Friday, February 20, 2009
Studies and statistics
This week I had the opportunity to be interviewed for a large study that Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is conducting to help understand why some young women develop breast cancer and others do not. At 43, I am definitely considered young to have developed breast cancer. Though women are certainly diagnosed at any age, the majority are diagnosed after the age of 50 with the average age being well into menopause at age 61.
It was a very intensive interview going back to when I started menstruating (14), specifics about my pregnancies, birth control methods, drinking habits over the years, work habits and eating habits. They also took a blood sample and will review the tissue samples taken during my lumpectomy. Though certain things have a prominent place in my memory (the day I was diagnosed for instance), other things have gone by the wayside. I don't remember for instance which pharmacy I might have used for various birth control methods or at what age I might have changed brands.
The interviewer said they hope to have over 7000 people interviewed. It saddens me to think there are more than 7000 people who are in my shoes and have been diagnosed with breast cancer at an early age. I wish there were none. Unfortunately, I know a few personally and sincerely wish we were not in this club. But if we have to be in it, then I am glad that Fred Hutch recognizes that it is something that requires more study. I know that the basis of the study has to do with hormonal changes in women. I can't imagine that I am necessarily that different than anyone else in this regard.
After 90 minutes of questioning and much mental anguish about what I could and could not remember, she asked me her last question. "Do you know what caused your cancer?" I wish I did.