Woman Describes How Breast Cancer Changed Her
FRIDAY, Oct. 14 (HealthDay News) -- For Diana Rowden, life
changed in various ways when she was diagnosed with breast cancer
20 years ago.
During a routine gynecological exam when she was 38 years old,
the doctor examining her breasts thought she felt something
"She didn't feel a lump," said Rowden, now 58 and living in Dallas. "She felt a thickening of the left breast. That was the first indication something might be wrong."
The doctor recommended that Rowden have a mammogram. She'd had a
screening mammogram at age 35, so the technicians had a basis for
comparison. "They could detect a change in the left breast," Rowden
said. "From there, they recommended I have a biopsy."
Worry set in, she recalled.
"I had a friend who was diagnosed at age 36, so I was a little bit concerned," Rowden said. "But I wasn't freaked out. I just wanted to follow up and head off any problems."
This was back in the days before minimally invasive needle
biopsies so Rowden had a surgical biopsy, during which they found
no cancer but did find areas of abnormal cell growth that put her
at high risk for developing breast cancer.
Rowden said she was given two courses of action: They could
monitor her closely, performing quarterly breast examinations, or
she could have a bilateral mastectomy to remove her left
"I ended up opting for the surgery, based on a feeling that I needed to take care of it," she said. Her mother had died of uterine cancer four years earlier, and Rowden said she's certain that weighed in her decision.
Her instincts were more correct than she could have known.
During the surgery, doctors found a tumor in her left breast, in
a different area than what had been biopsied.
"I was actually quite relieved," Rowden recalled of hearing the news that she did, in fact, have breast cancer. "I had basically felt like, well, at least I didn't have this surgery for nothing."
After the tumor was tested, Rowden said, an oncologist told her
that she could have chemotherapy but it might not be of much use.
"He said it wouldn't buy me much benefit because I had a
particularly slow-growing tumor," she said. "He presented it as my
choice. I decided not to have chemotherapy."
She has remained cancer-free. However, she explained, breast
cancer altered the course of her life.
She had been a technical writer, working on software manuals
that few people ever read. After her surgery, she became a breast
cancer advocate and now works as the vice president of survivorship
and outcomes for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a nonprofit group
focused on combating breast cancer .
Among the most important advice she gives to women diagnosed
with the disease, she said, is to slow down and take your time.
"It's not an emergency in terms of making a decision today," she said. "I think it's helpful to give people permission to do a little homework and think about the decisions they have to make."
A companion article details
advances in breast cancer treatment.
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