By Jessica L. Clark, APR, Public Relations and Marketing Associate
Studio FSW – Florida SouthWestern State College

Cancer
Jessica as a child with Grandmother
Doris and father Ken Clark

It is a word that is far too common in our society today.  During the month of October, breast cancer awareness is highlighted to remind everyone about the importance of regular check-ups and to be aware of any changes.  Those with a family history of breast cancer are reminded to be vigilant with monthly check-ups and annual exams.  I am one of those individuals with a strong family history of breast cancer, as well as other types of cancer.  I have been very lucky and blessed that I have not personally had to fight this disease, but I have watched as family members have fought it, with some winning and some not.

Because of this, I have regular discussions with my doctor about what to look for, as well as what preventative measures I can take.

On my father’s side of the family, my grandmother battled breast cancer twice.  The first time she had it she was able to beat it.  I remember visiting her in the hospital and at the time I was so young that I didn’t know why she could beat it once and not twice.

As I got older I learned that my great-grandmother on my father’s side had also fought breast cancer and had ultimately had both breasts removed.  Still, it wasn’t enough to defeat the disease.

Historically my family history with breast cancer was only on my father’s side of the family.  In 2011 my aunt (mother’s sister) was diagnosed with breast cancer.  She had two surgeries to determine if it had spread.  Following the surgery she is pretty much cancer free, but still visits her radiologist and oncologist every six months.  This was the first time that breast cancer had made an appearance on my mom’s side.

My mother had thyroid cancer and had her thyroid completely removed in 2000.  She just noticed that a large lump had formed on her neck, and she made an appointment to have it checked.  The doctors needed to do surgery to biopsy the lump.  Once they started surgery, they decided it was best to remove the entire thyroid as a precaution, and the results determined it was cancer.  Afterwards she underwent radiation therapy, and since then she has been cancer-free for 14 years.  Once she was cancer free for five years, she purchased a separate cancer insurance policy because at the time she did not have one in place, and relied on her primary insurance which was still beneficial. But extra coverage never hurts.

But cancer is such a tricky disease, in that you never know if and when it could return.  This is why it is critical to have regular exams and doctor appointments to be aware of your health, and discuss your family history if there is one.  This can help you determine the best course of action to help prepare and defend against cancer of any kind.  Due to my family history it was recommended that in addition to the regular check-ups with my doctor and being aware of any changes, that I start mammograms at age 35.  I took this suggestion very seriously and made my appointment.  I am happy to report that all is well and with this initial appointment we now have a baseline of what is normal moving forward.  I also made sure in my 20s to secure a separate cancer insurance policy so that it allows me to pursue other areas of treatment if I were ever diagnosed with cancer that my primary insurance may not cover.

Remember, cancer doesn’t discriminate.  It can strike anyone at any age at any time.  We live in a fast paced world with commitments to family, work, and our communities, but we need to stop and make sure that we take care of ourselves and have regular checkups.  Be aware of your health, not just in October, but year round and report any changes to your doctor. Have frank discussions with your physician to determine your cancer risk, preventative measures you can take, and what you should look for between doctor appointments.  If you have questions or notice a chance, see your doctor as soon as possible.

Be healthy!

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