks since genetic mutations can actually occur as a result of aging and other life factors and not just the inherited mutations we see with noted genes like BRCA.

Also, while mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are most common, still only about 5 - 10% of breast cancers overall can be linked back to gene mutations inherited from a parent. And less than 15% of women who develop breast cancer have had a family member diagnosed with it. Still, a woman’s risk almost doubles if she does have a first-degree relative (think mother, sister, or daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Overall, approximately 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer (breast cancer that grows into - or invades - surrounding healthy breast tissue) during her life. So a 12.5% chance versus men who come in with a .1% chance. Further, for women in this country, outside of lung cancer, breast cancer death rates are higher than those for any other form of cancer. And outside of skin cancer, breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer.

It's important for us to know the magnitude of the disease and take it seriously but beyond this, we need to share the info with others - spread the word - raise awareness. This month in particular, we're sure wherever you are, you've seen a lot of PINK popping up as fundraisers and even retailers show their support for breast cancer awareness. We hope you participate as best you can whether by donating loose change or a big bill, every cent makes a difference! As the pink wristlet pictured at the top of our blog shows, you may get to pick up a super cool bracelet in support of the cause .

When we meet next time although Breast Cancer Awareness Month will be over, we trust that if you're reading this blog, you'll still be thinking PINK with us well past October. Until then, as always, keep your eye on strength!

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