By Ms. Ashley Patoka (Regional Health Command Europe)September 27, 2018
One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer within their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And at 26 years old, Tech Sgt. Melissa Moreau became one of those women.
While on a deployment, Moreau, an Independent Duty Medical Technician, now working in the Emergency Department at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, discovered a lump during a self-breast exam.
"The next duty day I asked my provider for a consult to radiology for a biopsy," Moreau said, "and sure enough, two weeks later the results came back positive for breast cancer."
According to the CDC, "Breast cancer is a disease in which cells in the breast grow out of control. There are different kinds of breast cancer. The kind of breast cancer depends on which cells in the breast turn into cancer."
Moreau was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. A kind of breast cancer where the "cells grow outside the ducts into other parts of the breast tissue. Invasive cancer cells can also spread, or metastasize, to other parts of the body," as defined by the CDC.
After her diagnosis, Moreau was sent home early from her deployment and referred to an oncologist, a radiation doctor and a breast surgeon, in order to develop the best course of action for her condition.
"The first step was surgery to remove the lump, followed by four rounds of chemotherapy and then six weeks of daily radiation therapy," Moreau said.
She said because she was so young, "immediate treatment was necessary due to the fast rate of cell growth."
That was five years ago, and now Moreau is cancer free.
"This year marks five years of being cancer free. I am a breast cancer survivor," she said.
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer found in women, and while screenings cannot prevent breast cancer, they can help find it earlier, when the cancer is easier to treat, according to the CDC.
Moreau says she encourages everyone to know their breasts and to perform self-exams.
"I can't sit here and say that I was perfect and did my exams routinely but I did them enough to know that what I felt was not my normal breast tissue," Moreau said. "I was only 26 years old at the time and with no family history of the disease I never thought it was something I had to worry about, but I was wrong."
Since breast cancer screening recommendations vary based on risk factors and age, speak with your primary care manager to learn what is best for you.
But you can help yourself by knowing some of the factors that can increase a person's risk for breast cancer.
"I learned the risk factors for breast cancer and things to do to decrease the risk of breast cancer," Moreau said. "Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is key - being overweight, excessive drinking, and smoking are a few things that can increase someone's risk for breast cancer."
Moreau said she hopes that by telling her story she can spread awareness of the importance of taking care of your health.
"I just want to stress to everyone the importance of taking care of yourself and your health," she said. "Never, at the age of 26 did I think I would be diagnosed with breast cancer. Make sure to get your mammograms when recommended and get to know your breasts!"
Breast cancer also affects men. According to the CDC, about 2,100 men in the U.S. are diagnosed each year and 450 die from the disease.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, take time this month to speak with your doctor and learn more about screenings and what is right for you.