October 14, 2007
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women. One survivor shares how to cope, what to do, and why ignoring it is the worst thing you can do. She has been cancer free for eight years, and is spreading the word.
Didi Chapin moved to Charlottesville from Boston nine years ago. Just nine months after her move, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
"It was something that nobody expects to have happen to them," said Chapin.
She is one of millions of women who will battle the disease.
"Unfortunately, the American Cancer Society estimates that this year approximately 200,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer, so obviously it is a big problem in this country," said Dr. David R. Brenin, Co-Director of the University of Virginia Breast Cancer Center.
The American Cancer Society says the chance of a woman having breast cancer in her life is one in eight.
"Even though it's a terribly scary thing to think about, it is manageable and there are plenty of people who can help get you through it. I was very fortunate," said Chapin.
And death rates are going down. That might be because people are finding the cancer earlier. Didi was able to find it early from a routine self exam.
"It's taking responsibility for yourself and your body," said Dr. Brenin.
The cancer society recommends women 40 and older should have a mammogram every year. Breast exams should become a regular part of clinical exams, and they recommend self exams for women, starting in their 20s.
"I think early detection is the key. It does not mean that if you are detected later in your disease that it can't be eradicated, but you are certainly giving yourself every opportunity if you stay on top of your own health issues," said Dr. Brenin.
According to the American Cancer Society, simply being a female is the biggest risk factor for breast cancer. Breast cancer is about 100 times less common in men than women.
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