A year ago, my friends and I got together for a mini-reunion. We went to college together and promised to stay in touch through adulthood, but you know life happens. We finally got to clear our schedules and agreed for a meet-up to catch up with all the gossip.
The first several hours were spent gossiping and catching up, and then as we sobered up and settled into our meal, Mary, one of us and an excellent science tutor, broke some shocking news. She had undergone surgery two years ago. Mastectomy, no less. We all gasped, knowing that she was pretty young. We were all in our mid-twenties, so why would such a young fall victim to a disease reserved for much older women? Well, Mary’s mom was only 32 when she died of breast cancer, and it turns out she was genetically predisposed to the disease.
It’s Never Too Soon
Every October the reserved breast cancer awareness month, we are reminded to check the girls for nodes and lumps. Well, that is a regular thing, but it naturally we could miss some things through this method of checking. When should you start going for mammograms?
When you are genetically predisposed to breast or ovarian cancer, you are more susceptible than a person who has no history of either. Genetic susceptibility comes from having a close relative being diagnosed with a particular disease and especially at a young age. It does not automatically mean you will get it, but your chances will increase tenfold.
Certain mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes expose you to breast and ovarian cancer, and so you are safer starting those mammograms as early as in your twenties. Regular screening will help catch the disease early if you ever get it. Additionally, knowing your susceptibility levels helps you make changes to your lifestyle soon enough.
While mammograms are the more popular test, MRI scans are said to be more effective for women under 40 years who are highly susceptible to breast cancer. Naturally, no want ants to spend their twenties (selfish years) thinking about breast cancer risks. Also, a mammogram or MRI scan at that age feels like such a heavy burden to carry for a party girl, but it could save a life. And a breast, or a pair.
MRI scans are not painful, and neither are they as scary as they sound. They get to the root showing everything that the doctor needs to know about your susceptibility level. For those not genetically predisposed, the risk of breast cancer begins at 50 or after menopause. So you should book that appointment too if you fall in that age group.
Naturally, the news of Mary’s diagnosis dampened our day, but her charm reassured us. She is in remission, and she will keep going for annual checks to ensure that she stays in this safe state. Every day above the sun is a good day, right? As I head drove home that day, I made a mental note to book an MRI. I am not genetically predisposed, but caution never hurt anyone.