Winning the Battle Against Breast Cancer - Page 3 of 5

Winning the Battle Against Breast Cancer

can be done.”

Younger generations, she says, are more educated and understand that with treatment some breast cancers are curable, while older generations still think that “once you get ‘the big C’ it might as well be a death sentence. And the sad part is breast cancer is one of the most curable cancers that you can get if it’s caught early. You want to catch it while it’s only on the mammogram and you don’t feel it.”

Not that mammograms, or any test, are perfect. Roberts discovered her lump during a self-exam, prompted in part by the death of her colleague, ABC’s movie critic Joel Siegel, who lost his long battle with colon cancer in June. Roberts said an ensuing mammogram failed to show her lump but an ultrasound verified its existence.

Joseph recommends that women who have dense breasts _discuss with their doctors having an ultrasound in addition to a mammogram, and that if a woman has a new lump and a _negative mammogram, she should see a surgeon and have a biopsy. “The lump should be evaluated until there is diagnosis,” Joseph says. “Some lumps that women feel are simply normal breast tissue and may be more prominent with hormonal changes. A woman has to be her own advocate and go to a breast specialist, in particular African American women, who are prone to develop breast _cancer at younger ages as well as die from breast cancer.”

There are also different types of breast cancer. One, inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), targets younger African American women, including teenagers, more often than white women and is one of the most aggressive forms of the _disease, with a five-year survival rate of 25% to 50%. It is indeed rare, accounting for only 1% to 5% of all breast cancer cases in the United States.

In March 2004, Jamillah Abdul-Baaqiy, 43, of Springdale, Maryland, a
woke one morning and discovered that her right breast was significantly larger, warm, red, and had an inverted nipple. She went to various doctors, all of whom told her she had a breast infection and prescribed antibiotics. Mammograms and other tests revealed no problems, and doctors insisted that she did not have breast cancer. But feeling in her heart that something was wrong, she kept searching for answers and eventually was diagnosed with IBC. It was so uncommon that when the time came for her biopsy, the hospital’s nursing staff was brought in so they could see what it looked like.

Abdul-Baaqiy was put on chemotherapy prior to the removal of her right breast and at least seven lymph nodes. More chemotherapy, then radiation, followed surgery. She had practiced a holistic lifestyle and through her treatments continued seeing an acupuncturist, which she believes kept her white blood cell count elevated. The count usually drops as a result of chemotherapy. “My _oncologist couldn’t understand how my blood cells didn’t drop,” Abdul-Baaqiy says. “My _numbers were amazing.”

She rebuffed taking anti-cancer drugs, including _Herceptin, a drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration