Like many today, I read the words of Amy Robach, the ABC News Anchor who was diagnosed with breast cancer last month after an on-air mammogram. She wrote of being approached by a producer pitching the segment and described the proposed mammogram as, “something I really didn’t want to do, something I had put off for more than a year.” She is 40, the age at which it is suggested that women begin getting mammograms. And yet she had put it off. Like so many women, she avoided it.
Sally and I were talking this afternoon, and we wondered, why do so many women put off their mammogram? Admittedly, there is some pain associated with the exam. And yes, it takes some time out of your schedule. I’m struggling to remember how long it took, I think I had an MRI right after mine (now that’s a real time suck) and we were still out in time for lunch. So it’s a little bit of pain and less than a morning of your time. It’s not really the pain, and it’s not really the time. It must be the fear. Even knowing that most women who have a mammogram have no malignancy. It’s as though the fear of what we might possibly discover takes over and convinces us, subconsciously, that it’s better not to know. I imagine it’s the same reaction many women have when they find a lump in their breast. (I’m so glad that first lump that turned out to be nothing taught me what to do when I felt the real lump last fall.) And yet, I’ve never met a woman diagnosed with breast cancer who wished she just hadn’t found out, who wished she’d been diagnosed later.
I know plenty of women who’ve had nothing but normal mammograms, and most complain about them– hating to get them done. (Though, to their credit, they get them done anyway.) But as a woman who’s had breast cancer and is looking at it in the rear view mirror, I can say with confidence that you gain nothing by waiting. It really isn’t better to just not know.
And to Amy, and to any other newly diagnosed women, I can only leave the words a friend of mine offered me after my diagnosis. They meant a lot to me because a few years prior, she’d been in the same spot, looking at her two beautiful children, facing chemo, surgery, uncertainty.
You’re stronger than you think. You can do this.