Many Women Don't Believe Their (Real) Breast Cancer Risk

Scary.  One in five women do not believe their breast cancer risk.  A new study has found that women who were at above-average risk did not take it seriously.

"Despite taking a tailored risk assessment tool that factors in family history and personal habits, nearly 20 percent of women did not believe their breast cancer risk, according to a new study from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center," reports.

As a person in a very funny place -- a survivor of DCIS which, I was told was cancer, then having radiation, major surgery and hormone therapy for what now is simply called a "risk factor" -- I still would advise women to listen.

You're most likely not going to need a double mastectomy, like Angelina Jolie, but one in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime.  The American Cancer Society notes that over 200,000 women will be diagnosed with the disease this year, and 40,000 will die.

“If people don’t believe their risk numbers, it does not allow them to make informed medical decisions,” senior study author Angela Fagerlin, Ph.D., associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School and a research scientist at the VA Ann Arbor Center for Clinical Management Research, tells

Now, of course, there's the other side of it.  Over-medicalizing everything, which I believe happened in my case (though at one point, it was thought I did have invasive cancer, so steps needed to be taken).  Doctors so cautious and afraid of being sued that they over-treat.  It happens every day.

But these women either had a family history of first-degree relative -- mother, sister, daughter -- with breast cancer (fathers' side of the family doesn't count), or their personal health habits left something to be desired.

I certainly thought I was immune -- I kept my weight down, ran 2-3 miles a day, ate and slept appropriately, and no one in my immediate family had any kind of cancer.  (I did use fertility drugs to get pregnant, however -- just like Guiliana Rancic -- and my husband is convinced -- and some studies have shown -- that there is a strong possibility that there's a connection).  In some of these women, the risk goes up in pregnancy.

The dangerous part of all of this is that, if women at higher risk ignore their test results, they may not stay on top of  their health, foregoing mammograms and other procedures that could detect cancer early, and cure it.

Would I have done it all over again, knowing what I know now?  I had a 3-year-old son at my first diagnosis and a 5-year-old at my second diagnosis.  I was willing to do anything to live to see my son grow up.  So, even though it turned out I didn't have cancer, just a risk factor for it, yes, I would do it again.  


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