I can honestly say that before I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 27, I didn’t have a clue what breast cancer was really like. It’s been three years since my diagnosis and I have been forced to learn all the ins and outs of this awful disease in order to navigate treatment and life beyond. I have made it my mission to share my story and educate others in the hope that one day none of us will need to worry about this disease impacting our lives. Today I’ll be sharing three misconceptions about breast cancer that I believed before I was diagnosed. I hope this knowledge opens your eyes, inspires you to advocate for yourself and your body, and empowers you to share this knowledge with others.
1. Breast Cancer only impacts older women
In my 20s I never thought breast cancer could happen to me. While the majority of the images we see are older breast cancer patients, young women can and do get breast cancer. It’s so important to understand this fact in order to understand the importance of genetic testing, self-breast exams, and advocating for your body starting at a young age. Many doctors will brush off concerns from young women about lumps or abnormalities. Never take no for an answer. If you see or feel something odd, fight for testing at any age. Your future is truly in your hands.
2. I’ll just get a double mastectomy and go back to my normal life
Before I was diagnosed I thought a double mastectomy was the answer to a breast cancer diagnosis. Get a double mastectomy and go back to my normal life. This couldn’t have been further from reality. A mastectomy is NOT a boob job. The doctors removed all of my breast tissue and then I went through two years of reconstructive surgery to get my chest back to a semi-normal state. My body will never look the same and all feeling is gone. Yes, life goes on but the impact of such a life-changing surgery and the subsequent treatment have long-term physical and mental effects such as depression, anger, lymphedema, and more. I have come to accept my new body, but it did not happen overnight. It was only through therapy, self-love practice, and the support of the breast cancer community that I learned to see myself in a new light.
3. Breast Cancer is curable
Unfortunately, this misconception is quite prevalent. Most people believe that if the breast cancer is caught early then the cancer is curable. Localized breast cancer doesn’t actually kill anyone, the concern is when the breast cancer has spread. When the breast cancer has spread to other organs, it is called Metastatic Breast Cancer (also known as Stage IV). Unfortunately there is no cure for Metastatic Breast Cancer. Some are diagnosed at the onset with Stage IV and others (30%) will have a metastatic breast cancer recurrence later on. We need more research funding for Metastatic Breast Cancer research to lengthen the lives of those currently living with it and to ensure no one else has to live in fear of this terminal disease.
Knowledge is power. Share this information with friends, family, and colleagues. Together we can advocate for research that will cure this disease and we can support those around us living with breast cancer and inspire them to thrive in spite of the struggle.
Thanks for reading!
– Anna Crollman, @mycancerchic