The real story behind the disappearance of my eyebrows (and my eyelashes) is a bit more pedestrian than my dog hiding them. Around this time last year, I was three months into chemotherapy treatment.
At the time, as a 33-year-old woman with no family history and no BRCA gene mutations, I’m told my 5-year breast cancer risk was less than 0.3%. I was two years away from the recommended age at which to begin annual mammograms, so if I hadn’t identified a suspicious lump on my own, my cancer might not have been diagnosed until it had time to become even more invasive. As it stood, the cancer was caught at Stage 2, and my medical team followed a prescriptive method of mastectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation based on the type of breast cancer I had.
Although my risk was low, I’m far from an exception. Most women who get breast cancer don’t have any known risk factors or family history. Breast cancer is so common that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes, and almost a quarter of a million women are diagnosed with this cancer every year.
Fortunately, even though breast cancer diagnoses are increasing, deaths from breast cancer have been declining since the 1990s. This decline is related to better screening and early detection, increased awareness, and better treatment options. It is still serious, though, and is the 2nd leading cause of cancer-related death in women. Black women are particularly vulnerable and are 40% more likely to die from breast cancer than white women.