Young, pretty and talented Christina Applegate was diagnosed with breast cancer. She is 36 years old. Her mother is a survivor and because of that she got early baseline mammograms. Regular readers of this blog and our No Surrender site know what strong advocates we are of early baselines.
Her cancer was discovered early because of an early mammogram and confirmed because she had a breast MRI. If only every woman could do this. Many breast cancers are missed by mammo and ultrasound. Most often, a doctor will see "an area of concern" on a mammo and say those fateful words, "we will wait and watch it...come back in six months." The advise that cost me an early diagnosis and lead to my second cancer spreading to four of my lymph nodes.
There is no such thing as watching and waiting... you are watching and waiting for your cancer to grow large enough to be detected by the less sophisticated diagnostic equipment of mammography or sonogram. But an MRI can pick up cells before they can become invasive tumors.
Christina, after watching your interview on Good Morning America, you quite possibly could have saved many lives because young women will see how vital it is to be screened. I was diagnosed in my thirties... I have many friends who were also diagnosed in their thirties and twenties too. Young women have more aggressive cancers so it is vital to catch them early. If there is one message that needs to get out it is that one.
The American Cancer Society is still claiming a woman should wait until the age of 40 before she gets her first baseline mammo. If I had waited until 40 I am not sure I would be here writing this. Christina Applegate has been saved a lot of torture because she found hers at such an early stage. If you are under 40 and have not had a baseline, do it now. If you have a lump or questionable calcifications and your doctor has advised you to watch and wait- stop. Demand a breast MRI. It will find the tiniest of cancers. It can not only save your life, but it can spare you the need for drastic treatments such as chemotherapy if it is found early enough.
If your doctor takes the time to craft a detailed, compelling letter of the need for this test, which includes stating you have an area of concern and dense breast tissue making it hard to diagnose, your insurance will eventually approve it. They may deny it the first time, but you appeal and eventually they relent. It is the unspoken rule of dealing with insurance companies: delay and deny and then hope the patient gives up. If YOU do not give up they will relent and approve. Fight for this test. This is your life on the line. Don't let them wear you down.
Miss Applegate stated in her Good Morning America interview that she will be starting a program that will help young women get breast MRIs. If we can contribute in any way to this cause, the No Surrender Breast Cancer Foundation is behind her all the way.
She also announced something else that I would like to personally thank her for. She is young, pretty and known for her beautiful body as well as her acting talent. She just underwent a bilateral mastectomy and will be getting breast reconstruction over the next 8 months, which sounds to me like expanders and implants. She is too thin to get a flap procedure, so it makes sense. As a young, single woman, I know this is a hard thing to cope with. I would like to reassure her that she will have a beautiful outcome eventually. It takes a while to get things right, but it is worth it. And I would like to say thank you to her for going public with this surgery. I am hoping that because of her exposure and how pretty she remains, maybe she can put a new face on those of us who have gone through recon. You single readers will know what I am referring to. We need someone pretty and young to show the world that we are not freaks, but beautiful works in progress.
I hope she reads this. I want her to know that there are many women behind her wishing her well. And she has our support especially with her message to young women. It is vital and maybe, just maybe, young women will hear it.