October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and every person who values his or her life should take the responsibility of maintaining good breast health.

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 16, 2002

There are two major cancer fears

-prostrate cancer in men and breast cancer in women.

This past July the controversy about hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and the fact that it was more harmful than good was in the news. This made many women panicky – me included.

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I usually get a mammogram in August; however, I had put it off because I had began to experience pain in my left breast and began to wonder whether it was related to HRT since I had taken it for several years. I was also trying to convince myself that no news was good news. Then I said to myself, &uot;I may be worrying for nothing so maybe it would be better to go ahead and take the test. After all, if I did have cancer, it would only be worse whenever it did get revealed.&uot;

I learned from a friend who was experiencing the same thing I was that Vitamin E was the best solution to ease the pain. So now I am giving this advice to anyone else who may be suffering with pain to take that vitamin.

I really got nerve enough to have the test done when I talked to my sister, Earlene Banks. She called the radiology department at Obici to make my appointment and they scheduled us both to take the test on Thursday, Oct. 3, because that was the earliest date that we could go together. But lucky me had to watch the Oprah Winfrey Show on the day before that highlighted women who were diagnosed and being treated for the disease with chemotherapy and radiation treatments. I admired their stamina, strength and confidence while being treated but what they went through began to bring out the coward in me. I then prayed and remembered what my co-worker, Freda Robertson, says to me often. – &uot;If you pray, don’t worry, and if you worry, don’t pray.&uot;

The morning of the test, I was at peace and stayed that way through the test until the doctor’s office called my home on the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 8 and left a message that my test results were in their office. To make a long story short, I had friends who said that their results are usually sent in the mail. I began to wonder if something was wrong because my sister said that her doctor had not called her but eventually her test did arrive in the mail and she never received a phone call. The reason for my fear was that the nurse could not talk to me because she was always with a patient so my blood pressure soared until I found out the results about three hours later. When I received word that the test was normal, my anxiety began to disappear.

If it weren’t for Barbara Allen sticking by me with positive views until I received those good results that day, I don’t know what may have happened with me. I just want to give a word of advice to doctors who have patients who are being treated with high blood pressure – please be more considerate of the patient and what he is being treated for if tests results are in his favor so that he won’t have to experience unneeded stress the way that I did.

My test was done at Obici Hospital with one of four new machines in the state of Virginia – a digital mammogram machine. These machines are supposed to be able to better detect tumors.

The Oprah Winfrey Show also had a program on this subject and revealed another study that purports that self-breast examinations are not important in finding cancers early. Two doctors, a gynecologist and a breast specialist, were on the program and said the study was not accurate. They encouraged women to continue to do it on a monthly basis after monthly periods and especially in the shower when the skin is smooth from soap. That way, lumps can be discovered more easily.

For women without periods, do the check once a month when you pay your electric or phone bill.

They disagreed about mammograms and who should take them. Reichman said that a lot of cancers are found in women in their 20s; therefore she recommends that all women at least by the time they reach 25, should have mammograms done. Love said that women in their 20s are still developing breasts and the breasts are dense and perky, making it hard for the mammogram to find a lump. She said looking for lumps in a young person is like looking for a polar bear in snow.

Now for my most important concern – HRT. After all was said about that subject on the show, there was still confusion.

Some women apparently have a worse time with flashing than others and if that is the case, they should use HRT.

Oprah said that it should be left up to the individual.

Well this individual suffered loss of sleep from night sweats and what can be worse than no sleep and a full day of work facing you? I tried everything and nothing worked like my Premarin, which is estrogen only. This medication is still involved in an ongoing study to see if it causes health problems and/or breast cancer. When I told the doctor how I felt without the medication, he put me back on a low dose because I made the decision that I wanted to continue it.

Now I feel like my old self again. I will just take one day at a time and take Freda’s advice.

Note: Future articles recognizing &uot;Breast Cancer Awareness Month&uot; will include information on the digital mammogram machine at Obici Hospital and stories on breast cancer survivors.

Evelyn Wall is a staff writer for the News-Herald and a regular columnist.