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Early detection important in battling breast cancer

READ MORE: Be careful about breast cancer
Each year 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with breast cancer, but while those numbers are not going down the good news is that 85 percent can be cured if caught in time. Carolyn Barnhill had a mammogram eight months ago and then discovered she had breast cancer, a diagnosis that came as a shock because she had no family history and no signs of a lump. “Just because you don't feel anything, don't assume you're okay because I never felt a lump, mass, nothing," Barnhill said. After surgery and radiology she is now cancer free. “I am a survivor but that's because I follow instructions, I did the follow up work. Don't wait until you feel something to have a mammogram.” Doctor Larry Dashow said women should have a mammogram screening once when they're 30, then every 2 years after 40, and every year after 50. Another way to detect cancer early is to do monthly self breast exams, something both men and women should do. "They're looking for a discreet area of tenderness, a specific area of mass that's separate from the rest of the breast that they said wasn't there before," said Dr. Dashow. If you notice a change, doctors say contact them as soon as possible. "I don't care what strides they make in research and cure, if you don't take the personal responsibility and have those mammograms, have those check ups, all of that's not going to matter." If you are unsure of your last test, make sure to get your mammograms, whether you have a family history or not. Follow the doctor’s orders for treatments and checkups, and do your monthly self breast exams. And if you feel any changes do not delay, tell your doctor.

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breast cancer

In 1990, I had a mammogram and an ultrasound done locally after discovering a lump. Nothing showed up on either and the physician said not to worry about it and come back in a year. I assumed he knew what he was talking about. In less than a year the lump grew much larger so I had another mammogram and ultrasound done in Raleigh, which led to a biopsy, which led to a diagnosis of breast cancer, stage II. In hindsight, I should have insisted on a biopsy at the first sign of the lump. If I had gone on physicians advice I would be dead now. Be your own best friend and insist on a biopsy. If it turns out negative, then nothing lost, but . . . It's your life and you have to take control. Don't let any physician talk you out of tests if you want them.