October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and Santa Clara’s former mayor and current vice-mayor Patricia Mahan wants women—and those who love them—to know that a routine mammogram can detect early breast cancer tumors and save their lives.
“I really want other women to know how important it is to get mammograms. I am sure mine saved my life,” says Mahan, diagnosed in September with early-stage breast cancer.
“My breast cancer is treatable because it was caught so early. No lump, no known direct family history, nothing to indicate I would get breast cancer. It was detected on a mammogram, and if not for that mammogram, my cancer would have been far more progressed by the time it showed up some other way. Because the tumor is so small, it can be treated with the least invasive measures, and my chances for full recovery are very high,” says Mahan.
Although it was unknown to Mahan at the time of her diagnosis, there is a history of breast cancer on her father’s side of the family. After her news became public, she received a phone call from a cousin of her father’s, telling her of relatives who had had breast cancer. Mahan points out that while she was asked about her medical history on her mother’s side of the family, she was never questioned about her father’s side.
Information provided by Kaiser Permanente at www.kp.org, underscores the value of mammography:
“Based on fair evidence, screening mammography in women aged 40 to 70 years decreases breast cancer mortality. The benefit is higher for older women, in part because their breast cancer risk is higher.”
Mahan, who already calls herself a cancer survivor, is using a full arsenal of weapons to combat the disease: supportive family and friends, sharing with other survivors, exercise, keeping a sense of humor, her faith, knowledge of cancer, and confidence in her team of medical specialists.
“Kaiser has been wonderful. They have a premier regional oncology center in Santa Clara and use a team approach. They build consensus and develop a treatment plan just for you. Knowing the doctors are working together gives me peace of mind,” says Mahan.
“My story is a common one, and people need to feel free to talk about this. Because that to me is the other part of the story—knowledge is power, and there is strength in numbers,” says Mahan, wearing hot pink leather boots as she sits astride her Indian motorcycle.
“I have to accept a new reality in my life and trust God about the purpose,” she says. “&If I can help another woman to have early detection, then I feel the experience has been worthwhile.”
If you can’t find a pair of pink boots like Mahan’s to wear during October Breast Cancer Awareness Month, directions for making a pink ribbon lapel pin—the well-known symbol to raise awareness about breast cancer—are online at http://www.cancer.org/Involved/Participate/MakingStridesAgainstBreastCancer/make-a-pink-ribbon-lapel-pin.
The American Cancer Society website (www.cancer.org) includes mammogram screening recommendations and information on breast cancer in men as well in women. Because recommendations vary, women are advised to consult their doctors.