In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, urologist Dr. Jennifer Berman is speaking out about her family's history with the disease.
Dr. Berman's mother was diagnosed in her 50s with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Although her mother underwent chemotherapy, she eventually died of the disease. A year later, Dr. Berman's sister was diagnosed with an even more aggressive form of breast cancer and ultimately, got a mastectomy.
Dr. Berman used to think it was highly probable that she would get cancer as well, but she wasn't about to let anxiety ruin her life.
"I'm trying to come from the space of 'I’m healthy. (I try to have) positive affirmations, not only about my health but in everything I do, and that's the best that I can do," Dr. Berman explains. "Because I'm not gonna be consumed by worry and obsessing that I’m gonna get cancer, you know? I was in that mindset, and it's taken me a long time to shift."
Breast cancer is the most common non-skin cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related death in women. It is estimated there will be more than 230,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S. in 2013, according to the National Cancer Institute. And more than 39,000 women will die from breast cancer in the U.S. this year.
Dr. Funk says that the average woman should get a mammogram and a clinical breast exam once a year, as well as doing a self-exam every month. If you have evidence of increased risk, however, Dr. Funk recommends intense, thorough breast imaging every six months. She recommends you have an ultrasound and a mammogram during one visit, and an MRI during the next visit.
"(Dr. Berman's) future breast cancer risk, based on family history alone, is probably somewhere in the ballpark of a 30 percent lifetime chance," Dr. Funk explains.
Although doctors strive for detachment in order to care for patients regardless of their personal feelings, Dr. Berman says she has learned to detach from her own suffering as well. "Because it hurts to be vulnerable and real, and it was hard for me to watch," she says. "But I'm a person, just like any of these ladies out here. And I'm a woman, and I have breasts, and I have vanity about my breasts, and you know, I'm just like you."