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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

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Breast cancer not limited to age or gender

By The Staff

By Jimmie Earls

Sun Staff Writer

Other than skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women in the U.S. According to the latest estimates from the American Cancer Society, 192,370 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed this year, and 40,170 deaths from breast cancer will take place in 2009. But those statistics are not limited to women. Although rare, breast cancer can also strike men. The ACS estimates 1,910 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in American men this year, with 440 men dying form the disease. And though most doctors recommend women age 40 and over receive yearly check-ups, the disease also does not limit itself to a specific age range. That is why it is important to make everyone aware that they can fall prey to this silent killer.

“I was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2007, and I was only 38 years old,” said Michelle Smith, a life-long Springfield resident. “Don't ever believe that you have to be 40 or older to have breast cancer, because it's not true.”

Smith has a strong family history with cancer, so her doctor had been very cautious and kept a close eye on her for about five years. She noticed a dimpling in her left breast and that's when she called her doctor. Once the change in her breast was discovered, she scheduled a biopsy and received the news the following day.

“It was quite an experience to hear over the telephone that you have cancer,” she added. “They got me into surgery within two weeks because it was discovered from the biopsy that I had two different types of breast cancer. They moved quickly, and I had a left breast mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.”

All of Smith's post-surgery treatments were done at the doctor's office at the Cancer Care Center at Baptist East Hospital in Louisville. During the week, she still maintained a normal schedule, working at her job at St. Catharine College and attending her kids' basketball games.

“I had chemotherapy for four months,” Smith added. “They were really aggressive with my treatments, and the staff was wonderful. I was back to work in eight weeks, and I worked through my chemo and my employer was wonderful. I would work all week, have my chemo on Thursday, be sick all weekend and come back to work on Monday. Anytime I felt bad, I would just go home and keep going.”

Through it all, Michelle tried to keep a sense of humor, which she said was very important to her recovery.

For the complete story, see the print edition of this week's Springfield Sun!