Monday, 18 June 2007

A Walk on the Safe Side, so to speak

This morning I’m going to walk across Mount Royal, which is a very nice prospect even if it means going to a doctor’s appointment.

It’s a walk I like a lot, and I’ve had much practice doing it. Last summer I took the 45 minute stroll every morning, five days a week for five weeks, because I was having radiation therapy in a hospital on the other side. I’d been diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ, a breast cancer precursor which in a sizeable percentage of cases ends up to be full-blown breast cancer unless treated. Most DCIS cases won’t proceed that far, but no one knows what differentiates those cases from the serious ones. Therefore the standard therapy for all cases is excision of the suspect tissue and radiation.

A routine mammogram showed some suspicious cells in the winter of 2005-2006 in my case, and a biopsy afterwards confirmed that they were nasty. It was a diagnosis which shook me a bit, but the whole process turned out to be much easier than I expected. The surgery itself was a day procedure, and the radiation caused no real problems. I had a lot of energy throughout, in part, I think, because I had my daily fix of nature on the walk to the hospital. (For more about this effect, see the interesting research by Roger Ulrich and others: “Gardens Have The Potential To Improve Health, Research Shows.”)

When it was all over I sent out a circular e-mail to everyone I knew, urging women over 50 to have regular mammograms. You should consider this the next step in the process of passing along the word. Because they fear cancer, many women avoid the procedure because of what they might learn, but this is definitely not a case of “what you don’t know won’t hurt you.” Early diagnosis makes a great difference, and I’m here to tell you that treatment isn’t all that bad. So take a walk on the safe side, and be mammogramed regularly if you’re a woman over 50. Insist that the women you care about who are, do too.

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