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Battling breast cancer -- a reporter's perspective
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women. The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 182,000 new cases will be diagnosed this year. But early detection and a variety of treatment options are improving the outlook for many women.
CNN Moscow Bureau Chief Jill Dougherty knows first hand about the illness -- she was recently diagnosed and is currently undergoing treatment. Here's her story in her own words.
MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- A year ago, cancer was the last thing on my mind. I was living and working in Moscow, running two to three miles a day. I ate right and didn't smoke or drink.
One day, while on vacation in Florida, I returned from a run and took a shower. I noticed what looked like a dimple in my breast. I remembered a phrase from the cancer pamphlets in my doctor's office. A "dimple in the breast" can be a sign of cancer.
But I was set to leave for Moscow in three days. I went to a doctor in Florida who advised me to wait and check it in a month or two. As the doctor who would later become my oncologist told me - that was mistake number one. "It's easy to agree with a doctor that says a lump is nothing because that's what you want to hear", explained Dr. Elisabeth McKeen, of the Helen and Harry Gray Cancer Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. "Especially for women who have breast cancer in their family, these women often have to fight with doctors to get a biopsy. But that's the most important thing cause early diagnosis is really the key right now for the best survival."
There was cancer in my family. My mother, Ruth, was diagnosed 25 years ago. Ironically, she was the same age I was when her doctor found a dimpling in her breast. Five years ago she had another bout with breast cancer. Yet even that fact doesn't necessarily mean that's why I got cancer. Three-fourths of women with breast cancer have no apparent family history of the disease.
So, following the first doctor's advice, I waited. I went right back to work in Moscow and told no one about it. Two months went by. I traveled to Ingushetia and to the border with Chechnya to report on refugees from the war. When I returned, I finally decided to go to a clinic in Moscow and have a mammogram. Just like all my previous yearly mammograms, however, it showed nothing out of the ordinary. But the doctor, to be on the safe side, did an ultrasound of the breast. On the screen I saw a black, oval shadow. It was a lump.
As I later learned, although they are a crucial tool in detecting breast cancer, mammograms are not infallible.
My surgeon, Dr. Patrick Borgen, head of breast surgery at New York's Memorial/Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, later told me, "I think your story illustrates what we've known for a long time about mammograms -- that they can be wrong. In the best of hands, a mammogram will miss a cancer that is there about 10 percent of the time." I was part of that 10 percent. I caught a flight back to the United States for a biopsy.
In Jill's next report -- researching treatment options.
Life goes on, even with breast cancer
American Cancer Society Breast Cancer Resource Center
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