February was National Cancer Prevention Month, an excellent platform to dispel the many myths about cancer and improve knowledge of the disease. While a great deal of important information was disseminated last month, cancer education is a year-round endeavor, making now as good a time as any to reflect on some of the ways in which information technology can prevent cancer and improve outcomes. Let's begin with cancer prevention in general, then dive a bit deeper into breast cancer in particular.
Breast cancer. Those two words send a small chill up my spine. As a woman, it's at the top of the list of potential ways I may become ill, or even die. Breast cancer has already struck two women in my family: my aunt and my grandmother, both twice. My grandmother's frail, 87-year old chest, which once fed each one of her seven children, is now flattened from a double mastectomy. It is a stark reminder that something that nourishes life can also take it away. She is a survivor. My aunt was fortunate enough to escape the grip of breast cancer with radiation. She is a survivor. But I wonder, what did they survive? To survive implies an outside attack, an invader or enemy wishing to do you harm. But that's not what this is. Breast cancer is an attack from within, on itself, a "friendly fire" of sorts. Unfortunately, that's only one of the battles women need to fight to survive this war. The other battle is a lifelong, persistent one that surrounds us all each and every day. It's the battle of fear and confusion.