33 year old Stephanie Colgate is overcoming some overwhelming life struggles. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in June. This Doherty High School teacher told me she is now cancer-free and finishing her treatments. In between tears of sadness and joy she told me about the good and bad days of her treatments, "Just the days that are good that I can beat this and I've got a long future ahead of me."
The American Cancer Society numbers for women in Stephanie's age group indicate that there has been a slight trend upward in advanced breast cancer cases. In 1976, there were about 250 cases. In 2009, there were 800 cases of advanced breast cancer cases. Life-saving technology that has been in research for nearly three decades is now being used to help Stephanie and others. The difference in this kind of technology is that it's focusing on breast cancer at the molecular level.
University of Health Breast Surgeon, Dr. Laura Pomerenke talked to me about those changes and why this is so significant. She told me, "We understand now more about the biology of breast cancer. We don't just think about size or lymph nodes. We now really talk about what makes cancer grow and what makes it spread. We look at an individual tumor and say that's how we are going to treat that cancer."
A general rule from the American Cancer Society is that women in their 20's and 30's have breast exams every three years. Yearly mammograms and breast exams should start at age 40.