GRAND RAPIDS, Mich - October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, but for millions of women, it’s their battle every day. One Grand Rapids woman has been through that battle and is on a mission to change the way we screen for the disease with the Forgotten Fighters Campaign.
Right now, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends mammography for women ages 50 to 74 every two years. For women ages 40 to 49, including those with a family history of breast cancer, the Task Force encourages women to speak to their doctors to decide whether screening is appropriate for them.
By those standards, Tammy Myer’s wouldn’t have needed to think about breast cancer for another 17 year, but she was diagnosed at age 33.
She had no family history, didn’t drink or smoke, wasn’t overweight, and lead an active lifestyle.
To understand just how much of an impact breast cancer has had on Tammy’s life, you have to go back more than 15 years, when a non-blood related aunt was diagnosed.
“They told her, she was too young for cancer and sent her home.” Tammy said.
That aunt passed away two years later.
After Tammy’s diagnosis is February 2015, she began putting Forgotten Fighters into motion.
She said, “My husband jokes that I’m a workaholic and that I even turned my cancer into a project. I did, right away I started the blog, and that became work for me, but it was also my distraction.”
With the help of other local survivors and photographers, she launched a video she hopes will go viral.
The video shows the survivors with the number of years until they would have been screened on their chests. Tammy says she wanted to show the devastation they’ve been through in a beautifully, but realistically.
View the full Forgotten Fighters video below.
“It ravishes our body. I think it’s one of the only cancer’s that is so, I guess, drastic to the body. I mean, losing body parts, scars, and I wanted to show that tastefully.”
The message: younger women can get breast cancer too and the government should take another look at their recommendations.
Tammy said, “We are hoping to make change with the screening recommendations starting at least with baseline screening at age 30.”
According to the Young Survivor Coalition, 12,000 women under the age of 40 will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016.
Diagnostic Radiologist, Dr. Tammy Kreuzer said the majority of the medical community doesn’t agree with the Task Force, adding it’s based on research that’s outdated.
“Breast cancer incidents increases with age, so you save the most lives over age 50, but 40% of the years of lives lost to breast cancer are women diagnosed in their 40's.”
That’s why the Forgotten Fighter’s is so important to Tammy and other survivors in West Michigan.
She said, “Breast cancer is still one of those things people like to keep hush, hush. It’s almost like we have to keep it a secret or we have to be ashamed of it.”
People are encouraged to sign a petition on Forgotten Fighter's Website. If there are enough signatures, the hope is get the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force to reconsider lowering their recommendations.
Click on the link to add your name to the list.